As discussed earlier, I am working on a piece for two violins built around an antique wooden door. Since this piece is already in an unusual form, I thought I would make it even more complicated by trying out some new notational techniques. I have completely done away with dynamic markings and bow pressure indications. Instead, I am using the staff lines themselves to shape the musical line. As much as possible, I am also trying to incorporate accents into this more visual system.
I think the result is very intuitive. The dynamics are completely relative and bow pressure is not an ugly black wedge above the staff. I am hoping this approach will eliminate the arguments about the difference between mp and mf, and give the performers an opportunity to react to the page in a more emotional and intuitive way. It also makes the staff look like wood patterns, which makes me happy.
I think this sort of notation would only really work with certain types of material. What I’m writing is fairly simple in terms of melody and rhythm, and the music doesn’t move up and down the staff very much. In fact, much of it happens below it or above it. So far, Ilana and Suhashini are not reporting any problems with legibility, but I think it would become an issue if I was writing anything much more complex. If the spacing between lines changes too much, I think it would be difficult to maintain any sort of reference point.
Since I will be engraving the score onto a wooden door, this project must involve several stages. I would like to really test out the music before committing it for eternity to such a solid medium. The musical portion of this semi-theatrical work will be premiered by the wonderful Thin Edge New Music Collective in Toronto on February 21. The door itself will follow at a later date. I will also be making a colour paper score using some fancy markers and calligraphy pens (see my past hand-scoring work here).