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I’m always on the look-out for a new approach to landscape. A strategy for reflection or methodology for looking or listening.

A chance blog post on The Clearing website pointed me to musician and poet Sam Richards and his 2007 unmanifesto which states:

The unmanifest cannot be directly perceived, but if it did not have some kind of existence nothing at all could happen next. The [next] musical gesture does not come out of nowhere, no matter how much it may seem so.

Paying attention to that which cannot be directly perceived is, therefore, a good training and practice for the creative person – musicians included. Is there anything that can be said about how to do this? Being too prescriptive may muddy the waters, but this is my baker’s dozen.

1. Learn to hear, and listen to, “quiet voices”.
2. Abandon all dogma and reach for the value in all forms of musical experience…
3. …but carefully nurture critical faculties.
4. Cultivate audacity in musical activities. Audacity is the most precious quality an artist possesses.
5. Notice, over long periods, what you are putting in your musical suitcase. Whenever you arrive at a new destination you are likely to unpack the same things, although you may be able to use them differently in a new context.
6. Musicians have a right to their own clichés. In the spirit of 5 (above) value these, but also make constant efforts to subvert them.
7. Engage with the (social, political, artistic, local, national, international – etc.) world. There is no defence for ignorant art.
8. Discipline and freedom are the two sides of the same coin. Disciplined exercises put into the realm of the unmanifest the basis for freedom in action.
9. However, there is no rule as to which discipline(s) to choose, but don’t die choosing.
10.As Cornelius Cardew wrote: notation is a means of getting people to move. Develop appropriate skills for getting your ideas across: standard notation, adapted notations, written words, computer technologies and recording studio skills, or simply become a good communicator in speech.
11.Music can be thought of in terms of composition, impression and improvisation, distinctions originally listed by Kandinsky in relation to his own paintings. Composition is fixed and repeatable; improvisation is non-repeatable (other than by recorded means). Impression refers to that vast majority of the world’s music which rests somewhere between the two. It s a good idea to cultivate all three.
12.New music technologies make the development of aural skills and sensibilities more, not less, important.
13. Pay attention to music’s roots – however they may be defined.

(They’re my highlights.)

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Musical Landscape by Léo Wieber & Thijs de Klijn, 2014

Below Richard outlines a practical cartographic strategy for releasing the music of the landscape. A creative synthesis of the visual, aural, kinaesthetic and cartographic.

1. Choose a landscape. It may be one you like, or it may be chosen by chance, or it may simply be a convenient one. You may wish to have a few walks or trips out in the car to decide. When you have chosen it find it on an Ordnance Survey Map.

2. Draw a straight line on your map, connecting two points.

3. Go for a walk along your straight line. Take a compass. If you encounter obstacles find a way round them, through them, under them, over them. As you go listen for any sounds you can hear. Sometimes stop and close your eyes. Try to imagine what sounds you would like to associate with this landscape. Are they electronic, synthesised, entirely natural, conventional musical instruments, instruments you may have to invent? Are they sounds that haven’t been invented yet? Make notes if necessary.

4. With a fine pen, reinforce on your map where the contour lines cross your straight line. Note how many meters they represent. Then decide how long your piece of music is going to last, and make the line represent that length of time. Thus space is becoming time.

5. Your line on your map now represents a time length. Make calculations so that, for example, 4 millimetres represents 30 seconds. The exact calculations will vary for each interpretation. Then place a ruler along your line and measure the distance between each occurrence of contour lines. Make notes of these distances. Perhaps an easy way would be on a chart. You have now worked out the time lengths between each change of sound.

6. Now find out the lowest and the highest contour lines, and calculate some kind of logical series of musical pitches to correspond.

7. Associate appropriate musical pitches with the points where the contours cross the line on the map, and indicate the timing of the appearance of each pitch. From this you can construct a musical score as a guide.

Exmoor-Landscape-Musical-Notes

A quick Google search of: ‘experimental musical notation’ brought up these intriguing drawings/scores:

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Aaron Bielish

 

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Xenakis notation…

 

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John Cage
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