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Graphic Score

  The graphic score is an attempt by 20th-century composers to involve each performer more closely in creating, as opposed to interpreting, the music. Conventional scores meticulously notate as many details as possible of the composer\'s intentions for the music: pitch, duration, method of attack, the exact place of every note in the overall structure. All the performer has to do, essentially, is play what\'s there, and his or her personality, as expressed in the performance, is of secondary (though not negligible) importance. This is quite different from the performance of most music in the world, where the work itself is created, in whole or in part, by the performers on each occasion.

A graphic score replaces notes, slurs, rests and so on with other images: lines (sinuous or jagged, like the lines on a graph), geometric shapes, letters of the alphabet, patterns, pictures of actual people or objects. There is usually also a rubric, suggesting the kinds of meditative or emotional state the composer has in mind for the performer at any given moment. In graphic scores using computers or other electronic means, instructions for this are laid along the staves. Rehearsal of such music involves the discovery not just of what the composer had in mind (as in conventionally-notated music), but also of the intentions and feelings of each performer, and of the group. (This, again, is what happens in the preparation of Chinese, Indian or Japanese classical music, jazz, rock and folk music.) In performance, the discoveries made in rehearsal are allied to new statements and new group interaction.

Most graphic scores are written for solo performers (with or without electronic modulation), or for small groups. But there have been experiments for larger forces, including Györgi Ligeti\'s Aventures (an opera in which each performer\'s basic ‘score’ was a letter of the alphabet), and the ‘scratch orchestra’ works by such composers as Cornelius Cardew (in which people could bring along any score, or any object, they wished, and interpret it in any way they chose). Many more mainstream composers, for example Witold Lutoslavski, Krzysztof Penderecki and Karlheinz Stockhausen, use graphic techniques in sections of longer, more conventionally-notated scores. KMcL

See also improvisation.



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