Concordia Live and
Interactive Electroacoustic
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Hexagram-Concordia Centre for Research
Creation in Media Arts and Technologies

in collaboration with

Concordia University - Department of Music

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Alan Tormey - The Development of Notational Systems for the Live Performance of Electronic Music

Traditional musical instruments can be understood as interfaces that transform the physical energy of playing (input) into the acoustic energy of musical sound (output). In this light, the practice of learning an instrument becomes the act of internalizing an algorithm that imposes a one-to-one correlation between input gestures and output sounds. Traditional music notation primarily works backwards from effect to cause by representing a desired output that the performer will reverse engineer into the physical actions required to produce the music.

Unlike acoustic instruments, the computer-as-musical-instrument lacks any necessary correspondences between physical input and sonic output. To the computer, everything is a stream of numbers that is differentiated only through the instructions of its software. As long as there is a system through which gesture can be entered into the computer, an infinite number of gestures can give rise to the same sound or an infinite number of sounds can arise from the same gesture. Because there are no inherent gestureto-sound connections save what the programmer/composer dictates, new digital instruments require the development of notational systems based on input rather than output. However, the idea of a notation system based on the physical space of the gesture rather than the sound of the note contradicts centuries of musical practice and faces hard challenges in being intelligible to, let alone accepted by, musicians. To develop these systems we will have to look not only to music, but other media such as dance and gaming. This paper looks at recent trends in gestural performance and looks towards solutions for the problems of contemporary notation.



CLIEC 2011 - Saturday, March 26th 2011
Concordia University - Montreal, Canada