Archives du mot-clé graphic scores

New Notation Literature – Carl Bergstrœm-Nielsen

Western music tradition has a speciality in writing down music. After 1945, non-traditional forms emerged, on the background of changes in culture, society, beliefs and lifestyle. « Graphic notation » is just one notion among others – some notations are like drawings, but many kinds of signs, layouts and the use of verbal means also exist.

 My bibliographies at IIMA, International Improvised Music Archive, aim at mapping literature dealing with this territory, among other related ones connected to improvisation. The full title is Experimental Improvisation Practise and Notation. An Annotated Bibliography, and there is both one volume 1945-1999 and one with addenda thereafter. Presently there are more than 115 entries on notation with summaries of their contents. However, not included in this number are published editions of works, as well as publishers’ series and anthologies. See it all at .

For the most part, universities and related institutions are behind the research and publishing activity, but it should be noted that in many cases the researcher is also a practising composer and/or musician. In the sixties, many works were published on paper both in Europe and USA by commercial multinational publishers – among many others, Stockhausen, Wolff and Cage have been well documented in this way. More recently, the Notations 21 book by Sauer documents renewed interest from composers. In my bibliography referencing usage, this is called Sauer (2009;E1) – E1 refers to the systematic category of general writings on new notations. Exhibitions of new notations have taken place all the time since the seventies – more than sixty have till now been detected and listed, some with catalogues (see category K).

 Cox (2008+2010;E1) open ups a historical perspective: notation has functioned to supplement a primarily oral tradition as a mnemonic aid, as can be found in the neumes of Gregorian Chant – later the function of notation became to provide a product that could be transmitted through a market. Then, after mechanical reproduction was invented, standard notation was no longer the only way to document music. Therefore, composers could feel more free to use notation to make the idea of the work clear, while leaving detailed documentation of the performance to the electronic media and, one could importantly add, leaving the production of details of the work to the performer. Later, computer and internet technologies made information more sharable, also between art forms, Cox states further.

 Not only from published editions and anthologies of entire works, but also from a number of articles and historic treatises it is fairly easy to acquaint oneself with many different types of new notations through excerpts. Brindle (1986;H1) is an allround book on the history of Western new music with many illustrations. Bosseur (1979;H1) + (2005;E1) have a similar aim – the first one is a music history book, and the second deals with notation and provides a direct supplement to the former. It presents examples in order of increasing openness. Karkoshka (1966;E1) and its English translation (1972;E1) is a book on notations – of special interest is the section at the end of the book presenting entire works.

 Sauer (2009;E1) was already mentioned as a recent window into contemporary activity in the field. Storesund (2016;G3.1) reflects the mature development of the field of open works with new notations: focus is consistently on how to realise such works, which require a more co-creative performance practise than traditionally. Improvisation is becoming more and more a part of conservatory curriculums since the nineties, and so non-traditionally notated works also receive renewed attention. The book provides inside information for all interested musicians and could also directly serve as a basis for teaching. A number of « showcase studies » discuss the challenges and dilemmas one may encounter as a musician in nine works. Five are even featured with all nescessary playing materials available, and composers include « classics » from the fifthies and on as well as three pieces written after 2000.

 A considerable number of writings describe certain well-known works or composers. Earle Brown’s December 1952 is topping the list. Cardew’s large collection of graphic scores Treatise is frequently performed from. Christian Wolff has a special status with his introduction of cue systems in the sixties which focus on performers’ interaction. With the growth of improvisational practise later, this appears as a pioneering discovery. Roughly two decades later, the younger Zorn took up this aspect in his game pieces of the eighties which are still popular.

 Of course the common area between visual art and music notation also has its devoted authors. Buj (2014;E1) connects both worlds, investigating the significance of circular forms in graphic notations.

 Introducing, showcasing, discussing, elaborating on history, theory, philosophy, practical issues – it can all be found in the literature on new notations. To reduce the overwhelming complexity that looking at a whole library would induce, the bibliography has summaries, longer than just the titles and not the whole story, but they attempt to capture some essential aspects and keyword-like characterisations so as to make the road easier to travel for the searcher.



