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.


  • actional/tonal - In animated notation graphics can mean anything. Therefore I recommend to make a disctinction in actional and tonal graphics. Actional refers to the means of execution and not the resulting sounds or pitches. The focus is on the actions to produce a sound rather than the sound itself. On the other hand tonal refers to the actual sound or tone and it's characteristics. The means how this sound is created are not as important.
  • Associative, symbolic and instructive - Associative graphics work as a sheer trigger for improvisation. They can be clearly
    indicated as tonal or actional. However it is also possible to intentionally not categorize them this way in order to leave the main responsibility to the performer's mapping process and improvisation. The performer should describe the visual attributes of a graphic, e.g.
    aggressive, edgy, fast, strong, powerful and map them with corresponding sonic attributes or actions. The overall visual impression or style of a score using associative graphics needs to find a sonic counterpart that is comprehensible for composer, audience and musicians (computer and acoustic instrument) alike. Symbolic graphics need to be clearly indicated as either tonal or actional. For these
    kind of graphics the mapping process is particularly delicate. The composer needs to map visual attributes to sonic attributes in a compulsory and compelling way throughout the whole piece. This could for instance be done in the following way: the colour indicates the
    specific instrument, the position of a graphic on the y-axes refers to the frequency (pitch), the size of graphics refer to dynamics, the structure of a surface of a graphic displays timbre while the graphic itself (e.g. a dot ot a complex polygon) refer to single tones or clusters respectively. The motion of graphics represents tempo or rhythm or simply slow changes over time without any kind of meter. A short written description of the general mapping to assist the musicians should be added to the score. Instructive graphics are often actional.
    They indicate a defined action the musician has to perform. They can also be regarded as event-triggers. The sound produced is thereby secondary from a notational perspective. However it is also possible to use tonal graphics, which clearly indicate a specific sound.
    Especially for the live electronics these kind of graphics can be utilized if a specific sound event is important for the composition. Most animated scores utilize a mixture of the mentioned graphic types. This differentiation is derives from Anestis Logothetis' notational system.
  • Graphic Notation - a way of notation for music that basically uses static graphical elements. Various composers used it in various ways. While for instance Earle Brown used his (musical) graphics as a motivation for improvisation, John Cage demanded a detailed elaboration(2). see also Musical Graphics
  • Hörpartitur - a Hörpartitur (listening score) is a modification of the original score that uses graphic elements, signs and colors in order to make music easier to comprehend(3). It is usually created after a piece is composed.
  • Live Electronic Music - electronic music is a blurry term used to describe various styles. 'Classic' composers claim it for their electro acoustic works as well as DJs or musicians or producers do for dance/house music. Here you will find my personal definition that is based on 'The Cambridge Companion to Electronic Music': music performed by one or more performers using live electronics (e.g. PC) and acoustic instruments. Acoustic music is triggered, transformed or otherwise manipulated in real time during the performance using any electronic means (a computer, specific software and interfaces) usually accompanied by electronic sounds that are generated live, recorded live or preproduces and controlled by an additional performer/computer musician. This music is usually rather abstract in nature.
  • Motion Graphic  - exceptionally I go along with the Wikipedia Article: graphics that use video footage and/or animation technology to create the illusion of motion or rotation for use in multimedia projects.
  • Musical Graphic - this term is often misused analog to graphic notation. We should make a distincion and describe two different aspects. We differentiate between graphic notation as structured and detailed instructions for the performance and musical graphics as an agent for improvisation and pieces of art on their own. see also Graphic Notation
  • (Regular or common) Notation - is here understood as western staff notation using common symbols like bars, G clef and notes.
  • Visual Music - very simplified it refers to the translation of music or sound into visuals. However, there are a lot of different approaches to achieve this translation. Check out the CVM and the VM Archive to get a deeper insight. 
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