Graphic notation (music)

Last updated

Graphic notation (or graphic score) is the representation of music through the use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. Graphic notation became popular in the 1950s, and can be used either in combination with or instead of traditional music notation. [1] Graphic notation was influenced by contemporary visual art trends in its conception, bringing stylistic components from modern art into music. [2] Composers often rely on graphic notation in experimental music, where standard musical notation can be ineffective. Other uses include pieces where an aleatoric or undetermined effect is desired. One of the earliest pioneers of this technique was Earle Brown, who, along with John Cage, sought to liberate performers from the constraints of notation and make them active participants in the creation of the music. [3]

Contents

Characteristics

Graphic notation is characterized by its variability and lack of standardization. According to Baker's Student Encyclopedia of Music, Vol. 1, "Graphic notation is used to indicate extremely precise (or intentionally imprecise) pitch or to stimulate musical behavior or actions in performance." [4] Modern graphic notation relies heavily on the imagination and inspiration of each individual performer to interpret the visual content provided by the composer. Because of this relative freedom, the realization of graphically notated pieces usually varies from performance to performance. [5] For example, in notation indication "E" of his piece Concert for Piano and Orchestra, John Cage writes: "Play with hands indicated. Where clefs differ, a note is either bass or treble", an indeterminacy which is not unusual in Cage's work, and which leaves decision-making up to the performer. [6] Some graphic scores can be defined as action-based, where musical gestures are notated as shapes instead of conventional musical ideas. [2]

The use of graphic notation within a score can vary widely, from the score being made up entirely of graphic notation to graphic notation being a small part of an otherwise largely-traditional score. Some composers include written explanations to aid the performer in interpreting the graphic notation, while other composers opt to leave the interpretation entirely up to the performer. [7] Graphic notation is difficult to characterize with specificity, as the notation system is only limited by the imagination and ability of the composer. Though some composers, like John Cage, [3] formulate graphic notation systems which unify the approach of specific pieces, or several pieces, there is no universal consensus on the parameters of graphic notation and its use. [5]

History

Early history

Belle, bonne, sage, by Baude Cordier, fl. 15th century. CordierColor.jpg
Belle, bonne, sage, by Baude Cordier, fl. 15th century.

Though its most popular usage occurred in the mid-twentieth century, the first evidence of graphic notation dates back much earlier. Originally called "eye music", these graphic scores bear much resemblance to the scores of composers like George Crumb. One of the earliest surviving pieces of eye music is Belle, Bonne, Sage by Baude Cordier, a Renaissance composer. His score, formed in the shape of a heart, was intended to enhance the meaning of the chanson. [8] Characteristic of the Ars subtilior, "experimentations with mensural signs and graphic shapes and colours were often a feature of musical design – for the sake of visual, rather than necessarily audible effect." [9] Another example of eye music from the ars subtilior is Jacob Senleches' La harpe de melodie, where the voices are notated on a stave that appears to be the strings of a harp. Eye music's popularity died down after the Humanist movement of the mid-16th century, later to be revitalized in the twentieth century as the use of graphic scores became prominent once again.

The 19th century music educator Pierre Galin developed a method of notating music known as the Galin-Paris-Chevé system, building on a notation system created in the 18th century by Jean-Jacques Rousseau. This system used numbers to indicate scale degrees, and used dots either above or below the note to indicate if they were in the lowest octave or the highest. The middle octave, relative to the example, contained no dots. Flats and sharps were notated using backslashes and forward slashes respectively. Prolongations of the note were notated using periods, and silence was notated with the number zero. This method was primarily used to teach sight-singing. [10] The usage of symbols to indicate musical direction have been likened to an early version of graphic notation. [2]

Uses in the twentieth century

Experimental music appeared in the United States and Europe during the 1950s, when many of the once untouchable parameters of traditional music began to be challenged. Aleatoric music, indeterminate music, musique concrète and electronic music shook previously unquestioned concepts, such as musical time or the function of the musician, and dared to add others to musical space in all its dimensions, with all their ontological consequences and burdens. They also changed the roles of the composer, the performer and the public, giving them totally new functions to explore.

In this context, the score, which had to a great extent been considered a mere support for musical writing (with the exception of eye music), began to flirt with the limits of the work and its identity. This marriage produced three paths: the first considered the musical score to be a representation of organized sound; the second conceived it as an extension of sound; and the third viewed it as another type of music, a visual music with its own autonomy, independent of sound. The score took on new meanings and went from being a mere support of sound to being an extension of the work, or even another work altogether, an element that was as important as the sounds and silences it contained, or more. These conceptions required a new language and a new reading of what it is to be musical. They also required a new notation, one that would reflect the changes taking place in the second artistic vanguards, and contain them, granting them a new semantics. In this way, taken with the porousness of experimental music with respect to the plastic arts, notation came to be more and more influenced by a dialogue with painting, installations and performativity. [11] As J.Y. Bosseur mentions in La musique du XXè siècle à la croisé des artes, [12] the score progressed towards representing the management of space, a graphic space that allows us to know the multiple connections enclosed within it.

