What does music look like? With new sounds and new technologies, the question is more apt than ever. Tom of Music thing points, via his Twitter feed, to this interesting post regarding Ligeti’s Artikulation:

Visualizing Artikulation [Bad Assembly]

Music notation takes on a different meaning in the age of computers. After all, the essential divide in notation – between sound representation and realization – is blurred in the digital domain, in which we move between visual and sonic information seamlessly and a sound can be reproduced exactly. But, perhaps in that fluid context and without the musical conventions that grew up with notation, the importance of notation becomes that much clearer.

In this case, the classic experimental electronic composition Artikulation by composer György Ligeti has already had a visual score associated with it. Rainer Wehinger created the visuals above after the fact as an “aural score,” intending visuals to present a visible “reading” of the sounds of the piece. That makes the score itself closer to the digital visualizations we see as motion graphics works all over the Web (and on our sister site Create Digital Motion). The point isn’t to create a set of instructions by which you can perform a piece, but a visual counterpart that allows you to (presumably) hear it differently.

To be honest, I’m not always certain what to make of these results. Does this score really help you hear the piece? I’m curious to hear different reactions. But I wonder if the real holy grail comes back to software and interface. Seeing a pre-composed score is already interesting. But make that score interactive, and, in short, you have music creation software. Perhaps we’ll get beyond simple sequencers and step sequencers and start to see a growing number of interactive software designs that play around with that concept. (See Tom’s other thoughts on that today as he looks to Audio Damage’s new Automaton plug-in.)

Side Note: Twittering

If you want to follow us music bloggers on Twitter, I’m (uncreatively) peterkirn; Tom Whitwell is tombola. FriendFeed for me is the same. I haven’t made a CDM Twitter account; if for some reason that interested you, let me know, but otherwise I’m inclined to think RSS is just fine.

And if you have Twitters/FriendFeeds you think I should follow, please do holler.

  • lematt

    the score didn't really "help" me to hear the piece, 'cause when i listen to music i often "visualize" mentally that kind of score.

    but i actually really enjoyed following the score while listening to the music, which is really good and also funny.

    I love Ligeti.

  • I think it's kinda cool. It has some potential as far as it helping people see the music. One thing i noticed was a sound that started within the reverb field and came out as the rest stayed in it.(About 1:54 into the video)but i can kinda see how you can control certain aspects of a sound in a more visual way.

  • Yeah, I think some I (heart) Ligeti t-shirts are in order. Now that'd be geek chic…

  • poorsod

    Well obviously visual scores are nothing new and certainly aren't limited to digital music, a lot of 20th-century composers have experimented with giving instructions to performers differently from normal staff notation.

    I'd like to see it go the other way – software that allows you to compose a visual score similar to the one in the video, and then interprets it to order. It would lead to some interesting aleatoric results.

  • poorsod

    (ps. i don't like the score though I do like the piece)

  • @poorsod: Agreed. It's not the visual element that's important in software, it's the interactive/generative element.

  • Wow … that was actually pretty great.

    Perhaps its unrefined and brutish of me, but without the visual score, it just sounds like noise. Perhaps my brain doesn't perceive order, and tends to just flag it as "random, nothing to pay attention to here".

    HOWEVER, with the visual score, I can perceive structure and order. It takes on a whole new meaning.

    Brilliant, indeed!

  • I was wondering why I suddenly had an email full of twitter follow notifications, just as I was sitting writing some code to put my tweets into the sidebar of music thing. Got worried I'd been working on the live site by mistake!

    Should have credited Fab Masetti for the reference…

  • I had an experience with a contrabass player who has to play along with an electroacoustic piece I wrote. It was helpful to him to have the graphical notacion of the events of the track to keep on tempo and expression. You can see the score in http://www.myspace.com/alansende.

    Best from Argentina!


  • analogueak

    consider that people also hear things differently depending on what they've experienced, musical or otherwise. it seems there's a point where the listener can "look ahead" and at least know there's something coming shortly.

  • Eric

    Pure Data's eponymous "data structures" and template mechanism are a step in this direction for sequencing:


    sorry if it's already been mentioned 🙂

  • ian

    Eric beat me to it! Pd's data structure scheme is quite interesting, there is a good example out there by one of the Pd users that has an .mp3 along with the picture of the data structure used to control it – i'll see if i can find the link.

    one thing that i've always wanted to see (although it couldn't really exist in paper form, only digital) is some sort of 3d notation, layering different instruments or perhaps orchestral sections over each other (i think this would be an amazing way to check out classical music compositions)

  • Looks like a fancier version of the Music Animation Machine:

    One quibble – I prefer it when the notation scrolls forward instead of paging – that way you can follow the visual flow a bit more seamlessly. On the plus side, I like the expressiveness of the shapes quite a bit.

  • I actually have the book and the LP at home.. It also features af description of every sound..

  • fairbanks

    Ligeti made the scores AFTER the pieces were finished.

    These scores were not intended as templates for recreating the music in performance.

  • @fairbanks: That's correct, as the post states. The scores weren't even created by Ligeti; they came from Rainer Wehinger. Of course, Ligeti himself has some interesting scores for instruments. But that's my whole point; electronic music doesn't have the same need for a score to function as a template for performers, necessarily.

  • Check out http://audiosculptures.com/sculptures.html for another take on visual score experimentation. The "sculptures" (as I call them) are created in CAD and the audio is generated directly from the drawing, making it something of a wysiwyg sequencer. An OSS standalone version of the AutoCAD plugin is in the works.


    Andy F.

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