Discover the exciting world of electroacoustic music and learn to make music with sounds.


To transform and develop the sound material, we use simple but very powerful tools, as in many other musical genres.


Experimenting with the manipulation of sounds often leads to the discovery of many interesting sounds. But do not forget that a composition is more than a simple set of pretty sounds!

We need to be able to identify and choose the very best sounds, and then be able to transform and develop them, to take them forwards and give them a direction.

Listening Exercise

Let’s take a look at an example in action:

Transformation in Abstracted Journeys

This is an extract from the piece Abstracted Journeys. In this extract, a recording of 'Dry Leaves' blowing across a road is transformed and develops.


This transformation is achieved in three parts:

Part One


The original sound is introduced.

Part Two


The original sound is layered with a copy of itself and the copy is transformed. It is transposed down, adding a lower pitched 'crunch' sound into the mix.

Part Three


The section closes with further transposed copies of the original sound. But this time, the sounds are transposed up, making higher 'crackly' textures.

How Does This Process Work?

The transformation of the sounds, and their arrangement, gives the excerpts a sense of direction. Section C is quite different from section A, but the gradual transformation in section B allows sections B and C to remain connected, through a clear pattern of development.


This extract does contain sounds other than the granular ‘Dry Leaves’, these are used to ‘trigger’ the transformations, to act as a point of change from which the sounds can be transformed.

Composition Tip

The whole process of development works most effectively if there are similarities which remain between the original and developing ideas. In this way, the listener can hear the progression and will be able to recognise what has changed.

Development in gradual steps will allow the listener to hear the changes that are taking place. However:

  • If the changes are too small, the listener will not hear any development.
  • Large changes may leave the listeners feeling completely lost, unable to make sense of where they are in the music and what is going on.

Relations between Materials

Pierre Schaeffer argued that there should be a relationship between the sound materials that you use, and the way in which the sounds are put together.

Therefore, it can be really useful to examine the key sounds that you are using, to work out their properties and then use this information to plan out the developmental structures within the piece.

Think about the shapes of the sounds, and if there are any progressions or natural transformations that occur within them.

Listening Challenge
EXAMPLE ONE: ClayPot_Butter

EXAMPLE TWO: Pepper Mill


Experiment with creating your own transformations. Begin by downloading this Compose with Sounds session file, which contains the example materials discussed above:

Compose with Sounds Project File: Transformation and Development


Perhaps you could radically alter a sound and then attempt to ‘fill in the blanks’, so as to create a clear connection and direction of transformation between the original and final sounds.

You might like to use:

  • FilterA filter changes the frequency makeup of a sound by making parts of it weaker. Filters allow you to focus on parts of a sound that are of interest to you, or to take away parts that you don't like.More infoFilters
  • AutomationA tool that allows you to change the variable parameters of a sound over time.More infoAutomation
  • TranspositionA manipulation which changes the pitch of a sound. More infoTransposition
  • Time-StretchingA manipulation in which the Duration of a sound is altered. Time stretching can be used to make sounds longer or shorter.More infoTime-stretching
  • Reverseto play a sound backwards.More infoReverse
  • LoopTo loop a sound is to continuously repeat it. More infoLoop
  • SpliceTo cut up a sound file.More infoSplice