2.9. The Purpose of S.O.A.P.

A key purpose of the S.O.A.P. analysis framework is to inspire new compositional approaches. Through analysing your finished compositions, the diagrams might be able to highlight consistencies and tendencies – some of which might have been subconscious. From here, you may wish to change your approach, focusing on a new aspect of composing or purposefully attempting to step away from your tendencies in order to explore new areas. 


Many analysis frameworks are concerned with building a code with which we can discuss the complexities of sound objects. Smalley’s spectromorphology system offers a way to describe perceived spectral changes in sound as they manifest in time and concerns itself with the interactions between individual sound objects.[30] Emmerson’s Language Grid offers a system for categorising sound objects within the context of the piece as a whole based on the two continuums of abstract/abstracted and aural/mimetic.[31] Both of these well-established analysis frameworks place greater emphasis on the sounds themselves than how the composer has chosen to present them to the listener in the context of the performance. Rather than offer a language with which we can describe sound, S.O.A.P. analysis is a reflective exercise that considers the work’s function in the context of the composer’s compositional practice. Its broad nature allows for other analysis systems to be included if the composer would find it useful. 


S.O.A.P. does not have to wait until after the composition is finished to come into use. I believe that one of the most interesting ways to use S.O.A.P. is to draw a diagram first and then attempt to create a piece that adheres to that diagram. I will take diagrams from previous works of mine and think ‘what would a new piece be like if there was an ‘A’ here?’, ‘or if I put a ‘P’ in the digital environment?’, ‘or what about an A that sits on the line between digital and performance environments? Is that even possible?’. Through asking these types of questions, I have been able to both expand the S.O.A.P. system as well as my own creative practice – creating works that I would not have conceived without such a prompt. 


The multifunctional nature of S.O.A.P., both as an analysis tool and as a compositional tool, expands its practicality. Its focus on how different aspects of a composition are presented allows it to accommodate multiple sonic art forms and appeal to a wider range of sonic arts practitioners. 


[30] Denis Smalley, ‘Spectromorphology: Explaining Sound-Shapes’, Organised Sound, 2/2 (1997), pp. 61-93.

[31] Emmerson, ‘The Relation of Language to Materials’, pp.17-40.