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  • David Kim-Boyle


Over the past ten years, performance scores have been radically foregrounded in a variety of performance practices. Whether such notations assume a prescriptive function, visually projected for musicians to interpret, or a descriptive one, unfolding as a documentation of a live coding performance, how might such a foregrounding reframe the listening process for an audience? Does a notational schema help promote a deeper, structural level understanding of a musical work? This article will consider these various questions, exploring how principles of graphic design and the transparency of notation contribute to the listening experience. It will suggest that works featuring projected scores find aesthetic value in the juxtaposition of notation's traditionally mnemonic function and the unique temporal modalities that projected scores establish.



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1 Pedro Rebelo refers to such scores as reactive scores Rebelo, Pedro, ‘Notating the Unpredictable’, Contemporary Music Review 29/1 (2010), pp. 1727 .

2 Freeman, Jason, ‘Extreme Sight-Reading, Mediated Expression, and Audience Participation: Real-Time Music Notation in Live Performance’, Computer Music Journal 32/3 (2008), pp. 2541 .

3 Common practice notation is arguably used far less often than other forms of notation in this practice.

4 Jobina Tinnemans, Imagiro Panoramic Score, (2017). Accessed 2 January 2018.

5 Magnusson, Thor, ‘The Threnoscope – A Musical Work for Live Coding Performance’, in First International Workshop on Live Programming in Conjunction with ICSE 2013 (San Francisco, 2013).

6 While these may indeed include a desire to provide listeners with a deeper understanding of underlying musical processes, they may also be driven by a response to pragmatic challenges involved in presenting screen scores to small ensembles or simply an appeal to visual aesthetics.

7 Bezemer, Jeff and Kress, Gunther, Multimodality, Learning and Communication: A Social Semiotic Frame (London: Routledge, 2016).

8 Kim-Boyle, David, ‘The Visual Design of Real-Time Scores’, Organised Sound 19/3) (2014), pp. 286–94.

9 The types of animation techniques employed in a screen score often underscore a work's formal structure. Consider, for example, how performers might approach a performance of Hope's Longing should a ‘pages’ methodology for displaying new information be used, or how the event-driven textures of Ryan Ross Smith's various percussion works are related to temporal synchronicities and collisions between on-screen graphic primitives.

10 The scrolling animation technique that underscores Hope's work is one of a series of animation types embedded in the Decibel Score Player application, required for a performance of the work. Further information on the application is available at Hope, Cat & Vickery, Lindsay, ‘The Decibel Score Player – A Digital Tool for Reading Graphic Notation’, Proceedings of the TENOR2015 First International Conference on Technologies for Music Notation and Representation. (Paris, 2015). Available at <>.

11 Vickery, Lindsay, ‘Music Screen-Reading: Indicative Results from Two Pilot Studies’, Proceedings of the 2015 Conference of the Australasian Computer Music Conference (Sydney: Australasian Computer Music Association, 2015), pp. 119125 .

12 Goolsby, Thomas W., ‘Eye Movement in Music Reading: Effects of Reading Ability, Notational Complexity, and Encounters’, Music Perception 12/1 (1994), pp. 7796 .

13 This is not to suggest that colour has not been used in paper-based scores, refer for example to the use of colour in fourteenth-century Ars Subtilior notation, as a means of clarifying complex mensural division.

14 McLean, Alex, Griffiths, Dave, Collins, Nick, and Wiggins, Geraint, ‘Visualisation of Live Code’, EVA'10 Proceedings of the 2010 International Conference on Electronic Visualisation and the Arts, (London: 2010), pp. 2630 .

15 Personal communication with the composer.

16 Adorno, Theodor, ‘Types of Musical Conduct’, in Introduction to the Sociology of Music (New York: The Seabury Press, 1976), pp. 120 . For a critique of Adorno's structural listening, see Subotnik, Rose R., ‘Towards a Deconstruction of Structural Listening: A Critique of Schoenberg, Adorno, and Stravinsky’, in Deconstructive Variations – Music and Reason in Western Society (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996); and Dell'Antonio, Andrew, ed., Beyond Structural Listening? Postmodern Modes of Hearing (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2004).

17 In effect a reversed type of synchretic listening where the image provides insight into the aural space, see Chion, Michel, Audio-Vision: Sound on Screen (New York: Columbia University Press, 1994).

18 Barthes, Roland, ‘Listening’, in The Responsibility of Forms, trans. Howard, Richard (trans.), (Oxford: Basil Blackwell, 1986), pp. 245–60.

19 For a more detailed analysis of the shortcomings of Barthes modes of listening, the reader is referred to Jing, A.W., ‘Affective Listening: China's Experimental Music and Sound Art Practice’, Journal of Sonic Studies 2/1 (2012). Available at

20 Installation/Performance Notes provided courtesy of the composer.

21 Jakobson, Roman, ‘Closing Statement: Linguistics and Poetics’, in Style in Language, ed. Seobok, Thomas A. (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1960), pp. 350–77.

22 Waugh, Linda R., ‘The Poetic Function in the Theory of Roman Jakobson’, Poetics Today 2/1a (1980), pp. 5782 .

23 Goodman, Nelson, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols (Indianapolis: Bobs-Merrill, 1968).

24 Barthes, ‘Listening’, p. 259.

25 See Bezemer and Kress, Multimodality, Learning and Communication.

26 This, perhaps, as opposed to an idealized Adornian structural listening, see Adorno, ‘Types of Musical Conduct’.

27 Subotnik, ‘Towards a Deconstruction of Structural Listening’.

28 Adorno suggests that rather than developing as an aide-memoire enabling performances to be recreated, notation in fact served as a means of reifying musical practice most notably through techniques for indicating mensuration. Adorno, Theodor, Towards a Theory of Musical Reproduction: Notes, a Draft and Two Schemata, trans. Hoban, Weiland (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2006).

29 The performance challenges involved in interpreting a generative notation are tangential to the focus of this article. The reader is referred to Jason Freeman, ‘Extreme Sight-Reading’, for more in-depth discussion.

30 Cat Hope, Personal communication, 2016.

31 See Husserl, Edmund, On the Phenomenology of the Consciousness of Internal Time (1893–1917), trans. Brough, J. B. (Boston: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1991).

32 Deleuze, Gilles, Bergsonism, Tomlinson, Hugh & Habberjam, Barbara (trans.), (New York: Zone Books, 1991).

33 Agamben touches on this in his discussion of the poetics of the open-work, arguing for a negative presence. See, Agamben, Giorgio, The Man Without Content, Albert, Georgia (trans.), (Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press, 1999).

34 See Heidegger, Martin, ‘The Origin of the Work of Art’, in Poetry, Language, Thought, trans. Hofstadter, A. (New York: Harper & Row, 1971), pp. 1586 , and Singh, R. Raj, ‘Heidegger and the World in an Artwork’, in The Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 48/3 (1990), pp. 215–22.

35 Deleuze, Gilles and Guattari, Felix, A Thousand Plateaus, trans. Massumi, Brian (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1987).

36 Adorno, Theodor, ‘On the Fetish Character in Music and the Regression of Listening’, in his Essays on Music, ed. Leppert, Richard (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2002), pp. 288317 .

I would like to thank Ingibjörg Fríðriksdóttir, Cat Hope, Thor Magnusson, Marina Rosenfeld, Ryan Ross Smith, Jobina Tinnemans and Lindsay Vickery who were kind enough to discuss work referenced in this article.


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