Background on graphical scores. : LUSENET : Finding Time : One Thread

What is a graphical score, and why is it being used in this project?

-- Finding Time (, February 27, 1999


In setting out to develop a graphic score, we are following in a long established tradition within contemporary music that traces back to the beginning of musical notation. When people originally began writing music down it took on a variety of forms and appearances. Each composer, or recorder of oral traditions, used a different method to represent sound in image. Eventually, for purposes of control, the church led a movement to standardize notation into roughly what we have come to know it as today.

In the past fifty years, composers began experimenting with the concept of the score and extending its parameters to incorporate a wider range of symbols, words, and ideas. There have been explorations away from the notion of a visual score altogether, with composers using sonic impetus or movement to cull particular reactions (music) from players. However, there has been a consistent, considerable effort in the realm of the graphic score. Works of Karlheinz Stockhausen (--> SCORE EXAMPLE), Christian Wolff, and Anthony Braxton extend traditional notation to such virtuosic extremes that they are literally unplayable as written, thus forcing the instrumentalist to interpret the written score.

If you speak to any classical musician, interpretation is an essential element in dealing with all notation (traditional). The push of the graphically experimental composers, however, has been to increase the amount of personal interpretation used in the performance of a work. Earl Brown, with his famous December '54, established a new framework for graphic notation. Using his skills as a visual artist, and his understanding of musical language as a composer, he attempted to blend the two worlds, believing that inspiring visual stimulus could engender creative and expressive musics. Many others agreed, such as Morton Feldman, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew, Christian Wolff, and Pierre Boulez. They built on each other's work and established a body of graphic works that is still drawn upon today.

The benefits of a graphic score are that it allows a performer to contribute more directly to a written piece of music. Also, it can motivate a possibly much greater spectrum of sounds than traditional notation. When music crossed the line and entered the world of sound, composers found themselves developing new symbols to add to the existing nomenclature of Western notation. At some point they realized that they could generate entirely new systems that were more immediately relevant to the sonic world they believed in. It is this with same motivation that we have chosen to use a graphic, representational score for Finding Time.

-- Scott Rosenberg (, February 28, 1999.

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