From sight to sound: exploring creativity, improvisation and interactivity in graphic composition and performance
Wimbish III, Russell
This thesis examines practitioner perspectives on graphic scores and applies the findings compositionally. Since first appearing in the 1950’s, graphic scores’ idiosyncratic musical notations and methods of performance have presented musicians with unique conceptual and performative challenges. However, a lack of scholarly research and pedagogical representation has resulted in a dearth of knowledge on how to assess, compose and perform graphic works. This research addresses this deficiency by exploring methods of interpreting graphic notation, the role of improvisation in performance, and how composers and performers attempt to effectively communicate compositional and performative goals. In doing so, this thesis provides crucial insights into contemporary musical practice, the nature of creativity, and how social processes impact on musical performance. The first objective of this research was to collect information on how musicians have created and performed compositions that use graphic notation. To collect data, I conducted interviews with musicians professionally acknowledged as exemplary performers of new music. I then analysed the data qualitatively using interpretive phenomenological analysis. This methodology allowed a detailed examination of the research participants’ individual approaches to graphic composition and how performance environment and personal history have influenced their methods of engagement. In addition to the written thesis, this research applied the data towards the creation of seven original graphic compositions. This process allowed me to explore the data in praxis as well as in theory. By using the data to inform the creation of these works, this thesis presents these pieces as evidence-based composition, as they have derived directly from the analysis. This research shows that graphic composition is a diverse and heterogeneous field that is defined more by social practices than by a formal codification of practice. These findings also demonstrate that graphic scores have democratised the compositional process by distributing creative agency between the composer and the improvising performer. Lastly, this study reveals that interpersonal relationships and social interactions are crucial to the process of composing and performing graphic scores. The conclusions of this thesis contribute much to the study of graphic composition. These findings are also significant to research within the fields of contemporary concert music, improvisation, musical pedagogy, musical communication and research into contemporary performance practice.