Reprinted from the Intersection Newsletter. 756 Union Street, San Francisco, CA 94133.
For millennia people simply sang to one another, no one needed to write music down. A thousand years or so ago the music sung in the church was long enough to be hard to remember. Guido d'Arezzo invented musical notation to remind singers when a pitch changed upwards or downwards. In a few hundred years the familiar 5-line staff had evolved; it functioned perfectly for recording the notes played on the white keys of the piano. Rhythmic nuances were harder to indicate exactly, but for a long time they were fairly simple and more complex instructions were not needed.
The passions of the romantic period, however, and the scientistics of the computer age put quite a strain on the old system. It still works, but it could be better.
Predictably enough, an alternative has emerged. Since the Second World War 'graphic" notation of music had begun to take hold among the more progressive composers. Its development has helped to solve two apparently conflicting needs of new music: the needs for greater accuracy and for greater freedom. In the broad sense, for example, the notation of my string quartet ("Screen," see in this issue) emphasizes its linear aspect more succinctly than traditional notation could, while de-emphasizing the relatively unimportant pitches. As a "screen" it is meant to be played in front of other music and stand between other music and the hearer. The elements of pitch and accidental harmony must be relegated to a very minor role to allow the quality of line to emerge.
Shin-ichi Matsushita is a scientist who teaches abstruse mathematics and topology at such universities as Hamburg and Osaka. He is also a composer of hauntingly expressive music. His "Subject 17" was premiered in Berkeley in 1968. The score-- three pages, including the one reproduced here - was interpreted by Howard Hersh, Robert Moran, and myself on a number of instruments. A number of the audience stated, even during the performance, that they could see no consistent relationship between the score and the sounds we produced. That is the point: the score is used, in a sense, as a device to stimulate the performance. But on second glance, signs emerge which are susceptible of traditional interpretation - large dots might be loud tones, wavy lines, tremolos, straight lines either held tones or symbols directing the attention to another part of the score, and so on.
It is logical to ask whether drawings not originally intended as scores can be played with musical results. It was in order to satisfy that curiosity that the exhibit of graphic scores and musical drawings at Intersection was conceived. Work by a number of Bay Area composers and artists will be on view, including scores, drawings made after specific tape music (such as Paul Kalbach's "Extraneous Static Refinement: Phase III" on the cover of this issue) and drawings made without music in mind at all. The exhibition will run from Feb. 20 to Mar. 20.
A concert of many of these scores and drawings will be presented upstairs at Intersection on Feb. 28, at 8 pm.
There are two very useful books on the subject of new notation: John Cages "Notations", and published by Something Else Press and available in paper, and Erhard Darkoschka's "Notation in New Music," published by Praeger. Graphic scores are published by a number of presses and are available at such music stores as The Musical Offering in Berkeley. --Charles Shere.
p.9 You're invited to TAKE A FRIEND to the big, free EAR CONCERT Thursday, Feb. 28, 8 pm at Intersection (upstairs) 756 Union Street in San Francisco.
The graphic scores were produced by Charles Amirkhanian, Beth Anderson, Cheryl Bowers, Tony Gnazzo, Bob Moran, Howard Moscovitz, Charles Shere and others.
The sound sources will include voice, harmonium, small percussion, tapes, and the Ear String Quartet.