Entries tagged with “Scores”.

John Cage

Happy Birthday!

Below is a score I wrote in tribute to John Cage, in this his centenary year. I may not get a chance to realize this score so I’m posting it up here for anyone to utilize. If anyone does realize this score let me know via the comments or an email. I’d certainly love to see and/or hear anyones attempts.

In recognition of John Cage’s frequent use of the I Ching for his ‘chance operations’ I chose to use it as a randomizing element for this score. I tend to not use the I Ching in my compositions; in the scores where I have used stochastic means I have only one other time used the I Ching (that was for Mid-Spring (rock, breath, 12kHz) which like all of the Eleven Clouds releases was dedicated to an inspirational artist, in this case John Cage). For this piece this would require tossing coins, or yarrow stalks three hundred times (for this year only, +3n for each subsequent year).  However one could easily automate the generation of I Ching values in such a way to accurately capture the randomness of tossing the yarrow stalks. This page covers the mathematics quite well and there are definitely apps and webpages out there to get these values. If I get a chance to work on this (perhaps later in the far) I’d implement this in a spread sheet where one could automate the entire generation process. Then one could print it out or preferably use it as a guide to creating the performance score with brush and ink.

I’m definitely free to answer any questions in order to improve understanding of how to construct or perform the score. Comments on overall clarity are appreciated even if one isn’t going to perform it.

(for John Cage on the occasion of his hundredth birthday)


Composed in memoriam of John Cage in his centenary year.

Constructing the score

where n = the number of years since the birth of John Cage

1) Take a large sheet of paper, the larger the better, and mark from 1-64 on the left edge and top edge. The marks should be equidistant apart with the same spacing on the top and bottom. For instance each mark could be 1″ apart making for a 64×64 inch grid. The spacing that you choose is the scale for this score.

2) Using the I-Ching (or anything that captures the probabilities correctly see: http://www.dentato.it/iching/) generate four numbers for each value of n:  i.e.:

1 – 23, 42, 9, 17

If there are moving lines then you should generate both values putting the second into parenthesis. i.e.:

2 – 61 (37), 45, 19, 40

3 – 29 (54) ,12(19), 4, 8

4 – 8, 13, 49 (3), 36 (23)

5 – 26, 50 (38), 13 (2), 12

and so on

These numbers should be labeled x,y, z,w where the four numbers are: x, y: coordinates, z: orientation and w: magnitude.

3) Place a dot of ink, ideally with a brush, but at least in some way that they are not uniform, at the coordinates of the first two numbers as x, y. If there is already a dot here, proceed as if there isn’t perhaps creating a larger, darker, thicker or completely subsumed dot. If there is a parenthetical value for x, y or both x and y place a second dot at that those coordinates.

Note: If one were to automate this with software cast an additional I Ching value to be used as the diameter of the dot. You should map the the value in the range of  1-64 to 4 x your scale. Changes in this case should either be applied to the second dot if it exists or added to the diameter of this dot.

4) Next mark the angle from z using the following formula using 6 degrees for each count of the generated number. Values greater than 60 should have no angle marked. If there is a parenthetical value then mark a second angle following the same system for the first.

5) Finally draw a line using either pencil or ink (or both) from the center of the dot at the marked angle the length of which is determined by w using the scale set in the grid markings (see 1). If no angle has been marked, no line should be drawn. If there is a parenthetical value then there are two conditions. If there are two angles then the two magnitudes are used for them in a one to one correspondence (and on all dots if there are more than one). If there is only one angle then add the two values together. This may extend beyond the marked boundaries or even off the paper.


With a scale of 1=1″

Ex. 1: 23, 42, 9, 17

Here there would be a dot at  23, 42 with at line at 454 degrees extending 17“.

Ex. 2:  61 (37), 45, 19, 40

For this case there would be a dot at  61, 45 and at 37, 45 with at line at 114 degrees extending 40“.

Ex. 3:  29 (54) ,12 (19), 4, 8

In this example there would be a dot at  29, 12 and at 54, 19 with at line at 24 degrees extending 8“.

