Personally, as a (computer) musician and composer, I was always eager to find alternative visual methods for communicating my musical ideas and structures to the performing musician and sometimes even the audience. Especially in electro acoustic and live electronic music, traditional forms of notation are not applicable as pre recorded natural sounds without a defined pitch, noise, sound synthesis or simply concrete and abstract sound are used.


Advantages of Motion Graphic Scores:

  1. A (motion) graphic notation bears an esthetic value in itself and can be shown to the audience during a performance. The audience can follow the score and the development of the music. Thereby the intention and musical idea or message of the composer can be supported.
  2. The proper use of any kind of system requires learning and training. The learning effort to start with a graphic notation is significantly less, compared to common notation, as the approach is rather intuitive. So it is easy to learn.
  3. This is connected to another advantage. The inherent meaning of signs and graphical elements. Imagine the visual appearance of a sawtooth wave. Like indicated in the name, it's visualization looks like the teeth of a saw. It is a sharp "up-and-down-wave ̃. If this visual element is for instance used to indicate the dynamics of a violin sound over time, we can assume that the violinist will play a kind of tremolo. These meanings derive from visual conditioning within our cultural environment (check Pavlov’s classic experiments), the direction one is reading and writing and the experiences we gathered in a visual world. As for the sawtooth example, the graphics have the inherent message that "up" means "more" while "down" means "less" sound volume.
  4. As the computer has become an everyday tool that is used all over the world, the proposed notational system can be used by anyone and anywhere, regardless of age, sex, cultural or educational background and even skill. The proposed notation system can therefore be very well used for educational purposes.
  5. The possibility of using the computer as a tool to generate, to conduct and to replay moving images and graphics and to be able to change every single parameter in the digital domain, even in real time according to the users needs.
  6. The potential to use graphic notation for live electronic music. The first electronic piece dealing with an accurate graphic notation was Stockhausen's "Studie II" from 1954[1]. However this piece consist only with single sine waves. Thinking about more sophisticated synthesized sounds, notation becomes much more difficult. In the digital domain sounds can be designed and manipulated in every detail, like discrete frequencies of a sound or single grains regarding time domain[4]. Hence, an accurate notation like for "Studie II" is not longer possible. Moving graphics however bear the possibility of indicating actions as well as sound movements and musical gestures in a more general way. Thus, parameters like the timing of actions, the relative frequency range, spatial parameters and the characteristics of sounds used in live electronic music can be notated.

First Approach

First approach:

Here are some questions to think about:

Why do we need a new visual notation for music?

What about the mapping of sounds an visuals?

Is there a difference between the performers score and the score for the audience?

Are there visual archetypes that work anywhere?

The development of new musical ideas often goes along with the development of new technical achievements. For instance sound synthesis techniques lead to the development of synthesizers and keyboards like the Moog, that revolutionized especially popular music[3]. Why not using modern techniques to create an artistic visual language that supports new ideas and innovative approaches towards music and composition?

Read more: First Approach


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Some preliminary explanations:

First of all some important terms need to be explained as they pop up in every other sentence. Especially in modern media definitions tend sometimes to be rather blurry. Therefore I start trying to define what Motion Graphic Notation is about by pointing out what it is not.

Read more: Terms

What is a motion graphic score?

Brief history of Graphic Notation:

The approach of using motion graphics is based on graphic notation. There have been singular attempts in figural notations already in the 15th century. Other approaches that tried to tear down the walls between art forms date to the 1920s like Paul Klee’s ’Fuge in Rot’[1] a graphical design of a piece by Johann Sebastian Bach.

Read more: What is a motion graphic score?

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