What is a digital score? A working definition

A digital score is a communications interface of musical ideas between musicians utilizing the creative potential of digital technology.

What is a digital score? An explanation for second-graders

A digital score is the next evolutionary step of the music score. However instead of being limited by a piece of paper to communicate a musical idea we can use game engines, VR, animation, electronic circuits, AI, robotics, networks and any technology to communicate a new set of musical ideas.

Let me briefly explain: when we think of a music score we think of a piece of paper with lines, dots, notes, maybe words; sometimes it uses graphic shapes and abstract designs. The piece of paper or the PDF and the printing technology used to create them dictates how a musical idea can be represented. For the most part this is a standardized set of notations that presents a fixed list of instructions to the performing musicians. These musicians decode these instructions and in doing so give them meaning which they turn into music again and again and without the need for the original composer to be present. The resulting sounds is a realization of the original musical idea.

With a digital score we’re not restricted to the communicative properties of a PDF or a piece of paper. For exmaple:

  • With animation, we can move notes shapes and images and colors around the screen, across time.
  • With code, we can sync generative instruments with live effects to musicians’ bodies.
  • We can use AI to generate the score in real time by listening to the musicians.
  • We can use networked robotics to amplify the creativity of children across continents.

Therefore, music ideas are no longer restricted to what a piece of paper allows you to say. In fact what you want to say should determine the technology you explore as a digital score. And this changes creativity; it transforms musicianship and enhances the type of interactivity and behaviors of our musical ideas.