Composing Textures and Gestures

Composing Textures and Gestures

Compose with gesture and texture.

As explored previously, sounds can be either gestures or textures.

Each performs a different musical function and they complement each other well through their differences.

Using our knowledge and skills in transformation, we can combine and edit sounds to create both textures and gestures.

Creating Textures

Some sounds are naturally textural, others can be transformed in order to create textures.

Looping sounds can transform individual gestural sounds into larger textural sounds. The looped sounds blend together creating a larger texture.

Time-stretching stretches out sounds. The more a sound is stretched, the more textural it becomes.

Filters can be used to transform textures over time. As the bands of the filter move, the texture can be changed and developed. Combined with automation, this can be a very powerful tool in constructing movement within your pieces.

Creating Gestures

Just as with textures, some sounds are naturally gestural. Others can be edited together to create gestures.

Splice can be used to cut out chunks of different sounds in time, which can then be combined together to make new gestures.

Filters can also be used to cut out or eliminate different chunks of sound, not within time but within frequency (pitch). For example, filters can be used to remove or select just the high or low elements of a sound, these could then be combined with other sounds to make new gestures.

Reverse can be used to discover new gestures within existing sounds or to flip gestures around, making them run in the opposite direction.

Automation can be used to dynamically construct gestures. An automation naturally creates a gesture when applied to almost any effect, e.g. transpositiontime-stretchingfilters, etc.

Composition Tip

Think about energy and the natural properties of objects, this will allow you to relate sounds together gesturally in a way that sounds/feels natural.

For example: think about the swing of a bat, the thwack of it striking a ball and the final trajectory of the ball as it flies off and slowly loses energy. These actions are all related by a transfer of energy and the transfer of energy, in this example, can be used as a model for our own composite gestures.


Envelope plays a key role in defining whether a sound is a gesture or a texture.

When we transform sounds to create textures (using looping or time-stretch), we are blurring the original envelope of the sound, making it less individualistic and strong.

When we splice and edit sounds together in other to create gestures, we are combining smaller elements or changing sounds in order to build stronger and more dynamic envelopes.

Selecting Sound Materials

If you’re struggling to choose sounds to start composing with, then try to pick sounds which you find really interesting, or that have a personal significance for you.

You might find it useful to limit yourself to using only a few materials at first, and then gradually expand your palette as you need new sounds.

You might not end up using all of the sounds that you create in the final piece, but it’s useful to have a wide collection to choose from. Later on in the process, you’ll then be able to make new sounds on demand according to your needs (for example, if a sound is ALMOST correct, you’ll be able to hold the almost correct version, while you go back in and experiment with subtle changes in the parameters and settings. You will then be able to compare the almost correct sound with the new sound that you’re creating, until it sounds just right for your needs).


Pick any Sound Card Pack (or a combination of Sound Card Packs). Click the image below:

Take your chosen materials and begin to transform them by using the manipulations in Compose with Sounds.

Composition Tip

Use the export function to create permanently stored copies of the processed sounds.

Listening Modes

Try to use sounds according to their musical properties, rather than their contextual associations (i.e. use the sounds as sounds themselves). Transform your sounds to edit, and move them away from their original source associations.

Composition Tip

Contrast gesture and texture against one another.

Denis Smalley described how gestures enhance the impression of time passing. So, if you want to give the impression of forward motion within a composition, then you should use many gestures. If you want to give the impression of stasis, then use fewer gestures.