Avellino Musicianship Workshop and Concert with Digital Scores May 29-31, 2024

The DigiScore research team was invited back to the Cimarosa Conservatory in Avellino, Italy. We presented a practice-based workshops and a concert on the typology of the digital score from May 29-31, 2024. This time, our research focused on students’ musicianship as they interpreted the digital scores presented to them. We observed their behavior and conducted a three-day survey to track their skills, creativity, and transformations.

The digital scores included in the typology ranged from fixed to intelligent: Variations 1 by John Cage, Kvartett no. 8 by Guðmundur Steinn Gunnarsson, Study no 31.3 by Ryan Ross Smith, Tool for Animated Score Making by Ryan Ross Smith, The Plumber by Craig Vear, SuperColliders by Takuto Fukuda, Plurality Spring by Paul Turowski and Simon Hutchinson, Jess + and Solaris by Craig Vear. We were also pleasantly surprised to see that students we had previously worked with in a creativity cards workshop last October had further developed one of their digital scores, Larsed, and performed it together as part of the concert.

This time, the DigiScore team also joined the ensemble, guiding 7 students in interpreting the digital scores. Consequently, our observations were part of the practice-based activity. We were thrilled that the knowledge imparted during our first workshop in October 2023 stayed with the students and inspired them to acquire additional digital skills to realize the Larsed digital score. Larsed enhanced our overall program by bridging the gap between animated and interactive digital scores. It featured graphic notation in various stages of the digital score in Max/MSP for each player, starting with a nonsynchronous section of interactions and culminating in an instrumental synchronized and vocal finale.

Regarding the observation of students’ behaviour, this time we found everyone in an ensemble with their instruments, which placed them in a relatively comfortable musical setting. The students were less over-excited or surprised than when they were creating digital scores from scratch last October. As a result, their behaviour was calmer and more focused, aimed at the collective goal of realizing a set of novel digital scores. This was facilitated by detailed instructions from Prof Craig Vear, who guided students in realizing digital scores from digitized/fixed to autonomous and intelligent.

As there was less observational activity that we could perform during the workshop, it was particularly useful to track the development of students’ musicianship through the 3-day survey. The survey focused on the progression in digital skills, students’ creativity with digital scores and transformations in their musicianship each day of the workshop. On the last day, we asked about students’ wants & needs or what further tools and support would they need to easily engage with digital scores and pieces requiring digital media in the future.

Digital Music Skills

When it came to digital skills, five out of seven students mentioned that they learned new musical skills, extending their previous ensemble playing abilities. Two students emphasized the need to stay focused in the present moment, enhancing their listening skills and adopting new approaches to performing. Others highlighted the importance of mental flexibility when exposed to different types of digital scores and adapting to new notation systems. One student noted on Day 3 of the survey:

“The exposure to so many digital scores has allowed me to acquire considerable mental flexibility. This key skill lies in the ability to understand and adapt to heterogeneous symbols and notation systems. Through this training experience, I believe that my skills in this area have reached a significantly higher level of knowledge on the ‘Digital Score’ topic.”

Digital Score Creativity

In the Digital Score Creativity section, we tracked the evolving relationship with digital scores by examining the connection to their materials and the feedback students received during their interactions. The surveys revealed that participants found the process both enriching and engaging, noting that deeper engagement was possible due to their previous experiences with digital scores from the October workshop: “It was very easy because I had accumulated experience from the past year, and this allowed me to be very involved in the digital scores.”

Unlike fixed scores, digital scores provided more freedom, fostering a different and stimulating relationship with the music. As one student observed:

“This happens both due to the abstractness of a graphic symbol (which somehow preserves the performer’s freedom of interpretation) and the precision required in executing the sound events (which must be strictly followed).”

Exposure to different types of digital scores, including those based on robots, AI, and audio reproduction, broadened students’ understanding and skills. On Day 2, one student noted in their survey: “Today we have had the opportunity to see various types of digital scores, from those based on robots to those involving AI and audio reproduction.”

