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 . . .
. . . 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.
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.