„Sketchbook“ – program notes

The performance you are about to see is hybrid in nature in more than one way. First it is a composition based on motion graphic notation and at the same time an experiment as it is part of my PhD research at Estonian Academy of Music and Theater. Very briefly described the experiment or research component of this concert is to empirically test which animated graphics work best (or not at all!) to communicate musical and compositional ideas. Especially with a performer, that is not used to these any kind of contemporary music and notation forms. Secondly the piece is also a fusion of state of the art techniques and a brand new software called “integra live” and an early music instrument, the harpsichord. Third, the score works not only as a notation for the performers but also as a way to visually communicate musical structure to the audience. Thereby the actions of the performers, especially the life electronics, become more transparent.

As it is an experiment you might also call the pieces “studies”. One should keep in mind, that sketches where composed to examine certain research questions regarding motion graphic notation. Therefore sometimes artistic and compositional aspects (both visual and musical ones) became secondary. Additionally I would like to mention that the design of the graphical user interface (GUI) the musicians use to play the score, is still in a prototyping phase. While rehearsing naturally some problems popped up that will lead to further development and the design of a more user friendly and intuitive interface for the next research concerts. However as the research in the field of motion graphic notation is still in the very beginning, these empirical learning processes are important and highly appreciated.

Sketchbook consists of seven sketches: four longer pieces and three interludes. They are not composed to be played in a specific sequence. Today we are performing them in an order to show clearly several distinct approaches or types of graphic notations:

1. “Vari”
2. “symbolic”
3. “Refelxion”
4. “associative”
5. “Thr8e”
6. “instructive”
7. “Goldener Schnitt”

Live recording of “Goldener Schnitt” from the premier (June 05. 2013) at Kanuti Gildi Saal in Tallinn.

Austrian composer Anestis Logothetis (1921 – 1994), defined three different types of graphic notation: association – factors, pitch symbols and action signals. As my scores are no longer still images or drawings, but animated graphics, I had to redefine them a little bit as already indicated above in the naming of the interludes.

  • symbolic – graphics have a specific meaning. They are used within the score in the same way as pictograms in our every day life. Symbols are commonly used within staff notation to enhance it’s discriptive possibilities.
  • associative – graphics work as a trigger for improvisation. Performers associate meaning with the graphic and convey this meaning to music. This is the may a Musical Graphic works.
  • instructive – graphics (or words if justified) are direct instructions that trigger a pecific action and usually describe exctely what to do (e.g. knock on the piano twice).

Some sketches use one type of notation exclusively, while other sketches mingle them and thereby build new experimental forms.