Thomas, Philip (2009) A Prescription for Action. In: The Ashgate Research Companion to Experimental Music. Ashgate, Farnham, pp. 77-98. ISBN 978-0-7546-6282-2

This essay seeks to demonstrate a common approach to the interpretation of experimental music scores representing a variety of notational practices. David Tudor’s description of the interpretation of experimental music scores, particularly those which are indeterminate, as being akin to ‘work’ is discussed and applied to ‘classic’ and recent examples of experimental music. Taking as its motto the notion that notation is not a description of sound but is instead a prompt for action, the exact nature of what notation asks of performers will be examined.

By drawing from examples of scores that are both indeterminately and complexly notated (and those which are situated between these extremes) the role of the performer in the process of interpretation and realisation is discussed. This leads to discussion of the necessity or otherwise of choosing an approach which is ‘authentic’ or which draws upon established performing traditions when developing interpretation. Thus the idea of a performance practice relating to experimental music – its reality and necessity - is discussed.