Is Graphic Notation “music”?

Modes of the 3rd Hutong

This is one in a series of graphic scores from a piece entitled that I wrote (and performed) in Beijing last year. As a composer I “write” music. But if I write it in a way that is abstract, and includes improvisation, is it still written? Being a page full of traces and marks that have been assigned musical values, is this not the same as calling something “C#”, or “the sign that reminds me to go slower”? Brian Eno, John Zorn, Anthony Braxton, and others have often experimented with graphic notation. Is this non-standardized idiom a viable form of “written” sounds?

If, as Nietzsche argued, deep psychological urges are the progenitor of art, then is it necessary to organize these urges into controlled, “rational” forms? If the end result lacks representative forms, and line and spatiality are most significant, then can it be said that abstraction was always the first form, and that the “harmony” that was brought to melody and rhythm was the classical, Apollonian Form that created a/the false lack of meaning in the first place? The oldest forms of music on Earth are rich with asymmetries; ratios, non-linearities, curves. The newest forms of scores are also laden with asymmetries. What could this mean?


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