28 Cox

Christoph Cox (b. 1965) is a philosophy professor and a critical theorist on art and music. He is the co-editor of Audio Culture and also works for several art and music magazines.

The article describes the reasons composers choose to use graphic scores. Cornelius Cardew wanted graphic scores to evoke the same feeling in a reader without hearing music that a listener should feel reacting to the music. Graphic scores of the '50s and '60s aspired to be like paintings, and composers wished that when musicians played from the scores, listeners "should be able to actually see as well as hear [the piece]."

Graphic notation was a response to electronic and tape music in the 1950s since noise, objets sonores, and the like could not be notated using traditional lines and staves. Politicized composers rejected the use of traditional scores because it perpetuated a hierarchical system in which the performers were subjected to the desires of the composer, whereas graphic scores allowed for improvisation and collaboration between composer and performer.

It is no coincidence that graphic scores became common at the height of jazz in '50s and '60s. The part composed, part improvised nature of jazz influenced electronic music and led to composers using graphic scores to allow for more improvisation. Like performances of jazz songs, no two performances of a composition with a graphic score are exactly the same.

For its length, I found the article to be very thorough and helpful in understanding the various advantages of graphic scores.


Examples of Graphic Scores

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