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Interview of Pascal Pariaud – English Abstract

The text of the article is extracted from the recording of an interview of Pascal Pariaud realized in November 2016 by Jean-Charles François and Nicolas Sidoroff. Pascal Pariaud is a clarinetist, and he teaches at the National School of Music at Villeurbanne (a suburb of Lyon, France). He supervises workshops in which the practice of graphic scores is an important component. He is a member of the improvisation trio PFL Traject and of the collective PaaLabRes.

The author describes in detail practices developed with various students’ groups with the graphic scores by Fred Frith over several years. Each of these scores proposes a different approach to a particular sonic matter. The students are also asked to develop in parallel their own graphic scores.

Several projects involving graphic scores have been developed outside the music school that have taken place in urban settings : children making music accompanying street theatre, music designed by pupils in a primary school for a film, a work by Llorenç Barber with all the bell towers of Lyon sounding together with the participation of advanced students.

The relations between graphic scores and improvisation are explored in several pedagogical contexts. Their role in the recent history of experimental music is stressed. The use of recording students performance and listening back is explained. The special case of the clarinet class with a single timbre available to interpret graphic scores is addressed. The practice of “Sound Painting” is critically analyzed. Several examples of adding sound to a film are given.

In general the author in his exposition of his pedagogical practices explains how he considers all the complex issues related to the use of graphic scores.

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Reflections on Graphic Scores – English Abstract

Reflections on Graphic Scores

Etienne Lamaison (2017)

English Abstract

This article is a development of Etienne Lamaison’s doctoral thesis “L’interprétation des partitions graphiques non-procédurales” (Insituto de Investigção e formação Avançada, Evora, Portugal, 2013). The article is in two parts: a) “The Relations between visual and sound domains”; b) “The Graphic Scores”.

The comparison between artistic domains is a major preoccupation in Western thought. While there is a strict separation of the disciplines, for many artists the sources of inspiration for their imagination may often cross over boundaries. In recent time hybrid forms between artistic realms have been developed and many terminologies belong to two or more domains (color, timbre, nuance, harmony). However all the attempts to develop machines that would translate sound into visual forms or vice-versa have not been very successful. Some artists have developed ways of comparing parameters in one realm to their counterparts in their own realm (Klee and Kandinsky on the temporality of a tableau, Ferneyhough on visual images escaping the unfolding of time, the blank space and Cage’s silence). Colors are often used as code for timbre, visual spaces with temporality. In the relation visual plane / sound plane, notions of simultaneity and polyphony are explored. The concept of density can also produce useful comparison (Xenakis). The notion of splash, of touch, especially in impressionist painting can be related with vibrations.

The definition of “graphic score” is particularly difficult to make in view of the fact that most of them do not constitute a viable notational system. Five forms of graphic scores are presented:

  1. Propositions that define a succession of events.
  2. Propositions in which the total duration of the performance is fixed by the composer.
  3. Propositions that are orientated towards pitch organization (registers, boxes with indicated pitches).
  4. Mixed scores combining graphic elements with standard notation.
  5. Propositions that are strictly non-procedural (with no specified ways of interpreting the visual elements).

Each of the five categories is accompanied with examples of graphic scores. The author explains his own approach to the non-procedural idea (the fifth category) and offers different methodologies for interpreting these various written forms, similar to those of improvisation. Historical and philosophical perspectives of experimental notational practices since 1945 are provided. In the conclusion, Lamaison stresses the necessity for institutions to include more development of the interpretation of graphic scores in their curriculum.

