Graphic Scores

This November, we’re getting ready to start rehearsals for N/A (ensemble)’s first concert. One work on the program I find particularly challenging to perform: In Summary, In Error by Leah Asher. It’s a graphic score, using a language of shapes and swirls instead of standard musical notation to communicate the composer’s thoughts.

A short clip of Cy by Leah Asher.

Performing graphic scores takes a slightly different approach than traditionally notated music – along with the nuances, dynamics, and phrasing being up to the performer, we also have notes, rhythms, and what sounds to use, guided by the shapes on the page. Every performer will interpret them differently, and the same person playing it multiple times could sound radically different.

I love the freedom of working with graphic notation. Sometimes you need to step away from new music, (which at times can be a bit over-notated), and lay off trying to decide if the note you just played was more ppp or pp. The process of learning a graphic work is closer to guided improvisation than Berio. One thing I love about Leah’s pieces is all the different textures she uses; it really encourages people to push the limits with the types and variety of sounds their instruments are capable of.

Come check out our performance of In Summary, In Error at 7pm on December 3rd at St. Paul’s United Methodist Church in Toledo, OH.



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