A is for Notation

| February 10, 2014

Ingolt touched all too briefly on “the line” in avant-garde (postmodern) musical notation, stating in passing:

The line, it seems, has been broken into fragments. If the straight line was an icon of modernity, then the fragmented line seems to be emerging as an equally powerful icon of postmodernity. This is anything but a reversion to the meandering line of wayfaring. (pg 167)

Ingolt spends some time contemplating architectural drawings and musical scores. Yet, I’m not sure he established the explicit connection of “architecture as frozen music,” a quote originally attributed to Goethe, and a trope of later art criticism. It is precisely when comparing the notations of both that the parallels surface.

John Cage

I feel like an opportunity was missed in the pages of “Lines” to really take our (wayfaring) time contemplating the evolution of the line in graphic musical notation throughout the mid to latter 20th century.

If we look to one of the primary provocateur/antagonists of the 20th century avant-garde, the notorious and polarizing composer John Cage, and follow the evolution of his “scores”, we see all these conceptual barriers breaking down in terms of lines, structure, and space…

Press play and ‘take a stroll’ through his scores below. ┬áTry to imagine just what kind of sonic architecture he’s imagining, and manifesting, in these wayfaring line drawings…

(Additionally, take a look at this gallery of examples from Cage’s 1969 book “Notations” (online version here), featuring some fascinating score-drawings of his contemporaries)