comment 0

Moving Image as Graphic Notation (2017)


Fig.1 Luigi Russolo, Excerpt from Russolo’s Score for risvergilio di una città, 1914

In the earlier age, human voice been considered as a symbol to communicate with nature, the sound performance rely on ritual to the religions. Music originated as a vocal practice expanded nonlinguistic vocal utterances, or intensification of intonations of spoken language, or as the production of vocal sound for sonic quality. Such as Henry Orlov suggested that, ‘various hypotheses about the origins of music have connected it with, or derived it from, the intonations of excited speech, nonverbal voice signals, or significant inflections of the voice in tonal languages. A widely accepted notion maintains that both natural language and music, alone of all the arts, involve sound unfolding in time and that both have the human voice as their common source. Finally, music, like natural language, developed a system of writing – musical notation.’ This chapter will give a brief discuss score sheet and the concept that moving image of environment recording as a graphic notation.

For the score the notation, the sheet has been innovated. The graphic notation appearance as the representational image through the visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. In this case, the notation is not only as language leads people to attempt to apply linguistic theories to the understanding of music, but also as image provide visual experience evidently to cause people to reinterpret or to describe musical phenomena. The graphic notation has been evolved in the 1950s, which combined function with traditional musical staff or symbolic of time. It questioning what distinguishes musical sound from non-musical sound? How do we score those non-musical sound? Composers rely on graphic notation in experimental music where standard musical notation can be ineffective.

The music experience first appears is a physical activity, rather than writing the text. In the 1910s, Luigi Russolo invented an abstractive way to score his noise music sheets, as he called Intonarumori. This spectrum follows the structure of the horizontal time axis and the stairs of pitch axis. As far as Russolo was concerned, ‘at first the art of music sought purity, limpidity, and sweetness of sound. Then different sounds were amalgamated, care being taken, however, to caress the ear with gentle harmonies. Today music, as it becomes continually more complicated, strives to amalgamate the most dissonant, strange and harsh sounds. In this way, we come ever closer to noise-sound.’ In order to record the infinite continuation of noise musical instruments, there is no longer fixed syllable, and the notes were replaced by lines. This notation could be infinitely cut, which makes it become a pioneer of post-war musical notation. Murray Schafer claimed that ‘Russolo experiments represent a crucial step in the history of acoustic perception, a reversal of the roles of figure and background’. Although this score merely as a still image, a musician read it in a more dynamical way, because the essence of the notation marks time. The moving of such image should be engaged with reader’s internal mind.

Fig.2 John Cage’s score for “Water Walk”, 1959

To appreciate this noise graphic notation that demands a kind of skill of ability to read music staff, because it is no longer the image of notation in the musician’s mind. In the late 1950s, some artists among them John Cage argued that music composition required extensive training in science and mathematics. In response to the aforementioned strict compositional processes, Cage studied the I-Ching that a system of calculated randomness, known as chance music derived from Chinese philosophy. Eventually, Cage found his way to indeterminacy or a system of composition that grants the musical performer free choice. The notation becoming a set of instructions to create a sonic map, one that the artist was in the charge of reading and realizing. This experimentation led Cage enters an ancient Taoist known as the concept of variability and uncertainty. I-Ching is the system of devising the order in the philosophical meaning of life, used in his creation of art through chance operations.


Fig. 3 Composed Improvisation for One Side Drum With & Without Jingles 1990 

The score of Composed Improvisation is a text-based sheet, comes from the Fluxus artist Dick Higgins, characterized by use reduction, repetition, and chance. This text classified as graphic notation because it takes the place of notated music. From the point of view of a performer as an interpreter of a text in here becomes more clear that there is dynamic when player success performed the notation. Even the notation is the still image, the performer read it in a very dynamic way, the image of notes would appear in the readers’ mind. Furthermore, the performer understands sympathetically adopted as one’s own, which means almost all composers and improvisers utilize the given texts to some extent. Therefore, the dynamic not only appears when the player read the notation but also exist in the representational process.

