2020. Teleology and Unity in Barry Truax’s Riverrun

Presented at the Korean Electro-Acoustic Music Society Annual Conference 2020

Barry Truax’s Riverrun (1986) is generally remembered for having been the first piece of electroacoustic music to use real-time granular synthesis in its composition. This was a monumental technological achievement—however, I suggest in this brief paper that the success of this piece reaches beyond the mechanics of its sonic contents. Truax’s seamless integration of soundscape and narrative in Riverrun amounts to a unified and teleologically satisfying aesthetic experience. Riverrun’s narrative—the journey of water flowing from a trickling stream all the way to the sea—bears an inherent telos that is realized in part through micro-and macrostructural uniformity as well as the consistent use of contextually appropriate sound materials.