Putting the Graphic in Music–Notation, Analysis and Performance Symposium | 30 Nov

Detail of John Cage 4’33 Courtesy of Danny Kwong

in association with Royal Northern College of Music, Contemporary Music Research Unit Goldsmiths, School of Advanced Study and Institute of Musical Research

Where does one draw the figurative line between art and art music? Since at least the 14th-century ars nova, composers have questioned the visual boundaries of the musical score. From the heart-shaped chanson of Baude Cordier in the Chantilly Codex to the Hörpartitur created in 1970 by Rainer Wehinger for György Ligeti’s Artikulation, graphic uses of notation have expanded the available palette for composers beyond the limitations of the 5-line staff.

This one day symposium will explore issues in graphic notation and visual music, the aesthetics and philosophy of notation, the relationship between notation, interpretation and improvisation, and the boundaries between inscription and pictorial art. It will bring together perspectives from the performer and editor to the composer, from the art historian to the musicologist.

A concert of music using graphic notation by the Vocal Constructivists under the direction of Jane Alden will feature a multi-media installation by New York artist, Nir Bitton, from 7pm-8pm.

This event is free and open to the public. Tickets for the Symposium can be found here. Tickets for the Vocal Constructivists Concert are here.

Questions about this event can be sent to the Curator, Colin J.P. Homiski.

Putting the Graphic in Music- Notation, Analysis and Performance


Welcome & Putting the Graphic in Music: Bussottian Boundaries
Colin J.P. Homiski (Senate House Library)


Panel – Analysing graphic notation in European art music

Chair: Dr Paul Archbold (Kingston University)




Prof Graeme M. Boone (Ohio State University)


The colour frontier in early notation




Before the advent of printing in the later 15th century, European musical notation was hand-written and thus prone to many different kinds of personal or institutional initiative, a good deal of which had to do with color.  In this paper I will survey some uses of different colors, including red, orange, yellow, green, blue, black, white, silver, and gold, which are found in sources and written discussions of notation up to the 16th century.  Colors could indicate distinctive features of rhythm, melody, structure, or performance practice, as well as symbolic relationships to expressive, theological, institutional, heraldic, or other realms of thought.  In the 15th century, we can even speak of a ‘notational war’ between black and white, as the revolutionary spread of white notation ravaged the traditionally authoritative culture of black notation within the span of two generations.  As musical printing became common in the 16th century, the expressive diversity of notational color largely disappeared, but it may be returning today through digital musical representation, to the extent that ‘hand made’ digital imagery replaces hard-copy printing in the conception and dissemination of musical thought.


Dr Brian Inglis (Middlesex University)


Graphic scores: towards a typology and analytical framework



This talk considers the challenges of analysing graphic scores, and proposes some potential approaches to the analysis of graphically-notated musical works. The beginning of a typology of graphic scores is also sketched out. My aim is to outline the framework of a methodology for analysing such notations, to support a future research project. This will initially focus on classic examples from the 50s and 60s, but the methodology should also be applicable to newer graphic scores by younger/contemporary composers.
My research and ideas – arising in part from my work as a composer, teacher and analyst over the last few years – are at an early conceptual stage. However, I present them here in a preliminary fashion to solicit feedback and stimulate discussion.


Dr David Cline (School of Advanced Study)


Graphic notation, indeterminacy and the elimination of the performer

Many graphic scores composed in the 1950s and 1960s included areas of indeterminacy that were designed to harness the creative input of performers. This paper reviews an opposite tendency in the early graph music of Morton Feldman, who composed indeterminate works in a ground-breaking notation on graph paper in an attempt to disregard the presence of performers and give greater autonomy to sounds.






Keynote Speaker – Prof Simon Shaw-Miller (Bristol)



‘A Question and a few remarks on art, music, bicycles, Kandinsky and Marcel Duchamp’




Panel 2–Analysing graphic notation from the perspective of composer, performer, editor. What is the role of the interpreter and how does notation impact upon that interpretation?

Chair: Dr Brian Inglis (Middlesex)

Prof Jane Alden (Trinity College Dublin), Dr Lauren Redhead (Canterbury), Prof Philip Thomas (Huddersfield), Elaine Gould (Senior Music Editor, Faber Music), Celia Springate (singer, London)




IMR International Composer Seminar Series


Prof. Brian Ferneyhough (Stanford) discusses his recent music with Prof. Roger Redgate (Goldsmiths)
Organised by Dr Paul Archbold in collaboration with Contemporary Music Research Unit Goldsmiths, Guildhall School, Kings College London, Institute of Modern Languages Research School of Advanced Study, Royal Northern College of Music, University of Huddersfield, Royal Holloway University of London, in association with Royal Opera House, BBC Symphony Orchestra, Britten Sinfonia, London Sinfonietta and Huddersfield Contemporary Music Festival




Vocal Constructivists
Jane Alden, Director, with a multi-media installation by Nir Bitton perform a contemporary music concert of graphically notated scores including:


Bogusław Schäffer (b.1929) Nonstop
Christian Wolff (b.1934) Sticks and Stones
Cornelius Cardew (1936-1981) Scratch Music
Stephen Montague (b.1943) E pluribus unum
Wojciech Kosma (b.1981) Songbook
Tomasz Sikorski (1939-1988) Autozapis [Autorecording]
Cornelius Cardew, Schooltime Compositions
Bogusław Schäffer, Grafiki



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