Ex. 4: 8, 13, 49 (3), 36 (23)

You would have a dot at 8, 13 and then two lines extending out  at 294 degrees for 36″ and 18 degrees for 23″.

Ex. 5:  26, 50 (38), 13 (2), 12

You would have a dot at 26, 50 and 26, 38 and then two 12″ lines from each dot  at 78 degrees and 12 degrees.


Performing the Score

If playing electronics the score should be interpreted as an Electric Score. For acoustic instruments it should be interpreted as a Pool of Sound (a Musical Pattern variant), for which see the specific instructions below. It can be play simultaneously with other instances of this score, for which each performer should generate their own score.  A duration should not be set for performance, the performance should continue until all the material is performed.


I. Playing as an Electric Score

  • For live electronics setup configured in response to the score.
  • Markings are not indications of sounds to played but of overall effect.
  • Whitespace must be taken into account
  • There is not a one to one mapping of length and duration; duration should be sufficient to realize the affect of the markings.
  • Always move in clusters.


II. Playing as a Pool of Sound

  • Pools of sound arise from the space in which they are set.
  • Each pool should be approached individually with common or connecting elements providing the structure.
  • The path through the score is up to the performer.
  • Spaces between the pools must be observed and should be also be a structural element.
  • A pool should be thought of as a system which can have multiple elements: a sound, but also its duration, repetition, dynamic and so on.
  • How the characteristics are determined is up to the performer but whatever structure is applied should form the basis for those that share symbolic features.


Julie Davidows score

Julie Davidow's score

As promised, my report on the closing party and performances of the Scores exhibition at the Lawrimore Project. I had poked around on the Lawrimore Project website as well as the site from the curator, Volume, prior to the show and the score posted above was the one that was leading my list of ones I wanted to perform.  I scrambled around Monday morning getting ready (I’ve not been playing out much for the last 6 months or so, so I’d developed a really non-portable studio setup) but was still able to make it to the gallery 45 minutes early.  There was only one other performer there at that point so I was able to get my pick of scores.  A quick survey revealed to me that my research was correct and that the score that appealed most to both my visual aesthetics as well as having the best musical possibilities was Julie Davidow’s score.  Scott Lawrimore, the gallery owner, helped me locate a table and power and then left me to set up. I got myself setup and then spent a bit more time working out an approach to the score. After I’d spent a lot of time looking at it and thinking about it I finally read the card with the title and description. This turned out to be: Evidence of Tudor in a Throusand Plateaus (a mashup in 3 movements). Well this was pretty amazing in my mind that this score was directly inspired by an experience the artist had with a score dedicated to David Tudor. I consider David Tudor a major influence and hero and I feel it’s no coincidence that this was the score which captured my attention.

By this time most of the other performers had arrived, selected their score and were setting up.  All told there were to be eight performers, most of them solo but there was one duo. Apart from the performers and Scott I’d say there was another dozen people there, a mix of art patrons and music aficionados.  The first performer was Emily Pothast of the band Midday Veil and also of the art focused blog, Translinguistic Other.  She was playing a piece by Steven Hull that directly referenced John Cage, including images from Fontana Mix as part of it. This piece was a tall black boxy sculpture with a train that would run through it and then out on the gallery floor. Emily was doing these wordless layered vocal drones that seemed to follow the path of the train and as it would disappear from her view she would stop.  This was quite nice and seemed to be a direct attempt to realize the score. A video of Emily’s performance can be found on Vimeo.  I should mention that not being familiar with the music of any of the people who performed my main interest was the degree to which they tried to play the score.

Pearson Wallace-Hoyt and Jon Sargent performing Nina Katchadourian's score

This performance was followed by the only duo performance, Pearson Wallace-Hoyt and Jon Sargent performing a score that was six pieces of paper about different birds and birdsong. They were playing tapes through effects and later some vocals and guitar work. This was in a sort of crunchy, noisy droney tradition at first which seemed a bit removed from how I recalled the scores. As an aside it should be noted that not many of these scores seemed to be made with music making in mind. They are art pieces with presumably some connection to music in the artists mind, but they are not like a musician attempting to make a piece of music that is best represented graphically.  Anyway as their set proceeded they began to add various sequels and squawks of feedback and distressed electronics that I felt could be thought of as a reading of that score.  Sort of in the vein of the abstract sounds that Tudor used in his Rainforest to so well capture that environment.  This duo was followed by David Golightly, also of Midday Veil, who did a short solo analog synth performance to a score by Laetitia Sonami that was a Flycatcher complete with flies. He was using an Octave CAT to created a sputtery layered environment that could evoke with gridwork of the piece with a few events perhaps representing the flies. A nice short little piece that you can watch in it’s entirety on Vimeo.

