Full dataset: http://doi.org/10.17639/nott.7411

About Sound Drawing in Space

Decibel New Music, a Western Australian ensemble, launched a new program that explored music notation in a unique way. They took various forms of notation, from graphic scores to composer drafts, and presented them in a 3D space to both performers and the audience. The program included premieres of new music by Decibel composers, as well as commissions from Kezia Yap, Donna Hewitt, David Brown, Kate Milligan and Brenda Gifford. Composers collaborated with the ensemble and projection designer Sohan Ariel Hayes to design and present their scores using 3D projection technology.


This project aimed to transform musical creativity, musicianship, and audience experiences by offering a more immersive encounter with music notation in three-dimensional space. Through new and innovative music score systems, it sought to enhance the communication of musical ideas, providing audiences with novel experiences and composers with fresh compositional approaches. This immersive approach transcended traditional notation on two-dimensional surfaces, offering a reading and listening experience beyond what was previously imaginable.


Prior to the performance in Perth, composers collaborated closely with the ensemble’s artistic director Cat Hope, production manager Tristan Parr, and projectionist Sohan Ariel Hayes to bring their 3D digital score ideas to life. Some scores were initially presented as drawings or graphic representations, requiring digitisation and projection through the Decibel Score Player. Others were fully developed concepts that necessitated assistance from the production manager to manifest in physical space. This process involved extensive collaboration between the composers’ original score ideas and the ensemble’s execution, leading to the creation of additional electronic parts and reinterpretation of the pieces to suit the performance venue’s environment. Unfortunately, composers were not present at the concert to provide feedback on the realisation of their works. It is hoped that future performances will involve composers more actively in the final presentation of their works.

Critical Insights from the Analysis


• Composers used multimedia elements in compositions of their works such as mobile phone footage, digital video camera footage, water, and projections in space to communicate their digital score ideas.

• The project features both digital and analogue score elements. Digital score elements involved animations created in After Effects, pre-recorded spatialised sounds, and projected videos while analogue elements included water as projecting/interactive surface and hand-drawn graphic scores.

• Some digital scores like Bardju Djiriba, bad snake laugh, Sum of the parts, and Forecast had a pre-recorded element that musicians could connect to during the performance.

• Parts of original recording of David Brown’s composition served as a guide for the ensemble, providing cues and structure for the performance. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3JcKZFjtiEY

• Composers utilised text scores and performance instructions to guide musicians through the pieces.

• These instructions included specific techniques for instruments, interpretations of text, and prompts for collaborative discussions among performers to unify their approach.

• Some scores were primarily text-based, sourced from historical weather reports and other textual sources, serving as both animated artefacts and static performance instructions.

Spatial Exploration:

• Overall, the project focused on exploring space through touch, sound, and visual projections. Composers hope for performers to connect with the space, providing a different sensory experience for the audience.

• There was an emphasis on exploring the relationship between performers, audience, and the performance space itself.

• Spatial aspects were considered in the creation of as though my ears are your ears and Forecast, treating the space as both the score and a participant in the performance.

• Innovative Music Notation: The project aimed to transform music notation by utilising 3D space, immersive experiences, and innovative score systems. This included graphic scores, animations, and unconventional performance practices.

Audience Engagement:

• There was an emphasis on inviting the audience to experience the space through sound and visual elements. Scores and performances aimed to immerse the audience in a multisensory experience.

• The immersive experience encouraged audience engagement with both the music and the performance space, providing points of connection beyond traditional musical notation. Audience members, even those without musical backgrounds, were able to engage with the visual elements of the performance.

• As though your ears are my ears invited audience members to actively participate in listening to the space during the performance.

• Connection to Place and Audience Relevance: The selection of material for the performance was based on its connection to the local Perth context, aiming to enhance the audience’s personal connection to the work and elevate the visual and sonic aesthetic, as well as the conceptual depth.

Collaborative Interpretation:

• Performers collaborated with composers in co-creating the responses to visual cues, textual instructions, and improvisational elements.