Graphic notation in its modern form first appeared in the 1950s as an evolution of movement of Indeterminacy as pioneered by John Cage. The technique was originally used by avant-garde musicians and manifested itself as the use of symbols to convey information that could not be rendered with traditional notation such as extended techniques. Graphic scores have, since their conception, evolved into two broadly defined categories, one being the invention of new notation systems used to convey specific musical techniques and the other the use of conceptual notation such as shapes, drawings and other artistic techniques that are meant to evoke improvisation from the performer. Examples of the former include Morton Feldman's Projection 1, which was the result of Feldman drawing abstract shapes on graph paper, [6] and Stockhausen's Prozession . [1] Examples of the latter include Earle Brown's December 1952 and Cornelius Cardew's Treatise, which was written in response to Cage's 4'33" and which he wrote after having worked as Stockhausen's assistant. The score consists of 193 pages of lines and shapes on a white background. Here the lines represented elements in space and the score was merely a representation of that space at a given instant. [3] In Europe, one of the most notable users was Sylvano Bussotti, whose scores have often been displayed as pieces of visual art by enthusiasts. [3] In 1969, in an effort to promote the movement of abstract notation, John Cage and Allison Knowles published an archive of excerpts of scores by 269 composers with the intention of showing "the many directions in which notation is now going". [13]

Other notable pioneers of graphic notation include composers such as Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti ( Artikulation ), Krzysztof Penderecki, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis, Morton Feldman, Constance Cochnower Virtue, and Christian Wolff.

Twenty-first-century advancements

In 2008, Theresa Sauer edited a compendium featuring graphic scores by composers from over fifty countries, [14] demonstrating how widespread the practice has become.

In addition to the more widespread popularity of graphic notation, new technology has expanded its possibilities. In his book The Digital Score: Musicianship, Creativity, and Innovation, [15] Craig Vear describes how Artificial Intelligence and animation can be used to enhance the graphic score experience. He claims that these technologies are "the logical development of graphic score experiments from the latter part of the twentieth century. An interesting element of these is that they have to move in order for them to be read; without movement, they are unintelligible."

Examples

As a notational system

Section of Waterwalk by John Cage John Cage, Water Walk.png
Section of Waterwalk by John Cage
Relative pitch staff.png
The Magic Circle of Infinity from George Crumb's Makrokosmos Twelve Fantasy by Crumb.png
The Magic Circle of Infinity from George Crumb's Makrokosmos

As abstract visual reference

Other notable users

Notable practitioners of graphic notation not mentioned previously include:

See also

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Musical notation</span> Visual representation of music

Music notation or musical notation is any system used to visually represent aurally perceived music played with instruments or sung by the human voice through the use of written, printed, or otherwise-produced symbols, including notation for durations of absence of sound such as rests.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Musical composition</span> An original musical piece, or the process of creating a new piece

Musical composition can refer to an original piece or work of music, either vocal or instrumental, the structure of a musical piece or to the process of creating or writing a new piece of music. People who create new compositions are called composers. Composers of primarily songs are usually called songwriters; with songs, the person who writes lyrics for a song is the lyricist. In many cultures, including Western classical music, the act of composing typically includes the creation of music notation, such as a sheet music "score," which is then performed by the composer or by other musicians. In popular music and traditional music, songwriting may involve the creation of a basic outline of the song, called the lead sheet, which sets out the melody, lyrics and chord progression. In classical music, orchestration is typically done by the composer, but in musical theatre and in pop music, songwriters may hire an arranger to do the orchestration. In some cases, a pop or traditional songwriter may not use written notation at all and instead compose the song in their mind and then play, sing or record it from memory. In jazz and popular music, notable sound recordings by influential performers are given the weight that written or printed scores play in classical music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">David Tudor</span> Musical artist

David Eugene Tudor was an American pianist and composer of experimental music.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">John Cage</span> American avant-garde composer (1912–1992)

John Milton Cage Jr. was an American composer and music theorist. A pioneer of indeterminacy in music, electroacoustic music, and non-standard use of musical instruments, Cage was one of the leading figures of the post-war avant-garde. Critics have lauded him as one of the most influential composers of the 20th century. He was also instrumental in the development of modern dance, mostly through his association with choreographer Merce Cunningham, who was also Cage's romantic partner for most of their lives.

