Music Notation and Play

Eye magazine published a fascinating article in 1997, Sound, Code, Image, on how graphic scores can “liberate” music from the five-line grid of traditional music notation. It looked at the work of composers from the 50’s to the 70’s, and their experiments at making musical scores more graphic and expressive. (And just today the Eye Blog did a post on John Cage’s watercolors and drawings.) The range of expressions that emerged from that era were both beautiful and thought provoking.

Score for "Ambient #1 Music for Airports," 1978. Brian Eno.
10 Stones, 1989. John Cage.

It’s great to see this experimentation continuing today with a wide range of available apps that allow people to compose and play music. Developers/Designers are using interactivity and visualization in all sorts of new and unexpected ways. And since many of these apps run on the iPhone or iPad, they encourage an even broader range of users to get involved in innovative musical creativity.

Below are a couple of the most recent apps I’ve found. They’re a mix between composition/looping, and performance/play. Some are a bit crazy — but that’s what makes them interesting.  There are tons more out there…  they’ll have to wait for another post.

Flourish — from Create and Explore, Ltd.

Sonic Wire Sculptor 2010 — by Amit Pitaru. (And here’s a preview of the upcoming iPad version.)

DJ’s Multi Touch Light Table — (prototype project) by Gerg Kaufman. Take a look at his site and you can see sketches and paper-prototypes from the development of the project.

Rain — by Rainer Kohlberger. Simple but beautiful.

I found many of these on MOMA’s updated list of sound tools on their Talk to Me site. has lots more (I just discovered the site – and it looks great!). The Multi Touch Light table was via Engadget