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Encounter with Xavier Saïki – English Abstract

Encounter between Xavier Saïki


Samuel Chagnard & Jean-Charles François



Discussion about the project developed by the Ishtar Collective on Treatise by Cornelius Cardew

English Abstract

The collective Ishtar has evolved from having a large number of members of dancers, performers, musicians, actors (1993-1999) to a more limited group of musicians interested in free jazz and improvisation (2003…). They like to call their activity “noise music” as part of the field of sonic arts : the world of making music with objects and modified instruments. Improvisation for them is a way to question listening, time unfolding, space and public participation. They mix acoustical sources with electroacoustic ones.

The interest of the collective for Treatise by Cornelius Cardew stems, in comparison to other graphic scores, from its radical uncompromising approach to visual layout. They became acquainted with this score at the moment in which they wished to fix certain things in their improvisations. In a first approach to the piece, they decided to play the totality of the 193 pages with a clock, each page having a duration of 2 minutes. Immediately some graphics were more striking than others. They concentrated on very minimal lines. They selected the pages that interested them mostly and they applied their usual modes of playing to the strict temporality of the score.

In their realization of Treatise, the ensemble tried to combine a very strict approach to time organization determined by the layout of graphic elements on the pages, with their usual approach to free improvisation. In the Ishtar collective, each player is independent from the others, there are no decisions in common. For the realization of Treatise, they might have been working on the same page and the same time frame, but each player interpreted the graphics in his own way. Some players strictly respected the signs on paper, others had a more general loose way of translating the visual graphics into sound.

The question of the central line or “time line” has been discussed in relation with Cardew’s Handbook. Difficult choices had to be made between the possibility for the musicians to choose individually what pages to be played and what duration they might last, or on the contrary to use the time line as a common point of time unfolding. The work on Treatise had an important impact a lot on the group’s own practice of improvisation, especially concerning the relation to time.

The collective has also organized workshops for amateur musicians, or young students from music schools and primary schools, in which graphic scores played an important role, and Treatise was often used in this context. The use of graphic scores allows inexperienced players to access improvisation, the score is used as a pathway towards sound production not completely determined by some kind of notation. Pieces like Treatise are at the same time “works” in the traditional sense, and open to modes of playing independent from visual structuring. Treatise is a tool to fabricate possible worlds, to make music in the large sense of the word. But from the graphic point of view, the score presents itself as a sacred object, something fixed, untouchable. There is a very precise continuity in the piece, there is a real graphic development.

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English Editorial 2017

Edition 2017: Graphic Scores

Music is irreducible to the spoken word, it is well understood, no language structure can account for it. In order to say that there is nothing that can be said about music, nevertheless one has to say it.

The idea that sounds cannot be represented by signs, images, by the visual world in general, is less often expressed. Any sonority that cannot be simply measured – as for example timbre in its global complexity – could not be, according to this enunciation, reduced to a system of signs. The accumulation of signs necessary to represent the totality of the sound matter would render the notation unreadable. In order to demonstrate the impossibility of representation, one has to demonstrate it by signs.

Already two paragraphs full of pointless signs for expressing the pointlessness of the effort to conciliate the sonic and visual realms. Yet, in order to make music, one has beforehand to telephone each other, to talk – a language on the subject of music – and then to take from one’s pocket a diary in which to inscribe the place and time of the encounter – a graphic writing linked to the practice of music. Even in the case of an impromptu encounter, the very decision to make music together can be considered as an inscription. Would that allow the naming of this type of process “graphic score”?

The visual elements inscribed on the page of the diary do not prescribe sounds that will be produced at this date, in that place which is associated with it, and with the persons who have written the same “score” in their note book. The graphics in the diary, foreseeing what will happen at such a date and in such place allows the definition of the time and space of the music, the partial planning of its unfolding. As for the rest, anything may happen. The sound combinations and their eventual meaning have to be elaborated at the moment of the encounter.

