DigiScore delivered two lectures presentations and a workshop in the Boston area, one at the Northeastern University at the invitation of Anthony de Ritis and the second one at the New England Conservatory organised by John Mallia.
The first lecture was delivered at Northeastern University for the class of Anthony de Ritis’ general area music students. It was noted that the students were very open to the notion of the digital scores and what could be a score as they originally imagined scores as paper-based with traditional notation. They were curious to ask musicians questions on how they interpreted very open graphic and animated scores, what kinds of decisions they made in navigating the score, and how they felt in the flow of performing with more interactive scores, such as a sound-based PD score for The Plumber.
For the second lecture and presentation of digital scores from the musicians of NEC, it was noted that the questions were more composer-specific to do with different types of technologies and how it felt to be inside these different processes for musicians. For instance:
- there was an interesting discussion after the The Plumber performance, whether this digital score could be discussed as AI-driven or if it was an interactive system with particular narrow goals that would not define it as a living system digital score.
- There was an interest from students to interact with biosynthetic digital devices such as the Emotive EEG brain wave reader, which we also had as one of the digital scores in our presentation.
- There was also an interesting discussion around accessibility for amateur musicians and those who do not read traditional notation as the students noted that some of the animated and digitized scores like the Decibel Player’s Variation I by Cage could be interpreted by those who do not read the traditional Western type of notation.
- It was also noted by students that interesting complex rhythmic textures could be produced with animated scrolling scores such as Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson Kvartett no. 8, 3rd movement (2011), not requiring traditional music reading skills.
Overall, we were pleased to see that the NEC has already included courses on programming and coding as part of its undergraduate curriculum. Many students including the ones in our workshop already used digital technology in creative ways to facilitate their music-making, programming and composition. Computer languages such as R, Python and C++ was offered as courses for the students at NEC, and some of them were involved in game design using Unity.
Musicians were curious to engage with the graphic and animated scores as these are the types of scores, they thought digital scores mostly were. For Variations I by John Cage digitized by Decibel Score Ensemble, they liked the challenge of having to figure out how they could best use the notation system for their musicking. They tried two versions of the score; they seemed to prefer the second one as they felt it was more cohesive with their intentionality. Some of the graphic symbols became more understood in the second version as well as Cage’s aesthetic intentions - proposing all possible and impossible choices that could be taken in this digital score. The way they connected to the score has improved also as they felt more comfortable not relying on the graphic notation alone but also listening to what each other was playing to become immersed in this process together.
As already mentioned, the musicians liked Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson Kvartett no. 8, 3rd movement (2011) because it allowed them to play together without committing to read complex music notation and to experience playfulness which allowed easier entry into musicking. The score seemed more indicative to them of the kinds of sounds they could use than Cage’s Variations and they seemed to enjoy that.
All musicians tried The Plumber, a non-graphic score interface, which they remarked allowed them to feel their way through the system by imagining falling through an imaginary plumbing system. Going through the nooks and crannies, as if falling through the pipes, the way a musician navigated through the score with short interjections made more sense as the way the system was responding best was in this scenario. They also tried it with longer notes which didn’t really work and decided that the original description of how one should interact was the best.
Plurality Spring was well received in the lecture presentation. Musicians enjoyed the video game experience that took them through different levels of navigation.
In the brainwave reader piece for Neoscore, the brainwave reader operating musician enjoyed her role in the score more when she found out about different focus modes that her mind should be in if she wanted to navigate with a better sense of intentionality. For the other musicians, it helped to go through several trials with the system as some of the graphic interface controls regarding the tempo interface were not coinciding with the staves’ horizontal reading. Once they got used to symbols and the way the materials of the score were working it helped them to play better together with a sense of intentionality.
Interestingly, the music students who performed the digital scores were from a course led by John Mallia. We felt that the skills, awareness, perceptions, contexts and expereinces that they brought to the performance exemplifies digital musicianship. Here is the course overview:
NEC offers a Music Technology Concentration for undergraduate students interested in utilizing technology in their creative work. Whether your intent is to enhance the production of your recorded music, live performance presentation with interactivity and multimedia, or electronic composition/scoring, technology-based courses offered at NEC will help you to build skills in these areas and to acquire new techniques that may prove useful when pursuing work in the music industry.
Students enrolled in the concentration are required to take three technology courses from NEC’s available offerings and to work independently with a faculty mentor on a capstone project designed around their specific interests. Areas of study may include, among others; recording, mixing, production, performance with electronics and multimedia, installation, scoring for new media, synthesis, real-time processing and interactivity, sensor-based controllers and digital instrument prototyping, computer-aided composition and analysis, and multichannel spatialization.
Musicians Our sincerest thanks go out to the amazing musicians who performed these pieces:
Litha Ashforth, voice
Emiliano Lopez, guitar
Ben Eidson, sax