Graphic Notation and Musical Graphics

Musical graphic notation is a written representation of music that uses none or only few of the elements of traditional staff notation.[1] Graphic notation is often an indeterminate, ambiguous type of notation whose symbols and interpretations are explained in a legend or in annotations.

Musical graphics, on the other hand, has its own aesthetic value as a visual art and does not have to be defined through its translatability into music. Like visual scores—that is, images instead of graphics—musical graphics is composed not with the intent of producing concrete music; it may, however, be translated into music.[2]

The first graphic notations and musical graphics were produced within the New York school of composers around John Cage: Morton Feldman’s Projection from 1950 was the first instance of graphic notation (called graph notation), and Earle Brown’s December 1952 is often deemed the first work of musical graphics (called musical graph). However, the term musical graphics, or musikalische Grafik, was coined by Roman Haubenstock-Ramati in Europe, where in the late 1950s a music-theoretical discussion began that primarily revolved around the dissolution of the concept of the work of art and the aesthetics of autonomy. Starting in the 1970s, more and more visual artists began to engage in musical graphics, and improvising performance artists developed new interpretational styles.

Other categorizations of notation specify their function. Thus, aural scores are descriptive graphic representations for music, mostly for tape, that are produced after the music has been performed, with the tape possibly having been made by means of a realization score. The latter has in common with the (prescriptive) action score that the action generating the sound is described, not the acoustic result. Thus they are prescriptive.