Sheet music is a handwritten or printed form of musical notation that uses musical symbols to indicate the pitches, rhythms, or chords of a song or instrumental musical piece. Like its analogs – printed books or pamphlets in English, Arabic, or other languages – the medium of sheet music typically is paper. However, access to musical notation since the 1980s has included the presentation of musical notation on computer screens and the development of scorewriter computer programs that can notate a song or piece electronically, and, in some cases, "play back" the notated music using a synthesizer or virtual instruments.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Aleatoric music</span> Music in which some element of the composition is left to chance

Aleatoricmusic is music in which some element of the composition is left to chance, and/or some primary element of a composed work's realization is left to the determination of its performer(s). The term is most often associated with procedures in which the chance element involves a relatively limited number of possibilities.

Aleatoricism or aleatorism, the noun associated with the adjectival aleatory and aleatoric, is a term popularised by the musical composer Pierre Boulez, but also Witold Lutosławski and Franco Evangelisti, for compositions resulting from "actions made by chance", with its etymology deriving from alea, Latin for "dice". It now applies more broadly to art created as a result of such a chance-determined process. The term was first used "in the context of electro-acoustics and information theory" to describe "a course of sound events that is determined in its framework and flexible in detail", by Belgian-German physicist, acoustician, and information theorist Werner Meyer-Eppler. In practical application, in compositions by Mozart and Kirnberger, for instance, the order of the measures of a musical piece were left to be determined by throwing dice, and in performances of music by Pousseur, musicians threw dice "for sheets of music and cues". However, more generally in musical contexts, the term has had varying meanings as it was applied by various composers, and so a single, clear definition for aleatory music is defied. Aleatory should not be confused with either indeterminacy, or improvisation.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Composer</span> Person who writes music

A composer is a person who writes music. The term is especially used to indicate composers of Western classical music, or those who are composers by occupation. Many composers are, or were, also skilled performers of music.

Treatise is a musical composition by British composer Cornelius Cardew (1936–81).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Process music</span>

Process music is music that arises from a process. It may make that process audible to the listener, or the process may be concealed.

4′33″ is a three-movement composition by American experimental composer John Cage. It was composed in 1952, for any instrument or combination of instruments, and the score instructs performers not to play their instruments during the entire duration of the piece throughout the three movements. The piece consists of the sounds of the environment that the listeners hear while it is performed, although it is commonly perceived as "four minutes thirty-three seconds of silence". The title of the piece refers to the total length in minutes and seconds of a given performance, 4′33″ being the total length of the first public performance.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Percussion ensemble</span>

A percussion ensemble is a musical ensemble consisting of only percussion instruments. Although the term can be used to describe any such group, it commonly refers to groups of classically trained percussionists performing primarily classical music. In America, percussion ensembles are most commonly found at conservatories, though some professional groups, such as Nexus and So Percussion exist. Drumlines and groups who regularly meet for drum circles are two other forms of the percussion ensemble.

Earle Brown was an American composer who established his own formal and notational systems. Brown was the creator of "open form," a style of musical construction that has influenced many composers since—notably the downtown New York scene of the 1980s and generations of younger composers.

French classical music began with the sacred music of the Roman Catholic Church, with written records predating the reign of Charlemagne. It includes all of the major genres of sacred and secular, instrumental and vocal music. French classical styles often have an identifiably national character, ranging from the clarity and precision of the music of the late Renaissance music to the sensitive and emotional Impressionistic styles of the early 20th century. Important French composers include Pérotin, Machaut, Du Fay, Ockeghem, Josquin, Lully, Charpentier, Couperin, Rameau, Leclair, Grétry, Méhul, Auber, Berlioz, Alkan, Gounod, Offenbach, Franck, Lalo, Saint-Saëns, Delibes, Bizet, Chabrier, Massenet, Widor, Fauré, d'Indy, Chausson, Debussy, Dukas, Vierne, Duruflé, Satie, Roussel, Hahn, Ravel, Honegger, Milhaud, Poulenc, Auric, Messiaen, Françaix, Dupré, Dutilleux, Xenakis, Boulez, Guillou, Grisey, and Murail.

<i>Metastaseis</i> (Xenakis) Orchestral work by Iannis Xenakis

Metastaseis is an orchestral work for 61 musicians by Iannis Xenakis. His first major work, it was written in 1953–54 after his studies with Olivier Messiaen and is about 8 minutes in length. The work was premiered at the 1955 Donaueschingen Festival with Hans Rosbaud conducting. This work was originally a part of a Xenakis trilogy titled Anastenaria but was detached by Xenakis for separate performance.

<i>Klavierstücke</i> (Stockhausen)

The Klavierstücke constitute a series of nineteen compositions by German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen.

Indeterminacy is a composing approach in which some aspects of a musical work are left open to chance or to the interpreter's free choice. John Cage, a pioneer of indeterminacy, defined it as "the ability of a piece to be performed in substantially different ways".

