CIRMMT presentations as part of the 2-day symposium at McGill University

DigiScore was invited to present a workshop and a lecture at the 2-day event, The impact of digital technology on instruments, performances, notations and compositions curated by Takuto Fukuda for the CIRMMT members network, March 7-8, Montreal, Canada.

The details of the event are available here:

In the DigiScore workshop, we discussed various types of digital scores with musicians and how one should approach them as an interpreter. We started with digital scores which we define as static. These scores are graphic and give stability to the musicians providing tempo and concrete instructions through the scrolling graphic score interface. We started with Cage’s Variations I, which include digitized graphic notation realized by Decibel Score Player’s Cage Score app. In this score we explained the basics of the computerized graphic notation which provides musicians with structure yet leaves space for individual and ensemble interpretation. Musicians found this score challenging yet accessible. Everyone seemed to appreciate the second version of the interpretation as we switched parameters of texture and amplitude which seemed to be more intuitive for the musicians and made them connect with the materials of the score better.

We introduced Cat Hope’s Rupture as one of the digital scores to be interpreted. The score of the piece uses Decibel Music Player and unfolds as a falling mass of dotes to be interpreted at pp and mf volumes. Musicians found the score challenging as it demanded their attention over a longer time in following a certain path of colour-coded dots. Since there were only three of them and the piece asked for six players, the challenge was to follow the colour that one had chosen in texture that seemed sparse and rarely interacted with others. Some musicians found it fascinating and immersive some of the time..

Some of the critical insights from the static digitized scores:

  • the visual materials of the score are very important for musicians as a means of making connections with the score
  • the more intuitive graphic notation seemed better, as it ensures a quicker immersion in the score

When it came to Gunnarsson’s Kvartett n.9, some differences with previous static scores were immediately noticed for the musicians:

  • musicians appreciated patterns which made the interpretation easier
  • one has to be in the moment of interpretation and the quality of engagement is already embedded in the score
  • shorter iterations seemed better for staying together
  • one can choose to focus on accuracy when given in short framed instances vs building an evolving sounding structure that the previous digital scores allowed

In contrast to Gunnarsson’s Kvartett, some musicians felt that in Craig Vear’s The Plumber, the pattern of response in the patch was too short for them to feel immediately that they are in conversation with the piece. Some helpful guidance to them was provided to bridge their taking-in of the score:

  • the piece is all about giving and taking
  • you can be in the flow with the electronic patch, once you find your rhythm in interaction
  • you had to feed the machine in the right way to enjoy the playing process and to have satisfactory aural results
  • one needs to decontextualize from the traditional idea of what a score is to have an easier understanding of The Plumber

As a response, musicians provided their insights into their experience with the piece:

  • musicians felt that although there was no notation it was a challenging piece to perform because it took the physicality of one’s playing into the interactive loop of the digital score
  • more time spent with the PD patch would yield better, more embodied interactions
  • one needs to set up a process to learn The Plumber to be taken into the flow of its interpretation

For Craig Vear’s Nautilus, it was understood that the digital score incorporated a sense of motion as the sound coming from the musicians moves the embedded camera of the game engine and provokes further behaviour of the underwater environment. However, moving the direction of the camera with sound input is not the only desirable effect of the digital score. It is the idea of musicians’ immersion in the underwater experience, steering the ship while co-habiting a musical/gaming environment. Musicians felt like they were basking in the sea world, they were immersed, and the overall effect of the piece had a soothing effect on them. They felt they had space to explore and wander in Nautilus. Critically, the evocation of this feeling was embedded into the coding of the digital score, and was a major quality intented by the production team.


In Craig Vear’s presentation he defined what a digital score is with some examples of the digital scores that were worked on earlier in the workshop. Here are the critical insights from the discussions with the CIRMMT members (comprising McGill, Concordia and University of Montreal students):

  • digital scores expose a grey area in the scores which incorporate computer interaction and it was agreed that ‘digital scores’ is a good name for them as many students/researchers are already using the term as we learned from their presentations
  • there is a cultural context in the way digital scores have been developing, e.g. graphic scores of the 60s as forming a foundation of some digital scores.
  • There is a need to do more research into cultural relevance of digital scores to make them more accessible to a wider public. An example was raised with scores for older/non-academic musicians, etc. This could require doing research with their communities to find best solutions to how communicate musical ideas through a digital score
  • we have to balance the affect of media in digital scores – if the score is too overpowering visually it can have the overwhelming effect on the embodiment, and can negatively impact on a disembodying effect on the audience. As a result musicians need to consider carefully all the elements that one is putting into a digital score
  • Steve Dixon’s book Digital Performance talks about what happens to the stage when it becomes digitized is a good resource for the mediality of the stage criticism – media is a powerful tool and needs to be carefully understood from an affectual and an embodiement perspective in oder to communicate ideas in music effectively with digital score

It was agreed that when it comes to gaming scores, those become an integral part of the work of art where the whole package is being communicated and not just the notational part of the score. These require more in-depth management of the creative process where it may be distributed between different collaborators who would address different aspects of the medium. Some other possibilities of gaming scores were brought up such as incorporating failure as part of the ‘game’ in realizing a difficult digital score and how through the gaming environment it could normalize these experiences. Also, an idea of a ‘parlour’ score, a gaming score that casually involves spectatorship could be embraced more in game-based digital scores. This idea is already incorporated in such online platforms as Score Craft initiated by Goni Peles at the University of Bath Spa.