Here are my 2 cents, for what they're worth from a student of musicology (~1.2 cents).
I’m fortunate enough to have seen this piece (poeme symphonique) live before; the experience was very rich. Imagine the musicologist’s problem then— how to analyze this music? How to elucidate something of the structure? of the timbre? of the space?
Indeed, this kind of work shows the limitations of graphic analysis (and furthermore, spectrographs). This is an unsolved (and seemingly often unobserved) problem in music theory / musicology. Although advocates of spectrographic analysis have successfully escaped the lattice-based structures of traditional Western notation and opened up analysis to fine nuances of timbral textures, they remained chained to their x-axis. What’s the musicologist's solution? (What’s the art researcher's solution?)
More sonic imaging? If we were to experiment with mapping other parameters to the x and y axis, or with producing self-similarity matrices, we might get some interesting results. Then the task is to determine whether this actually elucidates anything about a composition (or just that realization of a composition? or is it just an analysis of a recording of a realization of a composition? . . . "music is work” [cage] )
For the purpose of documentation and proliferation of this way of (non-teleological?) thinking to scholars and artists who can’t simply read Max, C, Processing (etc.), I wonder if “open-form” compositions are most effectively analyzed
textually. I start thinking about Garth’s paper, "Pools, Pixies, and Potentials" (http://www.activatedspace.com/Research/papers/files/poolsandpixies_isea.pdf
), wherein he uses flowcharts and hand-drawn figures to allow the reader to parse out the various permutations of “places” within his constructed the vector field. Certainly, the text here is clear and the figures intuitive. The form of the piece is reflected here; still, we are mostly in the dark about how the music sounds (of course, not a dig on the author, i don’t think this was the intent of the paper). Of course, an easy solution would be to do a spectrographic analysis of one performance, identify the vectors on the spectrograph and present that in tandem with the flow-charts.
I am finding there is a lot to be unpacked here (or maybe i’m trying to unpack too much). The goals of the music theorist (or media art theorist) may be different in scope than synthesis’ goals (epistemology v. phenomenology?). Wehinger who created the graphic score of Artikulation wanted to make a fixed-media piece more accessible. However, if we go back to Earl Brown (to whom Garth looks in his paper), his graphic SCORES (inspired by Calder) do not necessarily display time on X-axis. Why do most instances of (musical) graphic analysis?
(humorously - from Walter Levin’s “ten commandments” for choosing a piece — number 4: “If [a piece] uses a new notation, try to transcribe it into conventional notation; if you succeed, forget it”)
Certainly, there is more to be understood from Artikulation if we subtract time from our analysis, as we might do in experience. Synthesis largely has the advantage of giving people experiences instead of having to explain them. It goes without saying that probably any formal or textural analysis cannot stand in for an aesthetic, embodied experience (and isn’t MEANT to). My question (and the motive for this large wall of text) concerns the times when Synthesis (or TML, or other media arts labs) doesn’t have the opportunity to share these media-art experiences but wants to communicate something subcutaneous about the art.
What tools do we have available to us? I haven’t mentioned simply using videos…. a mediated but experientially centered form of documentation (which I’ve noted is common-place in media art and art research). In that case, to what extent is this a problem in new media? Is this only a problem in music? Is there one single tool (am i sounding too positivist?) Or do we rely on giving as many possible angles (spectrographs, flow-charts, philosophy, poetry) to create a mediated mosaic (heuristic?) of our aesthetic experience?
Garrett L. Johnson
Musicology MA candidate @ ASU
LOrkAs (laptop orchestra of arizona state),director