Graphics, which determine something different from the musical materiality in itself, give that delicious impression of needing no mediation whatsoever: everybody can have access to it in an immediate manner without difficulty. The presence of a score assumes the same function as a totem in the religious and enigmatic sense: it implies the obligation to do an action, some movements, some sounds, and its absence paralyzes. But if the mediations are not provided by the graphics, they remain necessary elements for action to take place. One has either to call on some resources – knowledge or know-how – already present in the performer’s realm, or to invent some kinds of mediations – codes, rules, different means to transform the visual into sound. The advantage that graphic scores have in relation to the dryness of the daily notebook inscriptions, is that they contain generally enough salient elements for giving rise to codes, either in an existing framework (recalling for example notational systems already in use), or in some framework to be invented by the participants. Everybody can have access to action, on the condition that the lack of mediations specified in the graphic score could give rise to mediations – instituted or to be invented – appropriate to the situation of the participants.

This is precisely the PaaLabRes project, to conciliate free sounds and academic language, the profound implication of artists in production and the access for all to practices, the well identified objects with those which have to be continuously re-actualized, the private space with public presentations. And let’s not forget hybrid activities, which get artists to think outside their narrow professional corporate world. In other words our aim is to conciliate the visual world irreducible to sounds and the sound world impossible to represent; in this way to go beyond the “readable”.


The use of graphic scores is today widespread in extremely varied contexts and aesthetical modes of behavior. The new edition “Graphic Scores” of the PaalabRes site [] shows a good sampling of this diversity, without pretending to cover the field in an exhaustive manner. For us, the confrontation of realizations by very different groups is of particular importance: professionals, amateurs, students, young pupils, electroacoustic realizations, contributions based on original works by visual artists. This diversity, which is also a good representation of the democratic character of practices implying graphic scores, is expressed in particular around Treatise (1963-67) by Cornelius Cardew, a referent work for many musicians: seven interpretations of this piece are presented.

This new edition is presented in the form of a roadmap, inspired by of the metro map of our first formal proposition (2016 Edition), taking as basis a photography of a painting by Lyon artist Christian Lhopital (we thank him for his generous contribution). We took advantage of the presence of these seismic “faults” to use them as lines for connections between what we call “known places” [“lieux-dits”] in a meaningful way. Some contributions are grouped together on the map in regions (Treatise, films, documentation). The map consists of two big categories:

Some artistic realizations

  1. An artistic performance (audio or video) of a graphic score, which can be triggered by clicking on the “known place”, that is the name of the contribution. An explicative, theoretical or poetical text appears when one goes from one known place to either of the two neighboring “known places”, in the form of a collage with the text of the neighboring contribution.
  2. Performances of Cardew’s Treatise, which are clustered in one part of the map and are presented in the same format as in (a).
  3. Three musical illustrations of films.

Some contributions with texts
which serve as reference

  1. David Gutkin, “Drastic or Plastic?: Threads from Karlheins Stockhausen’s “Music und Graphik,” 1959”, Perspectives of New Music, Vol. 50, N° 1-2 (Winter/Summer 2012), pp. 255-305 (,for historical and critical perspectives.
  2. “Réflexions sur les partitions graphiques” by Etienne Lamaison, extracts from his recent PhD thesis on non-procedural graphic scores.
  3. Interview of Pascal Pariaud on his pedagogical practices linked to graphic scores.
  4. A collage of texts (in French) on Cardew’s Treatise (by Cornelius Cardew, John Tilbury, David Gutkin, Christopher Williams, Matthieu Saladin, Keith Rowe, Arturas Bumsteinas, Laurent Dailleau, Jim O’Rourke and Jean-Charles François)
  5. Interview of Xavier Saïki, member of the collective Ishtar, on Cardew’s Treatise.
  6. A small area called “Documentation” with contributions by Carl Bergstroem-Nielsen on his International Improvised Music Archive (IIMA) and by Ensemble Aleph on a graphic scores exhibition (“Musique et Graphisme”) organized at Issy-les-Moulineaux during the 1980s (names of the “known places” in white without black edging).

You can move freely in the new map by clicking on any of the names of the known places. But the spirit of our approach is definitively on the side of taking a path following the lines, or seismic “faults” (as in “San Andreas fault”): the strolling from one known place to its neighbor reveals a collage of texts or spoken words provided by the contributors. We strongly encourage you to follow a pathway along on a fault line.