• Composers collaborated closely with the ensemble’s artistic director, production manager, and projectionist to realize their 3D digital score ideas. This involved adapting scores to fit the performance space and technological constraints, sometimes necessitating significant reinterpretation of the original concepts.

• Interpretation and Instruction: There were discussions around the interpretation of scores, with considerations of both direct instruction and the historical and personal backgrounds of the composers influencing the performance outcomes.

• Innovative Performance Practices: Performances involved unconventional approaches to instrumentation, such as using flashlights to illuminate surfaces or projecting visuals onto water.

Innovative Materials and Approaches:

• In Forecast, water was used as a material for generating graphical information in real-time, influencing the performance through its fluctuations and reflections of light.

• The use of water added a dynamic and organic element to the performance space, requiring performers to interact with it in unique ways.

Digital and Visual Elements:

• Visual elements played a significant role in guiding performers and shaping the audience’s experience of the performance space.

• Composers utilised digital audio workstations (DAWs), MIDI keyboards, and plugins to create and manipulate sounds. Technology not only facilitated composition but also enabled experimentation with effects and electronic elements to enhance the performance.

• Amplification and Effects: Composers emphasised the importance of amplifying instruments and applying effects to achieve desired acoustic properties and blend between instruments.

• Integration of Multimedia: The incorporation of video footage, MIDI instruments, and electronic tracks enriched the performance experience, providing visual and auditory stimuli that complemented each other.

Interdisciplinary Approach:

• Some composers drew from a range of disciplines, including visual arts, to inform their score creation process.

• The integration of different artistic mediums added layers of complexity and depth to the compositions.

Reflection and Iteration:

• There is a willingness to iterate and refine compositions based on feedback and further exploration of the performance space.

• Geographical distance between the composers and the ensemble affected the degree of control composers had over the performance outcome. Despite this, efforts were made to maintain organic and authentic interpretations of the scores, influenced by the composers’ backgrounds and relationships with the ensemble.


• All the composers in the project believed in openness of interpretation for their works, allowing performers freedom in their artistic decisions. This approach acknowledged the performers’ expertise and encouraged creativity within the ensemble.

• Trust in Performers: Composers demonstrate trust in the performers’ abilities to interpret scores intuitively and creatively. This trust empowered performers to make artistic decisions that contribute to the overall success of the performance.


• Composers sought a balance between providing structure through instructions and allowing performers the freedom to interpret and improvise. This approach fostered a dynamic and collaborative musical experiences.

• The instruction document plays a crucial role in guiding performers through the interpretation of the animated text score in Forecast. Without it, performers would struggle to understand and execute the score effectively.

• The interpretation of the score begins in a rehearsal, where performers embarked on a journey of understanding and execution.

• Game-like Score Structure: Some digital scores set up pre-acknowledged tasks and rules for performers, resembling instructions like in a game. This structured approach helped to facilitate the unfolding of the musical action.

• Cyclical Structures and Temporality: Forecast incorporate cyclical structures that influence the musicworld experienced by the performers. In this piece, themes of temporality, including non-linear time and subjective experiences of time, are explored through repetition and varied temporalities for individual performers.

• The visual representation of time in the animated text score of Forecast aided in understanding the composition’s form and structure. It allowed for visualising instrumental entries and exits, as well as layers of sound, using After Effects’ timeline.

• Subjective Experiences of Time: Some digital scores, like Forecast and Sum of the Parts aimed to facilitate alternative experiences of time for both performers and audiences. Slow motion and visual abstraction contributed to altering perceptions of time.

• Smooth Flow in Performance: Despite technical challenges and changing elements, the transition between works and the flow of performance remained smooth for the ensemble. Performers adapted to new instruments or digital elements, contributing to the cohesive execution of the pieces.

Digital Musicianship

• The musicians drew on their existing acoustic instrumental and graphic score interpretation techniques and were encouraged to utilise extended techniques with which they were familiar.

• Interdisciplinary Collaboration: The works emphasised collaboration, not only among musicians but also with the producer, Cat as artistic director, projection artist, and other collaborators to realise the score.

