Graphical Music Notation
September 13, 2004 7:58 PM   Subscribe

Pictures of Music - fascinating site about graphical music notation, i.e., "non-traditional musical symbols arranged in a visual design rather than conventional musical syntax." Includes zoomable example scores, bios of folks like Morton Feldman, instructions for musicians, lots of sound clips and a detailed animated analysis of Cornelius Cardew's Treatise, the "Mount Everest of graphic scores."
posted by mediareport (12 comments total)
This is really good.
Cardew was interesting - his work with the scratch orchestra (and look at how many of the chorus went on to other things!) was part and parcel of his genuinely democratic approach to art music. Sadly, his work became less compellling as he drifted towards Maoism ...
posted by thatwhichfalls at 8:16 PM on September 13, 2004

Of course, there's a combination of the two:

Arc Diagrams

(And, just for completeness purposes, a similar algorithm for text)
posted by effugas at 8:49 PM on September 13, 2004

posted by Laugh_track at 10:21 PM on September 13, 2004

I thought the same thing as I clicked the comments link: Completely awsome...

I have produced two albums, but I don't know how to even read classical notation... I was trying to develop my own graphical system for representing music but just about gave up trying once I really got into it. I still doodle... but nothing serious.
posted by LoopSouth at 11:14 PM on September 13, 2004

awesome post, ive read that Bowie would scribble out graphic representations of what he wanted certain guitar solos to sound like to Ronson
posted by Satapher at 1:30 AM on September 14, 2004

Would love to look at these scores, am very interested in the subject, but I'm locked out because the site is not Mac compatible. A shame.
posted by digaman at 5:48 AM on September 14, 2004

digaman: I'm using Safari on a Mac and I can see most of the site just fine (although I can't zoom in on the scores, unfortunately.)

As to the content... Speaking as a musician, I find that it's hard enough to interpret music when composers are explicit about the pitch & duration of notes. These scores look nice, sure, but I pity the poor souls who have to figure out what the hell you're supposed to play. But maybe I'm just a hidebound reactionary.
posted by Johnny Assay at 6:41 AM on September 14, 2004

Digaman, if I click 'Larger Image View' first, I get a window that lets me zoom and pan (Mac/Safari).

Disclaimer: My spouse was a consultant on this project. The interface is a bit clunky, but the whole thing went from conception to launch in about three months.

Gratuitous tangential self-link/plug: Block Museum

Anyone in the Chicagoland area, please stop up for a visit!
posted by erebora at 8:55 AM on September 14, 2004

the point is not to have an accurate recreation, but to either stretch or confuse the minds of the performers to a point where they play something they would have never dreamed of before hand... obviously, every time one of these pieces are performed it sounds completely different

standard notation/western music theory is the weatherman, and you dont need the weather man to know which way the wind blows (see: you dont need a standardized abstract system to tell you what sounds good and what sounds bad)
posted by Satapher at 12:14 PM on September 14, 2004

Barry Guy.
posted by languagehat at 12:45 PM on September 14, 2004

Thanks for that link languagehat. I like the look of the adaptation of "Un Coup de Dés". Mallarmé seems highly appropriate for this kind of musico-graphic experimentation.
posted by thatwhichfalls at 2:59 PM on September 14, 2004

Digaman, if I click 'Larger Image View' first, I get a window that lets me zoom and pan (Mac/Safari).

Funny, I had to do the same thing on a Windows machine. I thought it was me.

I pity the poor souls who have to figure out what the hell you're supposed to play

I dunno, insturctions like these seem like they could be fun. I recently saw Eugene Chadbourne perform a similarly abstract improvised show, with changes signaled by performers picking up objects like plastic shovels and such. It was wonderful, and got even better after I'd looked at the notes he'd written for the performers.
posted by mediareport at 8:41 PM on September 14, 2004

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