The site is in French. Whenever possible an English abstract of an article is provided. The sources of the texts already published in English are indicated. Original contributions for in English are provided in pdf format.

The Collective PaaLabRes: Samuel Chagnard, Guillaume Dussably, Jean-Charles François, Laurent Grappe, Karine Hahn, Gilles Laval, Noémi Lefebvre, Pascal Pariaud, Nicolas Sidoroff, Gérald Venturi.


Important information about the practical conditions for realizing the 2016 and 2017 editions of the digital space “PaaLabRes”

The totality of the production of the digital space “PaaLabRes” – architecture of the site, creation, translations, technical aspects of the realization – is done with a complete absence of financial means and on the basis of volunteer work. The digital space comes into reality thanks to the participation of artists who can do this because they are salaried in some educational institution or retired from this duty, and who give their time within the limits of their possibilities. These same persons additionally have to carry on with their own research and/or artistic projects, often pursuing a doctoral degree. Some actions (i.e. workshops) carried out by the PaaLabRes collective generate a small percentage in order to pay for the site’s hosting services.

But how can web platforms and communities developing Internet tools (of “framasoft” type) continue to fight the system? How is it possible to escape the invasion of publicity, which is the counterpart of Internet being free of charge?

In the first 2016 Edition, for example, we used “youtube” in order to realize the 72 Itineraries-Songs. This was an “easy” solution to the problem of the enormous space taken by these files, but one which imposed (through “Google”) the presence of publicity. For the 2017 Edition, we have decided to use the platform “viméo”, which appeared to us to correspond more to our sense of ethics, but the inconvenience of the presence of publicity (“Staffpicks”) remains. The trick we have designed to counter it consists in giving ample time to users to click on internal links of the site before the appearance of any publicity.

The issue of the lack of means for alternative research projects and for the use of digital communication tools remains to be debated. All remarks and good ideas on this subject would be very welcome. And more generally any critical feedback on our endeavors would be of great use to us.
Your comments (in english) can be sent at this address: contact[chez]


Call for contributions 2016-17

Traduction française

« Use of Graphic Scores in Artistic Acts »

Presentation of the problem

Since 1950, at the initiative of composers such as Morton Feldman, John Cage, Earl Brown, Sylvano Bussotti, Karlheinz Stockhausen, Cornelius Cardew, Anestis Logothetis (etc.), the use of graphic scores, requiring performers themselves to decide the meaning of the signs inscribed on paper, has been largely experimented. These practices have resulted in a major controversy on the impossibility of determining how a sound result could be attributed without ambiguity to a specific score written by a particular composer (see for example Nelson Goodman, Languages of Art: An Approach to a Theory of Symbols, Hackett Publishing, 1968). The concept of a work of art as the ideal creative object produced by a specific author was directly questioned.

In 1969, the architect Lawrence Halprin, in collaboration with the choreographer Ann Halprin, presented in a book, The RSVP Cycles: Creative Processes in the Human Environment (G. Brazilier, 1970), the idea that in all creative processes, a score (S of RSVP) was present in graphic form (as for example architectural plans), and consequently any graphic form could be used to determine productions in all the different artistic domains: using materials (resources, R of RSVP, value systems (V) and particular processes (P).

After a period of intensive experimentation (1950-70), it seems that the use of graphic scores in Western contemporary music has practically disappeared. However, the use of graphic scores can be found in a more anonymous manner in musical practices in which improvisation takes an important place: the score is no longer considered as a major object of identification of a work of art, but as a simple tool (among others) for developing forms. In this context, graphic scores play an important role in instrumental and vocal pedagogy, allowing a reflection on sound production to take place and on how this can be contemplated in a collective context.

Today, it seems interesting to attempt to see to what extent the phenomenon of graphic scores continues to play a role in artistic practices. The broadened definition of “graphic score” in the context of this call for contributions can be as follows:

A graphic form, combinations of visual signs, determining actions realized by human beings according to various modalities. Or on the contrary, actions realized by human beings producing some graphic forms according to various modalities.

