Glover, Richard (2013) The use of grid structures in contemporary notational practice. In: Time Stands Still: Notation in Musical Practice, 5-6 April 2013, Wesleyan University, Connecticut, USA. (Unpublished)

Grids structures which form the main body of the score immediately project unique notational environments within which performers may operate. The paper aims to understand how and why grid structures are used in contemporary notational practice, to discover differences in the approach to their employment, and how they can influence composer’s decision making.

Some of the first instances of grid structures in western experimental music scores are seen in Morton Feldman’s graph pieces from the Projection and Intersection series (1951-3). Feldman’s notions of framing material (in his own words, he is not “creating music, it’s already there”) underpin his use of grids, and this provides an analytical approach for the study of scores by more recent composers. Examples from scores by Michael Pisaro, Phill Niblock, John Lely, and the author’s own recent music are reviewed for their individual use of grid structures. In particular, the manner in which grid structures can be used to encompass many parameters, or to focus on one specific parametric variation, is considered.

From this, the paper explores what can be conveyed by the use of a grid in the main body of the score. By including what the composers themselves say about their own use of grids, and related comments from performers, the paper establishes a scholarly insight into the interpretive decisions of musicians prompted by the use of grid structures.

To understand further the communicative aspects of grid structures and their use in creative formats, the nature of grids in the visual arts will be discussed. The work of artists such as Agnes Martin, François Morollet, James Hugonin and Hanne Darboven will be presented to identify connections with the use of grids in music notation, and how these are interpreted by the observer. The viewpoints of graphic designers such as Mark Boulton are also included to consider the wide-ranging capabilities of grid structures, providing avenues for further creativity in all areas of musical activity.

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