DigiScore workshop and lecture at University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign

This event was kindly organised by Stephen Taylor https://music.illinois.edu/people/profiles/stephen-taylor/

The day was split into two core events a workshop and a composer’s forum talk/ discussion.

The workshop was an open masterlcass format centred around 4 core musicians who explored a range of digital scores. The musicians were: Jack (sax), Briar Schlenker (cello), Xavier Davenport (acoustic guitar) and Phillipe (piano). The talk/ discussion followed the workshop and was given to 20 or so members of the faculty ranging from UG, master and PhD students, to members of the faculty and performing arts. Musical interest among the audience varied from improvisor/ composers, to studio composers, to musicologists.

The level of discussion was deep and sometime challenging (in a productive way), and many key insights were unearthed. In the workshop:

  • working with animated score, especially the Kvartett piece by Gunnerson, presented a level of complexity that would be difficult to perform easily if it has been notated using Sibelius etc
  • The animatedness of the above score, supported the musicians in playful encounter and enabled them to lean into the precision and discipline of precisely performing the events on screen. It was felt that surrogating this aspect of the score to animation made the experience more playful and enjoyable.
  • Working with the digital score hosted in the Unity game engine was a lot of fun, and inspired the musicians to question the nature of the concert hall as being the only site for performance. One suggestion was to use this format of digital score and go back to a parlour sitaution were friends gather at a home and enjoy the intimate nature of playing together. Perhaps a digital score case study based on Dungeons and Dragons (or Fortnite) would explore this further.
  • The additional material in Nautilus, gave the musicians opportunities to explore their own techniques and to find solutions that complemented the idea embedded in the score and as a response to the unfolding composition.
  • The works used in the workshop all offered the musicians many affectual opportunities to explore their own creativity by giving them space to be playful. This is because certain parameters, such as form, tempo, event articulation was freed up by the platform or were embedded in the behaviour of the media.

In the talk/ discussion several propositions were challenges (rightly so too).

  • The first was the use of the word “creativity” assigned to responsive algorythms. It was suggested that the perception of creativity is human-centred and that should be the focus of the conversation.
  • With the example The Plumber (an audio only, responsive Kyma environment) certain traditional attributes of a score were felt to be challenged. e.g. that a score has “permanence and authority”. Yet a Kyma environment that only responds was felt to have neither. While we dont agree with that statement, it is a useful challenge point.
  • AI, ML and big data is now part of contemporary musicology
  • Yet again, I was surprised by the range of interest that underpin the creative and cultural interests of the cohort in the room. Music is an important aspect of their make-up, but other elements and areas of culture and creativity are just a prominent. The musicians present (at a composer’s forum!!) mostly identified as a mix of composer, improvisor, performer and some other forms of media-creative.