A video score is a type of musical notation that uses a camera, video or film as the basis on the musical instructions. Video scores embrace somatic forms of communicating and representing embodied knowledge. Video scores can use graphics and animation but there are many more approaches such as using dance and the body in relation to a camera. Below you will see a range of a range of examples as well as some historical links to important works from the past.
Copy-make is a video score process that involves the physicality of sound and proposes new methodologies of working relationships between composer and performers in an open and visually centred collaborative approach. You can read further about this project here in a paper published in Leonardo Music Journal, Volume 30, 2020 or see further documentation on this website.
This is a video score used by the Adelaide Philharmonic Choir in my piece Animal. A section in the score asks the choir to whisper short quotes from parents describing the mental state of their children living in Australian immigration detention centres such as: “Open and close, open and close”, “The locks and the chains”, “I am a bird in a cage”, “I am an animal”. These were taken from the National Inquiry into Children in Immigration Detention: Mental Health of Children in Immigration Detention, 2004. Link to work. Full programme notes here. The work premiered on the 16 April 2015 at Samstag Museum in South Australia, conducted by Warwick Stengårds.
Now see below a video score which uses archival footage of Australia’s cartography practices from the 1960s are transformed into a video score for a performer to engage with by tracing the movements of the people in the video. Read more
Serpentine is a multimedia piece for erhu, percussion and spoken word. It centres around the winding shapes and lines of movement such as those made by a serpent or snake. Fragments of the text include: “The landscape is a system, a geometry of soil and sky”, “You cant think of a line without tracing it in our mind”, “What the rock doesnt say about itself”, “But whoever said you can only walk half way into the forest, has never been lost.” Read more
Historical links from the past:
Mauricia Kagel – Ludwig van. Homage from Beethoven
Mauricio Kagel produced a video score out of his fi lm Ludwig van (1970), which consists of staged footage inside Beethoven’s music studio, and the performers play musical fragments in the sequence of their appearance on screen. Some score fragments are missing clefs, key signatures and tempo, with different degrees of clarity from the camera’s lens, and some fragments are upside down. The piece functions differently from the video score in Mapping Australia, concerning more the transference of a line of movement on screen to a location on the piano’s surface. However, both pieces include similar ideas of flipping, inverting and stretching musical fragments through visual representation.
Mauricio Kagel was an Argentine-German composer and academic born in 1931. He was a professor for new music theatre at the Cologne Conservatory from 1974–97. Some of his pieces give specific theatrical instructions to the performers, such as to adopt certain facial expressions while playing, to make their stage entrances in a particular way, to physically interact with other performers. For this reason commentators related his work to the Theatre of the Absurd. He has been regarded by music historians as critically interrogating the position of music in society.
William Forsythe – Alien:a(c)tion
A video score was used as part of the process of choreographer William Forsythe’s work Alien:a(c)tion (1992) involving scenes taken from the film Aliens. Velocities, orientations and directions of the actors in the film are used as directions for movement by the performers—similar to Mapping Australia. Images are also broken down into words and letters, where each letter has its own semantic meaning (for example, a cat in the video would represent the movements associated with the letters C, A and T)
Still images from the film Alien (1979) directed by Ridley Scott, the scene with Jonesy, Ripley’s cat.
Movement alphabet’s are made in connection with the kinesphere — the total volume of a body’s potential movement. Dancers are always conscious of their kinespheres, which exist in the air around them. I argue that musician’s also have a kinesphere as well as a aurashere the total volume of the sound’s potential.
Jennifer Walshe – dirty white fields
dirty white fields (2002) uses video, images and text as a compositional process. Walshe provides audio and video clips and poetic descriptions of sounds to establish an idiom of what an imagined scene looks like, feels like, sounds like, smells like, etc. The performer then uses this to make specific technical instrumental choices. See below an example from the work.
one: fizzing bruised white
Very cold day, biting wind. Sitting by the sea, on rocks. Everything is white and grey, occasional splotches of green, but always mottled with grey and white and dirty white. Listening to the waves coming in and going out, the white noise sound in different parts of the space. There is a wave that is starting next to me and then receding at an angle to the rear left distance. There are bunches of fizzy white noise in the rear-right corner and to my left. Now and then a plane or a train in the far-distance. Perhaps not even this.
The sound abruptly diminuendos when I jump off the rocks and turn my back. You can hear my foot-steps fade up as I walk away. Then cut.
Strings usually muted using the fingers of the left hand (place gently on strings). These are
- Bow on shoulder of instrument, hard and soft pressure.
- Bow in dip of instrument.
- Bow on shoulder, left-hand side, hitting IV from time to time.
- Bow on bridge, keeping pressure light.
- Bow on I, both straight and elliptically.
Air sounds, coloured and dirty. All long, drawn-out sounds. Intakes and expellations on all sounds.
- [s] s as in sue. Bring tongue back a little – high-pitched whistling sound
- [ ss ] ss as in mission. Low in mouth. Can push to whistling noise.
- [ ci] c as in cat, i as in slid. Slightly low in throat.
- [co] [ po ] o as in hot, p as in push. Low in throat.
- [ poo ] [coo ] [foo ] f as in fat. Bring lips into pout, amplify air sound against them.
- [f] Low in throat. Bring bottom lip up to meet front teeth – spitty, fizzy sound.
- [di] [du] d as in door, u as in thud. Tiny tips of tongue, as if bursting spit bubbles.
All rights reserved © 2009-2024 Daniel Portelli