Graphic notation

Graphic notation is the representation of music through the use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. Graphic notation evolved in the 1950s, and it is often used in combination with traditional music notation.[1] Composers often rely on graphic notation in experimental music, where standard musical notation can be ineffective.


A common aspect of graphic notation is the use of symbols to convey information to the performer about the way the piece is to be performed. These symbols first began to appear in the works of avant-garde composers such as Roman Haubenstock-Ramati, Mauricio Kagel, György Ligeti (Artikulation), Krzysztof Penderecki, Karlheinz Stockhausen, and Iannis Xenakis, as well as the works of experimental composers such as Earle Brown, John Cage, Morton Feldman, and Christian Wolff during the 1950s and 60s.

After working as Stockhausen's assistant, Cornelius Cardew began work on a massive graphic score, which he titled Treatise. The piece consists of 193 pages of highly abstract scores. The score itself is almost its own separate work of art.

In 2008, Theresa Sauer edited a compendium featuring graphic scores by composers from over fifty countries,[2] demonstrating how widespread the practice has become.

Examples of graphic notation

This notation may be, like music on traditional staves, a time-pitch graph system. In the above example, time is still represented by reading left-to-right.

Other composers who have used graphic notation

Practitioners of graphic notation include:

See also


  1. Pryer, Anthony. "graphic notation." The Oxford Companion to Music. Ed. Alison Latham. Oxford Music Online. 12 Apr. 2011
  2. Sauer, Theresa. Notations 21. Mark Batty Publisher. p. 010, 2008.
  6. R. Murray Schafer at National Arts Centre ArtsAlive web site. Retrieved 2011-11-17.

Further reading

External links

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