A graphic form can be a source of action for music, dance, theatre, poetry, etc. In the case of music, the signs of the traditional musical notation are not excluded, but the task of transforming the signs into sounds, has to be determined (at least in part) by the performer.


A new line: “Graphic Scores”

In the perspective of an evolving internet site or digital space, PaaLabRes envisages another new multimedia form for the coming year: a new line would be added to the ‘metro map’, called “Graphic Scores” – similar to the central line “Cartographie PaaLabRes” of the existing version:

  1. The stations on the Graphic Scores line would be composed of extracts of performances of graphic scores (for example a sound track accompanied with the score)
  2. Travelling between stations would be composed by texts (collages) providing a transition between the artistic content of one station and that of the next one on the line.
  3. Some stations (maximum 3 or 4) would comprise referent research texts relative to the use of graphic scores.


Call for contributions

The collective PaaLabRes (Lyon, France), in the perspective of developing its digital space, calls for contributions in the realm of artistic practices using graphic scores. The call implies three types of contribution:

  1. An extract of an artistic act using a graphic score combining a graphic support and its artistic rendering – performance or other forms (maximum 5 minutes in duration). For example the sound track can be accompanied with a visual track, showing the score itself (which would have to be free of rights). This is only one example among other forms which can be proposed.
  2. Same constraints as in (1), but this time using exclusively an extract from the score Treatise by Cornelius Cardew (Peters Edition, 1963-67).
  3. Research articles (no limit of size) on the general subject of graphic scores as defined above. Our intent is to publish only three or four such contributions.

For propositions (1) and (2), a text (in English, could be very short, and maximum 1500 words) should mandatorily accompany the artistic content. This corresponds to PaaLabRes’ initial intent to systematically associate in each of its projects, research and invented artistic forms. We propose for this text three possible forms:

  1. A text describing the processes used by the participant(s) in the realization of the graphic score.
  2. A free text, which can be poetical or expressing some ideas to juxtapose to the artistic realization.
  3. A text dealing with theoretical aspects linked to the processes.

This text will be translated in French. It will be used by the PaaLabRes editorial committee to build, through collage procedures, a transition between two stations, mixing two texts belonging to two adjacent stations, with eventual additions by the editorial committee. All the texts will be published integrally, but in a format chosen by PaaLabRes. Different character fonts will allow the reader to identify the authors of the texts. If possible, an English version will eventually be also presented.



Closing date for submission of proposals: December 31, 2016.
Announcement of accepted proposals by PaaLabRes: February 1, 2017.
Publication of the new version of the digital space PaaLabRes: May/June 2017.
Proposals should be sent to contribution[]paalabres[]org
If you have questions concerning this call for contributions, they can be sent to the same address.


Other contributions

Furthermore, PaaLabRes is seeking contributions to add to the existing lines in its digital space: “Improvisation”, “Recherche artistique” (Artistic research), “Politique” (Political), and “Compte-rendu de pratique” (Projects and actions), the English Editorial in particular. Note: the line « Cartographie PaaLabRes » (PaaLabRes cartography)
is definitively constituted, there is no plan to add new contributions to it. We encourage a diversity of forms in the contributions: research articles, free or poetical texts, videos, sound tracks, graphic forms, hybrid multimedia forms, etc.

These contributions can be sent at any time to this address: contribution[]paalabres[]org


General Information

The submitted texts can be in French or English. In the first case, they will be presented with an English abstract. In the second case, they will be published in English with a French abstract, or if possible in a bilingual version. The English texts already published will be translated in French with references to their initial publication.

The members of PaaLabRes collective form the editorial committee, which will determine the content of the digital space.

The members of the production committee are: Samuel Chagnard , Jean-Charles François, Noémi Lefebvre and Nicolas Sidoroff.


Download the Call for contributions (3p, letter format, 148Mo)