how to compose a graphic score

The stave can be thought of as a two-dimensional graph, the horizontal x-axis for time and the y-axis – the vertical location of the note-head on the horizontal lines that make up the stave – for pitch.

The score is an arrangement of several staves in parallel, synchronised in time: each note has a time co-ordinate plus several other parameters, including pitch, duration, timbre and intensity.

Since the passage of time can be followed by reading from left to right, so simultaneous musical events are directly above and beneath each other in the score. One of the most important functions of this coded graph is to keep musicians silent at certain times – the musical equivalent of white space.

Flow or State?

As I have commented on the quotes I have stated that the minimum requirement for a graphic notation is a timeline. But before designing the shapes, the symbols and the colors of the graphic score, there’s a decision we have to make. Take a look at the two scores, one from Andriessen (A Flower Song II, 1964, Figure 4) and one from Donatoni (Babai, 1963, Figure 5):

Andriessen – A Flower Song II, 1964

The main difference between these two types of notation is that while Andriessen is approaching his timeline as an idea of “flow” while Donatoni is taking symbols or “states” together to construct a timeline.

Donatoni Babai, 1963

This also reflects on Zeno’s arrow paradox, where motion is impossible if time is made up of states/instances. On the other hand, it also reflects on quantum theory of wave-particle duality where every quantic entity can be represented either as a wave or a particle, theory of light is a good example for it.

Yujun Bao – circular graphic score

If the essence of the idea we’re working on suits better with the “flow”, like: a river, traffic, motion, speech, conversation, air, smell etc., we approach the notation from a flowing perspective. Meaning that rather than separate symbols, like texts or hieroglyphs, we are going to use uninterrupted symbols created with swift gestures. If the essence of the idea suits better with the “state”, like: building, table, text, paper, cars etc., we’re going to invent separate symbols as instances of time to construct our timeline.

Scale and Proportion

Scale has multiple meanings in architecture. Drawings can be to scale (adhering to an established or agreed reference or system), ‘out of’, or ‘not to’ scale. Historically, architects have employed a range of scale systems. Classical Greek and Roman architecture, for example, used a modular system of measurement (cubits). In classical architecture each module was the width of the column base, and this was used to determine the classical system of orders and their relative proportioning.

Essence and Deconstruction

We have discussed earlier on how to determine the essence of the entity we’re working on. But how can we practically do it in graphic notation? On the other hand, can we choose to avoid the essence of the entity we’re working on entirely and instead focus on deconstructing it?

In 1945, Picasso created perhaps his most famous collection of images, called “The Bull”. The collection containing eleven lithographs is a great depiction on how to depict a motif in classical, realistic or abstract representations. The Bull was created from a single stone, and it shows us how Picasso gradually simplified the concept of a bull step by step. To start with, Picasso draws a realist bull, drawing the animal without much interpretation.

The reason that deconstructivism is related to graphic scores is that it makes us rethink of the functions of the parts of the body we’re working with.

The main idea of further reducing the form, finally reaching the level of a simple shape construction in which we perfectly captures the essence of sound.

As a working method, I believe Picasso’s process is a great roadmap to describe, deconstruct, depict and simplify the entities we’re working with. Simply starting with what the eye sees then fragmenting it into its subgroups, reorganizing them in a deconstructive manner and then going back to the essence in the most simplified version.

Deconstructivism started as a form of semiotic analysis by the French philosopher Jacques Derrida. It has a vast number of social and political implications as in identity and social roles.

The reason that deconstructivism is related to graphic scores is that it makes us rethink of the functions of the parts of the body we’re working with.

Article in progress of editing … come back please

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