There was an increased focus on learning and setting performance goals, with participants aiming to perform their best and learn as much as possible from each digital score, from basic to advanced:

“The only goal I have set for myself is to always remain focused and attentive to the present, without letting my mind wander into the future or other extraneous thoughts. I have to say that for me it was quite easy and beautiful.”

Some students noted the interactive nature of digital scores, which allowed a dynamic relationship between notation and time, enhancing the control of sound elements. One student wrote:

“The interface is incredibly interactive: there is a relationship between the alternative notation system and time that is not present in traditional scores. In the digital scores we tested, the evolution of the elements over time allows for control of the sounds produced, which better follows their progress (frequency, timbre, envelope, duration). This ‘interactivity’ undoubtedly lies in the communicability of gestures: the visual material allows a ‘living’ approach to the musical material, enabling a performance where the music of a score and the music produced by the performer are on the same level.”

Some students also noted the accessibility of digital scores, where even non-professional musicians could find the material manageable and their involvement positive: “Despite the digital scores being so different from each other, it seems to me that as a whole, even a non-professional musician like me can handle this visual material.”

Students mentioned that digital scores provided intuitive and surprising feedback, fostering active involvement and collaboration among musicians: “It was very intuitive to understand the digital scores. I was actively involved. Objectives: interpret the score as best as possible, listen to other musicians.”

Overall, we found that adapting to various digital scores and connecting with others and technology helped create a new musical experience for students. This was highlighted in their surveys as part of their creativity, technological engagement, and a balance between precision and musicality.


Regarding the transformations that took place, most students mentioned having innovative new experiences with certain pieces, which were transformative for their music-making: “I found those of video games innovative, especially if you take advantage of all the opportunities as a musician.” Others found Ryan Ross Smith’s two pieces very exciting: “Ryan Ross Smith’s two pieces gave me a lot of flexibility and awareness of the future of the piece itself.”

Some students found closer contact with new technologies interesting and intriguing for their practice: “Probably the most innovative for me was the one based on the capture of brain waves transferred to a robotic arm; it is an experience of a new relationship with technology.” Others appreciated the novelty of game score digital scores: “I understood how music can become a real game; it was all very exciting and educational,” and “I found those of video games innovative, especially if you take advantage of all the opportunities as a musician.”

One student had particularly deep insights into their transformational experiences: “The digital scores that I found most innovative are ‘paradoxically’ those that recovered elements from current musical systems: be it the musical notation system, the gestures of a conductor (robotic arm), or abstract symbols (understandable musically by everyone).”

These transformative experiences led some students to reflect on the future of notation and the relationship between music and technology.

Wants & Needs

Regarding their wants and needs from musical education to support working with digital scores, students emphasized early exposure, practical experimentation, accessible training, and creating interactive platforms for digital scores.

One student mentioned early exposure, suggesting that introducing digital scores at a young age and encouraging adults to play with digital scores could be beneficial: “Better diffusion even from a young age can bring benefits, while for adults, experimentation and play can help.”

Another student noted that digital scores often don’t require traditional notation knowledge, making them accessible, and mentioned the need for other tools: “Probably the only tool needed is training, developing mental flexibility in interpreting the score as if it were a game. One of the strengths of digital scores is that they do not always require prior education in traditional notation.”

Another student suggested that to help average musicians see the potential of varied scoring systems, a dedicated platform or website showcasing various digital scores would be valuable: “I would consider it very beneficial to create a platform or a website where you can see many examples of digital scores and interact with them. A sort of ‘App Store’ where you can quickly try, play, and compose digital scores with these new means.”


Based on our observations and surveys of music students’ experiences with the Typology of the Digital Score programme, we conclude that the experience was beneficial for their musicianship. The surveys indicate a positive outcome from the workshop, with students noting that they gained a deeper understanding of working with digital scores. Students emphasized the importance of adaptability, flexibility, and the ability to adjust to various conditions and technologies. They also highlighted the innovative aspects of digital scores, such as those based on robots and AI, and the necessity of mental flexibility in interpreting them. While digital scores can be complex, the students concluded that they are a valuable tool for musicians to develop their skills and musical understanding.