Score Transparency

by danielgoode

Score Transparency  

When you do no more than glance at a traditionally notated musical score, you can derive mountains of information if you are a score reader. That makes it a transparent instrument or tool. But the musical score is something of an elite item; many, most people cannot read or derive information from it. That means music derived from scores can be managed only by those who can. Composers who seek to reach the sources of music management must learn to use scores, must go to institutions or teachers who can teach them score literacy. These institutions and by extension, many, most who have passed through such are constrained by their training and its ideology to regard music making and notating in the ways that are represented by a musical score. And why not? A score is a wonderful invention, a tool, and a code of marvelous complexity and subtlety, such that developing a computer notation system that is only reasonably flexible to its demands has taken decades. Why would I not want endorse the use of the musical score and simply work for a more universal literacy?

Because of verbal scores and conceptual music.

But verbal scores are not as transparent as notated scores. One must read and understand each sentence, each phrase, and every invented or adapted symbol the writer uses. One does not learn as much by scanning and flipping through verbal scores as notated scores. And there are the ambiguities of language at every turn. My favorite is the last sentence in Pauline Oliveros’s ground-breaking conceptual/verbal piece, Teach Yourself to Fly: “continue…until all others are quiet.” Wonderful, but impossible if each participant follows the instruction. I am waiting for you to become quiet, you are waiting for me to do the same. Yet we will figure this one out, of course. Many such gnomic sayings in verbal scores are not so easy.