“Visual art must generate sounds and music, and vice versa” (Otto Piene)
Basically, there are only very few examples of electroacoustic notation, most of them having been conceived after World War II. The reasons are that electroacoustic processes are very complex and it is hard to depict them in a score. Moreover, it is also not necessary to do so as the composer – in opposition to instrumental music – may operate all elements himself and, by doing so, become an interpreter of his own music. Hence an electroacoustic composer is able to produce very complex works without any help.
So if this is possible, why should one notate electroacoustic music? First of all, one needs to understand this form of electroacoustic music is considered to be an alternative to »traditional« electroacoustic music and not a replacement. One also needs to acknowledge that it is not possible to produce as complex pieces as it is possible by means of audio software. This is due to that the paper size restricts the number of parallel processes. Even though there have been various attempts to overcome such restrictions (e. g. Ligeti’s »Apparitions«, Stockhausen’s »Punkte« or Gruppen as well as Boulez’s »Notation I-IV«), it needs to be acknowledged that the number of concurrent events has to be limited. This is because a large score becomes – either due to its sheer size or the number of simultaneous events – unreadable, which compromises its instantaneous comprehension.
On the other hand notated electroacoustic music offers a special visual level that facilities analysing the piece. I believe that this kind of clear and comprehensible accessibility may only be offered through the visual depiction of music by means of a score. Moreover, a score adds a unique interrelated visual artwork to the acoustic perception of the piece and creates an additional level of perception because one can now read and listen to music at the same time. Finally, it enables you to create versions/interpretations of the same piece. Hence one can explore different insights into the same piece and detach it from the past by re-creating it in the present.
For these reasons and because my sole focus is the notation of music, I decided to develop a system of notation for electroacoustic music (and unconventional instrumental playing techniques). The result of this decision is a treatise called »Extended notation: The depiction of the unconventional«. The coherent and consistent system developed in this treatise adheres to a number of criteria. In order to limit the scope of this paper, I will only outline them briefly: the methods of notation are supposed to be 1. as exact as possible and 2. as simple as possible. Moreover, they may 3. not be contradictory to traditional notation, but should instead extend and be closely related to it. Finally, in order to guarantee that the additions are legitimate, they need to be compatible with, and distinct from, all other signs of the system.
When willing to notate electroacoustic processes one needs to take into account that there are barely any conventions and few previous examples of notation, most of them being contradictory to the above criteria. Furthermore, various compositions that involve electroacoustic means of sound production, transformation or modulation, require the utilisation of particular synthesisers, effects units or special audio software. However, due to the rapid evolution of technology, it is quite probable these will become obsolete. This development can be compared to the history of acoustic instruments. Performances that involve Renaissance instruments, such as soprano cromornes or tenor shawms, are rare because these types of instruments are no longer part of the orchestral apparatus. With regard to electroacoustics, it is at present hard to determine whether a particular synthesiser will be part of the electroacoustic apparatus of the future. To give an example, it is possible that the Yamaha DX 7 II-FD, the Roland D-50 or the Yamaha effects unit SPX 900 Stockhausen employs in »Invasion-Explosion mit Abschied« will still be available when this work is performed in a century or two. However, it is rather unrealistic since the manufacture of these devices has already ceased. In fact many synthesiser types have already become extinct and the usefulness of scores that involve these instruments is compromised by their having been written specifically for equipment that is now obsolete.
Therefore in »Extended notation«, the notation of electroacoustic music is not achieved by the depiction of particular synthesisers, effects units or microphone models. Instead, the fundamental processes and parameters of electroacoustic sound production, transformation and modulation are examined and a notation system developed on this basis. By doing so, the developments rest upon accessible and sound knowledge that will most probably be preserved. Hence the processes the methods depict remain reproducible, can be realised without direct contact to the composer and are synthesiser-, device- and software-independent.