TRANSLATING GRAPHIC SCORES INTO MUSIC
My graphic scores serve primarily as an aid to memory of the initial inspiration.
These scores range from something resembling a painting to diagrams with pictorial representations of instruments on them. They always read from Left to Right with regard to linear Time progression. They will often be Coloured and these colours represent energies and/or moods in the music.
In a certain sense, each graphic score is designed for the specific piece of music concerned as I do not have a ‘system’ as such.
Because my music is primarily improvised, when there is a graphic score it represents a basic structure or chain of musical events. Just as some composers might jot down a melody that comes to them, so I may have an inspiration for a piece and then make a picture of it to translate into music when I have the opportunity. Because one of my main interests since 1970 has been in producing meditation music, I will begin an improvisation from a state of meditation. Sometimes the more pictorial graphic scores depict the archetypal symbols of the meditation (e.g. “Sanctuary of Peace/Temple of Isis” to view this click HERE). These ‘paintings’ then serve to remind me of the energy that I wish to channel from this inner meditative source during the sequence of the music. The colours in graphic scores will also be translated via planetary correspondences into numerological correspondences within the realm of rhythm, or into a basic overall mood (of the piece or section so coloured), or be related to specific instruments which I perceive to channel these same planetary energies that will then predominate in the section so coloured.
In the above score, “Treasure of the Mountain”, the dense dark red patch on the left is for the opening Gong (38″ PAISTE ‘Earth Gong’) accompanied by ‘Whale’ sounds (stroked Gongs); followed by Tibetan Singing Bowls, followed by a Pair of Tibetan Singing Bowls matched to produce ‘constructive interference patterns’ – hence the wavy line – next is the symbol for the Sun symbolising the striking of a PAISTE ‘Sun Gong’ accompanied by a ‘choir’ of Tibetan “Water Spirit” Singing bowls. This piece derives its inspiration from a painting of the same name by Russian artist Nicholas Roerich. To view this painting select CD from the navigation bar and then the CD “THE HEALING BOWLS OF TIBET.” or click HERE. You will find it lower down the page. On this page there is also a more detailed explanation of how the painting was translated into musical form, which may further illumine how the above score became music. You will find this under the Track title.
Part of my musical language within the field of improvisation are sections of Indeterminate sounds. These can be purely indeterminate or a form of aleatoric music. In the former, one such example would be a collection of Tibetan Singing Bowls that work with Water. Each one is played separately with no reference to any of the others – each plays at its own rhythm and in total they produce what the composer Hovhaness referred to as a ‘Spirit Murmur’. Another instance represents what could be termed ‘organised chaos’: e.g. a ‘family’ of Tibetan Singing Bowls called Jump bowls (these change pitch whilst being played by adjusting the distance between the palm of the hand and the base of the bowl) where each one will be playing the exact same rhythm (say a ‘Bo Diddley rhythm – see below) yet each at their own metric speeds. The larger bowls are generally deeper and will play their rhythm slower than smaller bowls. Added to this, the technical difficulty of playing such a bowl often means that there will be small variations in its timing making the rhythm inexact. There is no strictly musical approach applied here, as each bowl has its own organic timing, and so the outcome is indeterminate. Such sections of music can be depicted in various ways in the graphic score; e.g. for Water Bowls it would be wavy lines – if one bowl, then one wavy line; if a ‘choir’ of such bowls, then wavy lines above in ascending lines relative to approximate pitches of the bowls and the suggested starting points will also be depicted. Purely indeterminate instruments could be a ‘Rain’ Gong, Rain Stick, or various Wind chimes etc.
‘Bo Diddly’ rhythm
Certainly, colours will be involved and dynamic markings (most usually crescendos or decrescendos) and other lines depicting energy e.g. straight vertical lines would represent: Male Descending or Ascending energy, simply a feeling of being Still within oneself, a period of actual silence in the music, or Vertical harmony.
In the score for “STAR PEACE” (ZODIAC” pictured above) the colours are for the Signs of the Zodiac whilst these signs are depicted either upon the Inside or the Outside of the circle representing their Positive or Negative energies. Around the circle are pictorial representations of the different instruments used for each section. On the inside are the titles of the 12 paintings by Nicholas Roerich for which this music was composed. The graph is in the form of a circle to represent that the music, although in 12 different parts, moves continuously without any gaps but rather, like with Nature, each separate energy transforms or is metamorphosed into the succeeding soundscape or energy-field. The entire piece is rather like taking a boat journey along a long river that passes through various countries and changing scenery.
© Copyright 2002 by Frank Perry. All rights reserved.
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