In order to dig deep into the relationship between moving image and notation, one must be mentioned there is the synchronization that how do we read the notation. The first score reader, the automatic music box in the 18th and 19th century. With the technical changes, to some extent, eliminates the boundaries between score and instrument. Which means, the score sheet not only as a still image but an instrument. In twenty-century, the technique of music box transferred into computer language can notably record scale, also further record everything that is translated into binary code. The technology brings to its new technique to the music development. Such as MIDI, OSC, and DSP, and digital instrumental operation through the parameter to control the music performance. The development of these technologies gives more possibilities to notation, in order to pursue the more pure harmony sound, the staff of the limitations of the semitones and can not achieve the desired results. As the complexity of methodology raised, to read a spectrum can be done by a machine. In other words, with the development of technology, the moving of graphic notation not only happened in the reading process but could be done by technological analysis (coding and decording). In this case, the video as a form of moving image could be treated as a form of graphic notation. At the same time, it gives a certain of a possibility of incorporated between moving image and sound production. With the support of video, the graphic notation no longer just be a silence image.

The relevant example, in 1976, Yasunao began experimenting with the direct conversion of images and sound, and his system of converting images to sound, such a way of thinking is completely different from the traditional method of electronic music sound synthesis. The synthesis of traditional music means that the composer must first anticipate a certain sound, which implies the composer’s desire for sound control, Yasunao trying to do the opposite, with a new method to create the composer I can not predict Sound. Tone imagined what he called an ‘intermediate space’, which we might think of as a phenomenological counter-figure to the disembodying digital void that we once called the ‘Netscape’: ‘the word intermedia, meaning the space where two mediums intersect, has nothing to do with the problem of an already realized art but instead with its foundation—our own bodies and perceptions.’

It follows that intermedia could offer a more truthful and piquant expression of creative ideas than words or notation. The notation of moving image represents a particular piece or plateau of a sonic phylum. It is a coherent plane or composition, selection, expression, distribution of a group of sound. Thus, an audio track following score forms a body. It exhibits a minimum of composition or in order to give a body of individuality of consistency, without making it hardening into an organism. The performer could adjust paraments, and reproduce prototype-based sounds. Gilles Deleuze argues that a body is not defined by form, function, or substance, its definition takes the form of a map, drawing a border to latitude and longitude. Spinoza has suggested that the body is not distinguished from each other by physical reason, but rather by reasoning about the relationship between movement and the rate of rest, speed, and slowness acquired by their constituents. According to Spinoza’s idea, Deleuze explained to constitute a body of particles between each other. The longitude relationship between the body parts as the motion and the rest of the particles, the velocity, and slowness. ‘Latitude’ means by Deleuze that interprets the ability of a body to influence and be affected, as well as to concentrate, and to differentiate forces in relation to other bodies. According to Deleuze, the moving image as notation becoming an element of a reproductional machine, a hybrid, flow, break, and effective modulation. This idea opens a temporary collection of musical composition, which can be connected or inserted into other aggregates(through deep learning).


Henry Orlov (1981), Toward A Semiotics of Music, the sign in Music and Literature, Wendy Steiner, ed., Austin: University of Texas Press

Anthony Pryer (2011), Graphic Notation, from The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online. 12 Apr. 2011

Luigi Russolo (1986), The Art of Noises, Pendragon Press

Murray R. Schafer (1985), “Il paesaggio sonoro”, Milano, ed. Ricordi

Denis Lejeunne (2012), The Radical Use of Chance in 20th Century Art, Rodopi

Simon Shaw-Miller (2002), A Chorus of Voices: Seeing Music in Cage and Fluxus, the Birth of Postmodern, Visible Deeds of Music, New Haven: Yale University Press

Godfre Leung (2014), Three ‘Paintings’ by Tone Yasunao, ( Last Accessed 3/8/2017)

Gilles Deleuze & Felix Guattari (1987), A Thousand Plateaus: Capitalism and Schizophrenia, Volume 2 of Capitalism and Schizophrenia,  London: University of Minnesota Press

Gilles Deleuze (1988), Spinoza: Practical Philosophy, San Francisco: City Lights Books


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s