Graphic Score


In music, a score is a visual representation of how to perform something. There can be specific notes, rhythms, and instructions for performers, or the information on the page can leave a lot of decisions up to the performers. Rather than relying on a specific musical notation system or written text, we are going to connect the composer-performer-listener trifecta via visual arts. How can musical ideas be represented visually? How can visual marks be sounded?

Example Sequence

  1. Take three grounding breaths to settle into the experience of musicking.

  2. Take a look at some examples of graphic scores, and listen to some examples of performers sounding the pieces of music.

  3. What did you find interesting or meaningful about the graphic scores and different performances?

  4. Gather your visual mark-making materials (i.e. paper, pencils, erasers, crayons, markers, paints, brushes, and water).

  5. Optional: gather your instruments (traditional instruments or other found objects that can be used to make sound).

  6. Optional: warm-up your voices for singing/sounding.

  7. Take a moment to familiarize yourselves with the instruments and/or voice. Try to find as many sounds as you can with each item, or as many different sounds as your voice can make.

  8. Now as an ensemble, take another look at one of the example graphic scores from earlier, and perform it. This might be your first time performing a graphic score, so be gentle with yourself! Try to reserve your judgment, and welcome "wrong notes," "weird sounds," or otherwise unexpected occurrences. In the end, show some appreciation to yourself and your fellow performers.

  9. Working alone, with a partner, small group, or as a whole ensemble, start to generate some visual ideas for the graphic score. What colors do you want to use? Patterns? Lines? Shapes? Textures?

  10. On a new piece of paper, visualize your graphic score. What marks do you think would be interesting or exciting to sound?

  11. Perform!

  12. Optional extensions: what would happen if the ensemble traded instruments? Or, if the score rotated? After performing, do you think the graphic score needs additions or alterations?

  13. Title your composition.

National Core Arts Standards

MU:Cr1.1.5a: Improvise rhythmic, melodic, and harmonic ideas, and explain the connection to specific purpose and context (such as social, cultural, and historical).

MU:Cr1.1.5b Generate musical ideas (such as rhythms, melodies, and accompaniment patterns) within specifically related tonalities, meters, and simple chord changes.

MU:Cr2.1.5a: Demonstrate selected and developed musical ideas for improvisations, arrangements, or compositions to express intent, and explain the connection to purpose and context.

MU:Cr2.1.8a: Select, organize, and document personal musical ideas for arrangements, songs, and compositions within expanded forms that demonstrate tension and release, unity and variety, balance, and convey expressive intent.

MU:Cr2.1.8b: Use standard and/or iconic notation and/or audio/video recording to document personal rhythmic phrases, melodic phrases, and harmonic sequences.

MU:Cr3.1.5a: Evaluate, refine, and document revisions to personal music, applying teacher-provided and collaboratively-developed criteria and feedback, and explain the rationale for changes.

MU:Cr3.2.5a: Present the final version of personally created music to others that demonstrates craftsmanship, and explain the connection to expressive intent.

MU:Pr5.1.5b: Rehearse to refine technical accuracy and expressive qualities to address challenges, and show improvement over time.

MU:Cn10.0.5a: Demonstrate how interests, knowledge, and skills relate to personal choices and intent when creating, performing, and responding.

MU:Cn11.0.5a: Demonstrate understanding of relationships between music and the other arts, other disciplines, varied contexts, and daily life.

CASEL Core Competencies

Self-awareness, self-management, responsible decision-making, relationship skills, social awareness