Text Scores

30/12/2014

Whilst at University I became interested in the work of La Monte Young. Whilst I was primarily interested in his work with pitch, frequency, and drones, I also became interested in some of his abstract text scores.

My particular favourite is ‘#10 (“to Bob Morris”)’ from the ‘Compositions 1960’ series – this score reads:

“Draw a straight line and follow it.”

I think I enjoyed this score more as a short, elegant, and perhaps poignant piece of poetry, rather than a useful instruction for performance.

I also liked the absurd nature of some of the ‘pieces’, and was also interested in whether these types of pieces could be useful for structuring free improvised performance.

Earlier this year I participated in a workshop led by composer James Saunders, where he discussed some of his text scores, with the group then being invited to perform some of his work.

I was struck by how simple instructions can result in complex musical pieces, and how pieces can be designed to be inclusive, so that musicians and non-musicians are equally capable of performing a piece together.

Since then I have been writing my own text scores, more as thought exercises to see how a musical or performance idea in my head could be translated to clear instructions on paper.

Up until now I have never attempted to perform any of the pieces, however, there is now an opportunity for me to perform one of the pieces with the Cube Orchestra at a Fluxus style event happening in Bristol next year.

This is actually quite a daunting prospect for me, having never performed one of my own text scores before – I have no idea how it will be received by the performers, and whether it will even work as intended.

The score, which will be open to revision after we have run it though a few times, is called ‘Chattering’, and is shown below:

ChatteringThe piece is designed so that it can be performed by anyone – musician or non-musician – and as a group performance. The piece also explores a theme that crops up in a lot of my work, and that is the use of simple loops, and ‘un-synchronisation’ to create complexity over time.

I hope that the piece will be enjoyable to perform, but also that the original idea is achieved.

At the moment the submission is yet to be accepted for the event, however, it will certainly be performed and recorded by the Orchestra soon, so I will likely post a recording and review at some point.

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