Experimental music notation resources



As somebody with one foot in the visual art world and the other in sound world, I have always been interested in the experimental music notation strategies. Aside from the fact that these are often beautiful artifacts, I love thinking about the “utility” of images: how/when image becomes an “instruction”.

I think the new |||||||| forum, with it’s expanded conceptual ambition, ought to have a thread devoted to this aspect of new and experimental music.

Let’s share resources, files, images, links and ahything you might have collected related to this esotheric and fascinating point on confluence between image, language ne sound.


To get things started, here is a nice article from Simthsonian:

Classical music composers
Best representative threads
Grid ops / integration

immediately reminded me of jobina tinnemans’ style of notation


This is exactly what I am hoping we could share here @glia !

I also should have mentioned specifically: the image I included in the first post is an example of many amazing experimantal notations by Cornelius Cardew.

Here are a few more from Cardew:


sweet looking stuff

in the midst of read more on this…


This kind of thing sends me.

Leonardo Music Journal did an issue called “BEYOND NOTATION: COMMUNICATING MUSIC”:


It’s not open access, and it’s kind of expensive. I can comment further on particular articles if anyone’s interested.



Iannis Xenakis worked a lot around this : http://www.centre-iannis-xenakis.org/cix_upic_presentation
(it’s french but one can easily find resources about I. Xenakis)
the software he used is called UPIC.

and there is http://www.iannix.org/en/whatisiannix/
it’s a sequencer software based on drawings. very very interesting compositionnal tool


Wonderful references guys!
@beo great to see the UPIC legacy carried into the new dimensions with Iannix.
Here are a few images of Xenakis notations for visual pleasure:


Als, here is a nice collection of images with unorthodox notations:

Like this one from George Crumb:


ohh, i especially like the circular notation ones. possible new profile picture :+1:


@laborcamp : thanks for the picture :smile:
actually a new UPIC is under dev by students in Rouen univ. the goal is to make a UPIC for win, mac and linux. they call it UPIX.


This is a super cool/useful book on the matter:

A ton of fascinating scores in there.

On a more digital front, there’s lots of dynamic/generative score stuff going on nowadays too.


@Rodrigo yes!
Funny you posted this, as I was recently looking to get one of these, until I noticed the price! In US this book is listed as over $600!
Certainly prohibitive for me :smile:
But it really looks like an awesome compendium of exactly the kind of materials I thought we could share here…
Do you actually own a copy?


Holy shit that’s crazy!

Yeah I own the book. Bought it (in the UK) a few years ago.


Lucky you @Rodrigo !
So, obviously, you must think it’s worth the price?
I would LOVE to have this in my library!..


DEFINITELY not worth that price, lol.

I don’t remember how much it was, but it was when I got it but it was no more than like £40-50 or so. I’ve got the hardcover version too. Weird…


this thread is simply amazing! i wish it was around a couple of years ago… i was working on a project and looked into experimental notation for a commission i was doing. its a pretty tenuous connection, but i wrote a little article about the piece here:


Hi @instantjuggler , thank you for the link! It was very interesting to read such a detailed insight into the process of putting together a large scale juggling performance. It made me think of your collaboration with Pekka as well (thinking about themusic and juggling relationships, but also the ability to effortlessly move between scored events and improvisation).
I also love how you refer to the idea of constructing choreographed images on stage. I always think of performance in terms of images as well, regardless of if I am working with dancers or volunteer workers, or by myself.


Here are a few from John Cage:


Woah that last one is crazy…Most of the ones posted so far are interesting if not still stuck in a linear left to right structure. How are you supposed to interpret what looks like molecules and an unfinished pentagram?

Cool stuff!


The instructions from that Cage piece is fucking mad too. The notation is weird, but each one of those little diagrams(/pieces) has equally crazy instructions.