Commission Music

Commission Music
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Tuesday, 3 September 2013

Working from home

So this is day 2 of the creative pact thing in which I try to work from home on my gf's day off from work. Alas, I have no sketches to upload.

Paper graphic scores can either be single page or multi-page. Bogusław Schaeffer's colour pieces, Anthony Braxton's Falling River pieces and Carl Testa's squiggles are all examples of single page pieces that work well. When I've done these pieces, performers have either taken the page as a whole, or picked different spots on the page to concentrate on. (I only saw very early versions of Testa's pieces, so his instructions may have become more directed since then.) This interpretation has not required things be done in any particular order. Someone might start with a set of symbols or notation at the bottom right, then go on to the top left, then do something outline a large shape across the whole page.

Some good multipage scores are, obviously, Cardew's Treatise and also Lektura by Schaeffer and Concerto by Lauren Redhead. Because these pieces progress regularly from one page to the next, a certain tendency towards chronological order is introduced. The pages therefore seem to need a structure that holds them together and allows them to progress. Schaeffer and Redhead use boxes. Their pieces are also divided into parts. So the performer can look at a box, know whether or not it belongs to them and know it's timing relative to other boxes other people are interpreting. The box itself seems to be often taken as a whole, with performers able to decide on whatever ordering seems to make most sense in context. By contrast, Treatise is not in parts and the entire ensemble reads from the score, on the same page at the same time. His pages are held together by the 'lifeline.' This is a horizontal line across nearly every page that performers can orient themselves along. Mark Applebaum's Medium is a multi-part piece that does not have a consistent structure, but even it has the vertical ordering of parts and many parts do have something lifeline-like. Some sort of line or box structure seems to be extremely helpful to performers of multi-page scores.

My piece will be on a single, changing screen, which I think makes it more like a multi-page piece than a single page piece. It will be a non-divided score like Treatise. My intention at the moment is to devise a gamut of symbols and then put those symbols in boxes, like Schaeffer or Redhead. Some of these symbols will be based on existing musical symbols, but in differing contexts. They may also be rotated within the bounding boxes, like Redhead.

Because this will be in javascript, I need a way to render them in a web browser. Rather than work out exactly how to draw a notehead in code (yikes), this situation seems to call for a font-based solution. I have not yet worked out what musical fonts I can count on to be available, but I have found the unicode specifications for musical symbols in fonts and how to represent those in HTML. Also, should you wish to type a unicode symbol on an ubuntu computer, you would first hit ctrl-shift-u and then type the hex code and then a space. So to type a bass clef, hit ctrl-shift-u 1D122 space. I have no idea what application this might have, but there you go.

What I'm imaging will happen is that the program will render an image using lines and curves and polygons, some musical font stuff and some text, then rotate that image some amount from 0-360 degrees, then clip it to a bounding box, then draw the clipped portion on the screen with a black outline around it.

I pondered putting a web server on the main, listening computer, in order to get it to render the images. It could then tell the clients to download and display them in the proper place, which would make sure everybody was doing the same thing. This might be the right idea, especially if I want to use one of LilyPond's music fonts, which I spent too long trying to find on my system. Right now, though, it seems like an extra layer of work that hopefully I can avoid.

I've upgraded to the latest version of processing and downloaded the javascript and coffee script modes. The next step is to read the quick start guide for folks experienced with processing.

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