Improvisation – Graphic Scores

Today we looked at graphic scores and something called Game Pieces. This is a concept of experimental music that can be described as controlled improvisation. Different pieces have different rules to them, just like game, and the music evolves freely within the set of rules. Methods of directing the progression of a piece of music may include hand gestures, cards – a signal or maybe something written down i.e how many different notes to play in 10,15 or 30 seconds.

This is seen in John Zorn’s ‘Cobra’ improvisation, where the signals from cards and hand gestures determine where the music is going. It is a musical composition with very detailed rules for a group of improvisers and a promter. Cobra consists of a set of cues notated on cards. Rules correspond to the cues that help direct the players what to do.  After a suggested cue is chosen an improvisational system is then chosen. After starting, any musician can make a call for another card. The number of musicians, the instrumentation, and length of the piece is different every time.

It is explained much better in the Cobra Notes.

It is interesting to see how this kind of improvisation is done but I think that if I didn’t what rules were set it would be much harder to listen to and to hear what is happening within the music.


John Zorn ‘Cobra

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