• Animated Notation and ScorePlayer Software: The composers worked with Decibel Ensemble to realise some works in Decibel ScorePlayer for interpreting animated notation in David Brown’s bad snake can laugh and Brenda Gifford’s Bardju Djiriba; composers made these works with shared understanding of the ensemble’s idiomatic approach to graphic notation.

• Water Graphics and Novel Techniques: The incorporation of water graphics offered a unique approach to interpreting ephemeral phenomena as musical information for the ensemble.

• Interpretation and Improvisation: Musicians were expected to interpret and respond to the score in real-time, potentially extending their improvisational skillset.

• Challenges and Learning Curve: Some composers faced challenges in mastering new technologies such as After Effects for creating animations and adapting to new interdisciplinary approaches.

• Adaptation and Interpretation: The adaptation of scores for practical and performance reasons led to changes in roles and agency, performers becoming co-creators of the 3D digital scores.

• Pushing Boundaries in Performance: There was an emphasis on expanding the engagement with digital notation in performance. The aim was to move musicians away from traditional music stands and screens into a larger dimension of space.

• Continuous Learning and Growth: For Decibel Ensemble and the composers in the project, each project contributes to the musicians’ continuous learning and growth, expanding their skill sets and pushing the boundaries of their practice.

• Adaptability and Flexibility: Performers adapted to the unique challenges and opportunities presented by each composition, experimenting with techniques and sounds to achieve desired artistic outcomes. Flexibility in interpretation allowed for diverse and innovative performances.


• Consideration was given to the audience’s experience, with composers and performers aiming to captivate listeners through engaging performances that evoke emotional and sensory responses. Audience feedback from this performance may inform future iterations of compositions and performances for the ensemble.

• Through the project, composers and performers engaged in reflective practice, evaluating the effectiveness of their creative choices and considering possibilities for improvement in the future.

• The use of digital scores in 3D space has opened up new avenues for expressing emotions and conveying musical meaning. It has challenged traditional notions of musical performance and composition, encouraging performers to explore new ways of engaging with both the score and the audience.

• Accessibility and Inclusivity: Digital scores have the potential to make music more accessible to a wider audience, including those who may not be familiar with traditional notation. This inclusivity aligns with a broader goal of making music more diverse and representative of different cultures and perspectives.

• Redefining Performance: The integration of digital scores into performances has redefined the role of performers, blurring the boundaries between composer, performer, and audience. It has encouraged a more interactive and immersive experience for both performers and audience members, challenging traditional notions of musical hierarchy.

• Exploration of Space and Materiality: Digital scores projected in 3D space have introduced a new dimension of physicality and materiality to musical performance. This exploration of space has influenced not only how music is perceived but also how performers interact with their environment.

• Continued Research and Exploration: The project has sparked further curiosity and research into the possibilities of digital scores and their impact on music-making. Composers and performers are eager to explore new techniques and expand on the ideas presented in the project, indicating a desire for continued innovation in this field.


Decibel New Music, a Western Australian ensemble, launched a new program aimed at transforming musical creativity and audience experiences by exploring music notation in a unique way. Sound Drawing in Space involved presenting various forms of notation, from graphic scores to composer drafts, in a 3D space using innovative projection technology. Composers collaborated closely with the ensemble and projection designer to design and present their scores, incorporating multimedia elements such as mobile phone footage, digital video camera footage, water, and projections. The project emphasized spatial exploration, interdisciplinary collaboration, audience engagement, and innovative performance practices. It aimed to transform music notation by utilising 3D space and immersive experiences, blurring the boundaries between composer, performer, and audience. The integration of digital scores into performances challenged traditional notions of musical hierarchy and encouraged a more interactive and inclusive experience. Despite challenges, performers demonstrated adaptability and flexibility, contributing to the cohesive execution of the pieces. The project sparked further curiosity and research into the possibilities of digital scores, indicating a desire for continued innovation in this field.


Decibel New Music

Kezia Yap

Donna Hewitt

David Brown

Kate Milligan

Brenda Gifford