Thursday, October 15, 2015

Electroacoustic Composition Research

Electroacoustic Composition Research

Using an acoustic violin and vocal, these instruments will later be electronically processed and the musicians will improvise to a graphic score.

"Graphic scores lead to a radical indeterminacy thats pushes the traditional musical score to its limit, beyond which composition gives way to free improvisation. Such scores also highlight the synaesthetic aspects of musical notation, which calls upon musicians to render visual symbols as sounds. As such, they represent a prominent aspect of contemporary art: shift to multi-media aesthetic practices." - Christoph Cox (2004)

Many composers such as Morton Feldman, John Cage, Cornelius Cardew and Anthony Braxton collaborated with painters for their music composition. Visual art then started to devise in their minds and resulted them to abandon the traditional music notation to create graphical notations.

Graphic scores provide some form of structure and restrictions for free-improvisation electroacoustic musician. Other than being attentive to the surrounding musicians and playing their musical instruments, musicians would need to be aware of the restrictions given by the score. This approach is relatively similar to jazz music. In an interview by Bani Haykal, a Singapore experimental artist, he mentioned that he respects musicians who abide by musical rules. However, if a musician became too dogmatic in an improvisational session, the musician would need to consider whether his actions would affect the piece. Interaction between musicians is important in order to blend in different sounds regardless of the existence of a musical rule.

Karlheinz Stockhausen has written fifty-two pieces of paper of graphical notations for Gesang der J√ľnglinge. This piece was composed on five tracks and sung by Josef Protschka. Furthermore, Stockhausen used the approximate three hours vocal recordings and reproduce it using sine tones on tape loops. Subsequently, Protschka listened to the electronic processed melodies and sang them. Stockenhausen then chose the best attempts.

Excerpt from the manuscript of Gesang der J√ľnglinge

Other examples of graphic notations also include Brian Eno's Ambient #1 Music for Airports, John Cage's 10 Stones, Concert for Piano and Orchestra, Fontana Mix.

Score for "Ambient #1 Music for Airports," 1978. Brian Eno.

10 Stones, 1989. John Cage. 

Concert for Piano and Orchestra, Fontana Mix, 1958. John Cage.


Cox, C., & Warner, D. (2004). Audio culture: readings in modern music (pp. 187–188). New York: Continuum.

Holmes, T. (1985). Stockhausen's Early Work. In Electronic and experimental music (4th ed., pp. 68–76). New York: Scribner's.

Chang, E. (2015, November). Stockhausen - Sounds in Space. Retrieved 2015, from

Young, D. (2010, October). Music Notation and Play. Retrieved 2015, from

Appendix I - An Interview with Bani Haykal (Dec 2013)

1. What interest you to like Experimental music, why not other music genres?

There's a scientist who once said, and I paraphrase, the good thing about being an experimentalist is that one of two things happen. You prove someone else wrong or you learn something new. The concept of experimenting excites me. It's not to say experimentation must be avant-garde or complex, experimentation, in fact, stems from a simple headspace, where the question "why not?" is more important that "why?". I do not like the concept of experimental music as a genre, in fact I hate the concept of genres, but I would say it has its advantages. But generally it pigeonholes too much and not that productive when it comes to exercising creativity. But maybe it could, I wouldn't be too sure of it.

 2. What kind of opportunities do improvisation musicians have in Singapore?

This is an interesting question because I feel that an improv musician has a lot of upper hand. Maybe not just an improv musician, but someone who experiments. Because depending on the nature of one's interest, an experimental musician could do a lot of different kinds of projects, from theatre, dance, visual arts and so on. The list is endless. that's one of many things I've learnt. Experimenting with different ideas and sound without any other function than to create is the fun bit but to find the function of your experiments is the tricky part. Having said that, if one's interest is wide, almost anything is possible.

 3. What was the most enjoyable experience you had as an improvisation musician?

Having a session with other musicians and creative practitioners. Because at the end of the day it's a language at play and we're constantly expanding our personal vocabularies when we interact and dialogue with other practitioners.

 4. How do you see a musician who abide the "game" rules and one who breaks the "game" rules?

I think that for as long as one does not become dogmatic, it's fine. I respect musicians who abide by musical rules, but in an improv session, if one becomes too dogmatic, meaning not wanting to "dialogue" with the other musician, than there's something to think about there.

 5. During your exploration and experimental processes, what were your thoughts about the sound you were going to create and extended techniques you were going to play?

This is dependent on the setting. if it's a solo experiment or improv, it's really about pushing myself to find new directions if not just having a sense of either composition or exploration when playing. so whatever that comes around, if a "technique" or whatever is required or you find yourself coming up with another approach at delivering something, then you learn something there. But if I were improvising with other musicians or artists, it's not longer just about my sound. Pat Metheny said that when he plays, 80% of the time he's listening and 20% of the time he's playing. I agree and appreciate that sentiment. Because it's very important to be listening to dynamics that, as a group, is developing. same thing when in a group setting, it's no longer about being flashy or standing out, I think it's about how we all complement each other sonically or aesthetically.