Lecture/Workshop at UofT Department of Music

The DigiScore project was invited to present to Music Technology and Digital Media master’s students at the University of Toronto’s class directed by Eliot Britton. There were undergraduate and doctorate students present from performance and composition as well.

From what I learned from Eliot, the students here are all very different but mostly focused on digital music as it is the area of their concentration. They receive support based on their primary interests be it in composition for video games, film soundtracks or personal digital music tracks. There is no division between electroacoustic composers and those who compose music with digital means. The electronic music studios are well equipped with spatialized multi-channel ambisonics, there are also some smaller studios with synthesizers and a maker room for building electronics and instruments. Similarly, to University of Columbia, my host’s goal is to make the equipment and studio space easily accessible to students without too much administrative overhead.

The lecture explained first what a digital score is, replacing the examples of different types of scores in the presentation with a practice-based experience of digital scores. Going through Cage’s Variations I, some questions were asked about whether one should try to anticipate the musical events and how not to sound or play the same event as someone else. We went through Variations I two times, the second time, encouraging musicians to take risks and not to sound similar to their peers but to choose different means of expressing the generated music notation. Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson - Kvartett no. 8, proposed some challenges to students who were not used to playing animated scores, however, once they became at ease with the animated nature of the score and the way the scrolling line worked, the performance also became more playful and interesting for them. Some interesting questions were asked about the nature of scrolling scores and whether they work for musicians who need to see the music that they are playing more in advance. In short, some animated scores happen in real-time, playing with the experience of the musicians’ presence in that instance of interpretation Similarly, these scores could not be played from memory as they are also devised for the effect of synchronicity between the players. It was noted that the experience is not the same as with chamber music, where one may use breath and/or gestures to cue others, a feeling of focus and internal alignment with the vertical scrolling line in real-time is needed to feel and stay together.

The Plumber, as it usually does, raised some questions about whether it is a digital score, it was interpreted as a patch with instructions that definitely can produce similar results based on the types of interactions the player responds with. The musician who volunteered to play in the Plumber had an interesting yet minimalistic interaction with it as she was feeling her sound through the patch. For the student, the experience of it felt as if she was inside the process of granularity with her instrument.

When the piece for EEG brainwave reader was tried, a lot of questions were asked about the state that the musician who wears the device had to be in, I explained the different parameters one could be in such as focus, relaxation, pleasant thoughts, etc. Students found the brainwave reader device interesting, however, they found that many more interesting features could be built into the digital score such as trying the data from the sensing parameters to devise different tempi configurations in real-time. Also, in programming the score, there could be an option to save larger parts of the score to be played later and not generated to be played directly in real-time, allowing musician to see more of the score ahead of time.

Overall, students enjoyed interacting with some of the menti slides and they understood the concept that musical and digital scores are not just about a list of instructions or the ‘notes’, the message that they carry are just as important. It was agreed that the notes and the notation is just the bare minimum, so much more is needed to bring a musical or a digital score to life. It was nice to see such realisations from a short two-hour workshop and we feel encouraged that the students might explore digital scores in their future music making.