Eye music describes graphical features of scores which when performed are unnoticeable by the listener.

<i>Pole</i> (Stockhausen)

Pole (Poles), for two performers with shortwave radio receivers and a sound projectionist, is a composition by Karlheinz Stockhausen, written in 1970. It is Number 30 in the catalogue of the composer's works.

?Corporel (1985) is a musical performance piece by composer Vinko Globokar. It calls for the performer to use their body as instrument, often by striking the body.

References

  1. 1 2 Pryer, Anthony. "Graphic Notation." The Oxford Companion to Music, edited by Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online. 12 April 2011
  2. 1 2 3 Kojs, Juraj (2011). "Notating Action-Based Music". Leonardo Music Journal . 21: 65–72. doi:10.1162/LMJ_a_00063. ISSN   0961-1215. JSTOR   41416825. S2CID   57570690.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Taruskin, Richard. "Chapter 2: Indeterminacy". Oxford History of Western Music. New York: Oxford University Press. Retrieved April 7, 2018.
  4. Kuhn, Laura, ed. (1999). Baker's Student Encyclopedia of Music, Vol. 1. Schirmer. p. [ page needed ]. ISBN   9780028654157.
  5. 1 2 Stone, Kurt (1980). Music Notation in the Twentieth Century: A Practical Guidebook. W. W. Norton. pp. 103–107.
  6. 1 2 Gutkin, David (2012). "Drastic or Plastic?: Threads from Karlheinz Stockhausen's "Musik und Graphik", 1959". Perspectives of New Music . 50 (1–2): 255–305. doi:10.7757/persnewmusi.50.1-2.0255. ISSN   0031-6016. JSTOR   10.7757/persnewmusi.50.1-2.0255.
  7. Evarts, John (1968). "The New Musical Notation—A Graphic Art?". Leonardo. 1 (4): 405–412. doi:10.2307/1571989. JSTOR   1571989. S2CID   191370151.
  8. Dart, Thurston (1980). The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians . London: Macmillan.[ full citation needed ]
  9. Dillon, Emma (2016). "Seen and Not Heard". Il Saggiatore musicale. 23 (1): 5–27. ISSN   1123-8615. JSTOR   90001054.
  10. Bullen, George W. (1877). "The Galin-Paris-Cheve Method of Teaching Considered as a Basis of Musical Education". Proceedings of the Musical Association . 4: 68–93. doi:10.1093/jrma/4.1.68. ISSN   0958-8442. JSTOR   765284.
  11. Pujadas, Magda Polo (2018). "Philosophy of Music: Wittgenstein and Cardew". Revista Portuguesa de Filosofia. 74 (4): 1425–1436. doi:10.17990/RPF/2018_74_4_1425. ISSN   0870-5283. JSTOR   26563363. S2CID   171868820.
  12. Bosseur, Jean-Yves (2002), "Chapitre IX. Entre son et couleur", Peinture et musique, Presses universitaires du Septentrion, pp. 159–177, doi: 10.4000/books.septentrion.69603 , ISBN   978-2-85939-769-2
  13. 1 2 Cage, John (1969). Notations. New York: Something Else Press. ISBN   978-0685148648.
  14. Sauer, Theresa. Notations 21. Mark Batty Publisher. p. 10, 2009. ISBN   9780979554643
  15. Vear, Craig (2019). The Digital Score: Musicianship, Creativity and Innovation (1st ed.). New York: Routledge. doi:10.4324/9780429504495. ISBN   9780429504495. S2CID   150530783.
  16. "Speaking Scores: What's It Like To Be Stripsody?". taikooplace.com. 12 April 2018. Retrieved 28 October 2021.
  17. http://www.upenn.edu/almanac/v46/n06/CrumbSpiral.gif [ bare URL image file ]
  18. "Graphic music scores – in pictures". The Guardian . 2013-10-04. Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  19. Xenakis, I. (1975). Psappha (p. 1)
  20. Solitude by Hans-Christoph Steiner
  21. "John Cage – Aria – Art and Music". Classic FM (UK) . Retrieved 2020-10-03.
  22. Heigemeir, Ray. "The Metaphysics of Notation". Stanford Libraries . Retrieved 9 April 2018.
  23. 1 2 "The mad scientist of music".
  24. "Phillips – Golden Flower Piece". Classic FM (UK). Retrieved 2020-10-04.
  25. David Schidlowsky (ed.) (2011) Musikalische Grafik—Graphic Music: León Schidlowsky . Berlin: Wissenschaftlicher Verlag. ISBN   978-3-86573-620-8
  26. R. Murray Schafer at National Arts Centre ArtsAlive web site. Retrieved 2011-11-17.

Further reading