In conclusion, just a word about our notation.  It was created on the basis of our diatonic system, and --exactly for this reason-- it is utterly unfit for the written reproduction of atonal music.  The accidentals, for instance, mean an alteration of the diatonic degrees, Here, now, it is not a matter of alteration or non-alteration of the diatonic degrees, but of twelve semitones of identical value.  Furthermore, it is rather difficult to observe consistency in the method of the notation; for instance, one often hesitates to pay attention to an easier legibility in the vertical or in the horizontal sense.
It would be desirable to have at one's disposal a notation with twelve similar symbols, where each of the twelve tones would have a comparable equivalent symbol, in order to avoid the necessity of notating certain tones exclusively as alterations of others.
-Bela Bartok 1920

It is in the summer of notation that we can see most clearly the negation of the Folk mode; internal or biological Memory has given way to external, notated memory . . .
-Chris Cutler

. . . role of notation . . . to change the noun "music" into the verb "music". –Tohru Takemitsu

The purpose of notation is to provoke sound. –Michael Finnissy

Notation is a way of making people move.
The sound should be a picture of the score, not vice versa.
A musical score is a logical construct inserted into the mess of potential sounds that permeate this planet and its atmosphere.

–Cornelius Cardew

A new sense of the ordering of elements: not to pretend to catch in a work the whole of the sonorous event, but to accept the unavoidable percentage of indetermination and to propose an order, suitable to be applied to the suggested elements.. –Graciella Castillo

Design scores that the audience can see too. Noel Llinos

I grew up with John Cage’s book Notations in the house. For a while it was on a bookshelf beside a chair that faced the TV and I’d look through it when the shows and the ads were boring. Because it was so familiar to me, I didn’t realize there was anything magnificent about it –I thought that was how (some) people wrote (visualized) music. Besides which the arrangement of the texts was stupid and confusing (based on the I Ching). In addition, I was very anti-reading in my musical life. I was playing jazz then and the best readers I ran across were the least interesting players. Reading music is a left-brain activity, improvising music is a right-brain one. Worst of all the only jazz musician in it was Jimmy Guiffre. (What a racist oversight it was to exclude Anthony Braxton, Cecil Taylor, Andrew Hill, Roscoe Mitchell, Charles Mingus, Duke Ellington, etc. far more genuine composers of music than Yoko Ono and Nam June Paik. End rant.) Anyway, I loved some of the scores (Haubenstock-Ramati, Maginnis, Logothetis, James Drew) and they stayed in the dusty attic of my mind long after the book disappeared from my life. Years later I came across a few like them in The New Music by Reginald Smith Brindle and it reawakened my interest. I was trying to find a way to communicate the ways I was thinking about music to other (usually untrained) musicians. Nothing really complicated, but the uselessness of language led to hours of vague tautological discussions. So I began drawing pictures. I didn’t want to compose (I am an improvisor who plays with other improvisors), just develop a way of "getting on the same page", a common sense of the elements with which we were working so as to get away from stylistic received ideas (i.e., invent music –not conform to taste). I love pure noise, but I also love structures, particularly those that evolve themselves, I even like themes. I am stimulated by the ideas of other musicians and I don’t think direction by an individual is always a bad thing. My idea was not to write parts, but to suggest a sense of something to be developed, a starting point (of view) in a way that dealt with music as it was made –of structural elements rather than the abstractions representing rhythm, melody, and harmony. So that’s what I did.


The symbols for pulse, pedal, and mode are non-specific. In practice their coherence should be self-generating, a suggestion is enough.

The symbols for meter indicate a time signature rather than what to play. A schematic of the rhythm.

The symbols for row are pitch-class numbers: 0 is C, 1 is D-, 2 is D, etc. The piece represented uses serial rows.

The symbols for chord employ a line for each tone, i.e., a triangle represents a triad, a cross a dyad, etc. If they were to be specified the pitch class numbers would be inscribed on the lines or beside or beneath the shape. 0-4-7, for instance, would represent a Cmaj triad, 2-5-9-0, a Dm7.

One would not read this kind of score, but think about it and keep it in mind while playing.

Anything that helps us to deepen our understanding of what we’re doing, what materials we’re working with is worth trying. A lot of improvisors have gotten stuck in styles and methods that limit their interactions to playing within contexts that lack any originality, that encourage explorations of technique, but not of compositional ideas. Some extremely imaginative musicians end up sounding non-innovative because of these approaches. Style is a burden. Lay it down.

. . . What appears musically precise or specific is in fact not.
. . . Write a note for flute: no matter how well you know the note, a player can vary it within what you thought were minima. Write a short note: no matter how exact its length may seem in your mind, when you come to perform it, you will find a range of easily perceived variations that lies within acceptable limits. They point to fact that even the most detailed and exact score is actually a set of generalities. They reveal the staggering size of the musical universe, the capacity to perceive which is one of man’s rarest treasures. Even the smallest event in a musical fabric, an event of which there will be thousands of similar others in a single work, contains within it an infinity of variation and capacity for interpretation. This variation is not merely at the margins of the perceivable but contributes to the central range of meaning borne by the work.
-Charles Wuorinen



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