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Paperless: Tracking Contemporary Animated Scoring Practices in the 21st Century

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posted on 21.07.2019, 22:42 by Ryan Ross Smith
A digital exhibition presented by Monash University Library
Curated by Dr Ryan Ross Smith, Sir Zelman Cowen School of Music
July - August 2019
Sir Louis Matheson Library

Animated Notation is a necessarily-dynamic form of music notation that relies primarily on perceptible contact and intersection between two or more objects, virtual or otherwise. The concept of a moving or animated music notation can be traced back at least as early as the mid-to-late 19th century through experimental devices for music pedagogy, Key Indicators, and other mechanical methods for transmitting musical ideas. In the 20th century, this concept spread into new arenas, from movie theatres (Max Fleischer’s Famous Bouncing Ball), to bars (Karaoke), and of course, gaming (Guitar Hero). The animation of notation is most recently being used in conjunction with hardware closely-associated with the production of electronic music, including the finger-drumming educational platform Melodics, and LUMI by ROLI, amongst others.

Yet, a parallel history of animated notation development paints a different, more experimental picture. Percy Grainger’s Free Music and the associated Kangaroo Pouch Tone Tool represents one of the earliest examples of a notational approach that is necessarily dynamic. Earle Brown’s Calder Piece requires the activation and subsequent interpretation of Alexander Calder’s sculpture Chef D’Orchestre to fully represent the expectations of the performers. Robert Moran’s Divertissement Number 1 and Ramon Sender’s Tropical Fish Opera use the popping of popcorn and the location of fish within an aquarium, respectively, to indicate actions for performers. These works, amongst others, form a foundation of practice that has truly come to fruition in the 21st century, thanks in large part to the affordability and speed of personal computers. These contemporary animated scores represent a wide range of notational approaches using a variety of technologies, developed by composers and researchers from around the globe.