Sketching music: representation and composition
The process of musical composition is sometimes conceived of as an individual, internal, cognitive process in which notation plays a passive role of transmitting or recording musical ideas. This thesis questions the role played by representations in musical composition practices. We begin by tracing how, historically, compositional practices have co-evolved with musical representations and technologies for music production. We present case studies to show that the use of graphical sketches is a characteristic feature of the early stages of musical composition and that this practice recurs across musical genres ranging from classical music to contemporary electroacoustic composition. We describe the processes involved in sketching activities within the framework of distributed cognition and distinguish an intermediate representational role for sketches that is different from what is ‘in the head’ of the composer and from the functions of more formal musical notations. Using evidences from the case studies, we argue in particular that as in other creative design processes, sketches provide strategically ambiguous, heterogeneous forms of representation that exploit vagueness, indeterminacy and inconsistency in the development of musical ideas. Building on this analysis of the functions of sketching we describe the design and implementation of a new tool, the Music Sketcher, which attempts to provide more under-specified and flexible forms of ‘sketch’ representation than are possible with contemporary composition tools. This tool is evaluated through a series of case studies which explore how the representations constructed with the tool are interpreted and what role they play in the compositional process. We show that the program provides a similar level of vagueness to pen and paper, while also facilitating re-representation and re-interpretation, thus helping bridge the gap between early representations and later stages of commitment.
- Theses