Amplfied Wire Strung Harp with Preperations and simple electronics

Amplified Wire Strung Harp with preparations and simple electronics

I was up after David and while I can’t really comment on my performance I can say how it went for me.  As I sat down I forget to setup a timepiece so I wasn’t really able to judge how I was going. In my experience without using a set time for a graphic score you don’t tend to pace it right.  This piece was in three panels with some common elements between them, but also different tones and feels. Its primary element is a wandering webwork that runs through it.  Personally I felt I rushed the piece at first giving a bit of short shrift to the first panel. I eased back and did better in the later two, but it was hard to sense how it was progressing. My favorite part of the piece was the last panel with its vast expanses of white space.  I interpreted this with a  new approach that I’ve been working with where instead of using silence directly I try to create something that would resemble what you experience when there is silence.

Wyndel Hunt and Fallen Fruit

Wyndel Hunt and Fallen Fruit

Following my performance was Wyndel Hunt tackling Fallen Fruit. This piece, which formed such a striking backdrop for the  Trimpin film panel a few weeks back, is one of the better pieces of art in the exhibit in my opinion.  I can’t see I see it much as a score and based on the process it was created (a group gets together with various jars of jam and jellies and has a “jam session” ha. ha.) I’m not sure how much of that was intended. Wyndel did an interesting interpretation on it that began with a lot of vocal samples, manipulated and distorted and then added rather noisy, perhaps a bit in the Thurston Moore vein, guitar on top of this.  Hard to directly relate the voices to the score though a friend suggested that evoked the group process behind it, but the cascading washes of guitar certainly could be read as following the lines of the image.

While everything was fairly free form w/r/t the performances Scott had decided on an order for us to play. He’d annouced the next performer and the artwork they’d be performing in between each piece.  Mixing it up a bit from the arranged orderd, next up was yet another member of Midday Veil, Simon Henneman doing a solo sax take on a video piece by Monique Jenkinson. This video piece seemed about as far from a music score as you could get, but it was a piece that could use a soundtrack, so perhaps if you think of a film as a score for its soundtrack it works that way. It featured images of a woman from the head down, sort of stripping, or dancing or something. It had a very noir-ish feel to it and Henneman responded with a pretty smokey, bluesy sound. Toward the end of the film he strayed into skronkier territory with sheets of wails and some sharper attacks.  I felt this all worked quite well as a soundtrack to the film.

Timm Mason plays a score by David Schafer

Timm Mason plays a score by David Schafer

The final performance was Timm Mason who did a solo guitar read of a painting of text by David Schafer.  He used the tiniest little practice amp, a little round thing at the end of a chord he tossed away from himself. He appeared to read the entire score and play chords in an angular style as he read.  The tiny little amp made this very tinny and distorted it somewhat, but it was a sort of off the cuff, fairly straight chording with perhaps a nod to Derek Bailey.  A valid approach to the piece for sure, but it seemed to go on and on. Judge for yourself though, a video has been posted of his performance on Vimeo.

After this it was snacks and drinks in the back gallery and Midday Veil did a bit of playing in a side gallery.  I mostly packed up and talked to some of the people who I knew from the Eye Music group. All in all it was a pretty good time and certainly an interesting experience. Only afterward did I recall that this was actually the first solo performance I’ve done. Sure I’ve done two one minute solos and I did play solo at the end of the Vancouver New Music Treatise, but this was the first time in this sort of situation. Must have been why I felt so nervous.

See all my pictures from this event on my Flickr Page.
Find out more about this exhibition at the Scores page on the Lawrimore Project website and at Volume.
Video’s from this event on Vimeo.