Completed Dataset can be found here
Performance of TENOR 22 piece with Neue Vocalsolisten
There were five digital scores commissioned by the Digital Score project at the TENOR conference in 2022. The pieces commissioned were My Mother is a Fish by Micha Seidenberg, Villanelles de Voyelles by Sandeep Bhagwati, Machine à sons by Jonathan Bell, The Legionnaires by Christian Klinkenberg and Casual Causality by Greg Beller.
There was a variety of digital interfaces used to communicate musical ideas. These included:
– an audio score in Villanelles de Voyelles which communicated pre-recorded audio and instructions through an in-ear monitor
– scores involving a combination of two interfaces, digitised notation and a visual conductor on a separate iPad interface in My Mother is a Fish
– a graphic score with a scrolling interface and a video in The Legionnaires
– a combination of a scrolling score with VR glasses for one musician in Machine à sons
– a scrolling score in Greg Beller’s Casual Causality.
The majority of the digital scores using a scrolling score interface were facilitated by Max/MSP drawsocket object.
These pieces were performed by an established contemporary vocal ensemble Neue Vocalsolisten, thus our data reflects their experience of interacting with the digital scores as an ensemble.
– musicians were open and willing to experiment with new technology as part of the work-in-progress performance of these works
– sometimes the technology facilitated new ways of listening and communicating within the ensemble
– in some pieces, aleatoric processes had built-in situations for a surprise while in others the way the technology was working created situations for surprises, i.e. unexpected tempo changes, etc.
– pieces that reassured musicians with feelings of togetherness and synchronicity gave them comfort in interpretation
– challenging situations with technology pushed musicians to find solutions amongst themselves which sometimes created a different sense of flow in less comfortable situations
– although it was unclear at the time, the instability of who controls whom (computer vs human) in the relationships between the digital score and the human musicians, this situation introduced an interesting dichotomy between the two
– it appears that there was a missed opportunity for the majority of the pieces to enter into a pre-rehearsal consultation with the ensemble to initiate consultation around the novel technology used or preferences for digital interfaces of the players, i.e. preference for bar lines, markings, scrolling speed, overview, etc. Although the unknown aspect of this created situations for pleasant sonic surprises
– too little time was given to rehearsals given that there were critical technical challenges embedded within the design of each digital score
– many pieces seemed to go against the natural flow of musicianship of the vocal ensemble, although in some instances it was the desired intention of the composer
– the discussion facilitated a reflection on the musical and technical aspects of the pieces that would be communicated to the composers for future planned performances of the works
In this instance, musicians of Neue Vocalsolisten preferred simpler technical setups such as the use of audio scores and direct visual synchronicity feedback from video interfaces, given the limited time available for rehearsal. Because of this the simpler digital score instructions allowed for more immersion and freedom, facilitating the feelings of flow and natural musicianship in the ensemble. However, it is unclear if, given much more time to rehearse and longer pre-performance preparations, more complex score systems would have led to similar responses, as in general the ensemble was very open to exploration and new technological scoring methods. (Note the composers acknowledged in their statements that the technology was still evolving i.e. virtual glasses, HoloLens, scrolling scores, etc. )
The performing musicians also appreciated knowing more about the intentions of the composers to feel confident that what the technology was doing was in line with such intentions. In the context of this event, it created an unknown element for them which they had to solve by relying on their communication skills with each other as an ensemble to make the music work. As such, this led to a sense of uncertainty, as they were unsure if their in-the-moment decisions supported or disrupted the composer’s intent.
From our discussions with the Neue Vocalsolisten, it seemed like incorporating some or all of these following recommendations could bring more ease and a fuller immersion in the process of performing for the musicians with the new technologies of digital scores.
-more collaborative time to communicate the intention of the score
-more consultation with the ensemble to solve technical preferences of the digital scores like the ability to annotate the score, pause it and see ahead of the score (the overview of it), the possibility for bar lines (this gives a feeling of pulse for musicians)
-more practice time ahead of the performance to internalize the digital score and not rely on visual click tracks or interfaces alone
-for composers, to consider giving more space for music making and not to be overly reliant on the visual interface as the only conductor and guiding principle
– more comprehensive “performer notes”
– the functionality of rehearsal markers, and section choice to facilitate going over individual sections in isolation.
Sandeep Bhagwati Villanelle de Voyelles
Micha Seidenberg My Mother is a Fish
Jonathan Bell Machine à sons
Christian Klinkenberg The Legionnaires
Gregor Beller Casual Causality
Musicians of the Neue Vocalsolisten:
Truike van der Poel