Discussion forum

Some questions:

• We saw some of what can be gained from studying the material forms of the books that contain music, as well as from studying the notation itself; how different is this with graphic scores?

• how does knowledge of other media and cultural context affect our understanding of the notation of the 1960s?

• can music of this period be understood just from recordings or live performance?

• should we assume that the purpose(s) of notation is always the same? What factors might alter the purpose of a score?

3 Responses to Discussion forum

  1. natasharoule@fas.harvard.edu says:

    Last week, our discussion revolved around one of the central questions of our course: what is notation? However, the readings provoked me towards ruminating on another question. Namely, what is music? I wish that we could gather composers engaged in crafting graphic scores and pose them this question in a single room, because I think that their definition of music would be influenced by the manner in which they notate it.

    In his article, “Sound, Code, and Image,” Walters offers several tantalizing quotes from various composers who have participated in graphic score notation. Howard Skempton believes that graphic scores say much more about how music works than do scores written by Beethoven, for example (30). Indeed, Skempton argues that “a score has a life of its own” (30). What can we say about Skempton’s understanding of music from these words? Composer John Woolrich also offers an interesting statement: “Notation is to do with hints rather than absolute instruction. You are trying to convey the big image” (28). What exactly is “the big image”? And is it significant that he chooses the word “image” rather than “sound”?

    One of the graces of graphic scores is that they allow for the interpretation and production of the piece they represent to be dependent on the individual making the music. The meaning of music becomes flexible because it depends on how it is created and by whom. As Walters writes, “the visual aesthetic of this work evokes an imagined music in the observer’s mind, an invisible music more ascetic, beautiful, and formally Modern than any earthly ensemble could produce with real instruments” (26-7). In this portrayal of music, music does not have to be something which is physically sounded, but rather felt internally. It can enter the human body through the eyes rather than the ears.

    If only because it is interesting to ponder about, I am struggling to give a definition to music when it can be “invisible” and soundless, and wonder if anyone else has thoughts about the definition of music to graphic score composers/notators/readers.

  2. John McLeod says:

    Having just looked at Jane’s proposed layout for the Appelbaum performance, I’m a bit concerned that if we have the canon going on in three widely separated places at the same time, we will lose any possibility of coordination between the performers. The different canons will inevitably progress at different rates and the overall effect will not be audible as a canon. Does this matter?

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