Continuum with Blues

for Electric Guitar and Active Notation System

Active Notation display.

This work for solo electric guitar joins the composer’s Compass for keyboard (2000) and
Interactions for piano left-hand (1999) as a further experiment in developing new conditions for the expression of virtuosity in music for solo performance. In Compass a pianist enters into a dialogue with the composer’s own MAX-based interactive computer system triggering accompanying sounds and textures kept under control by the use of a special foot-pedal. In Interactions Robert Rowe’s Cypher is used to listen and respond to the keyboard actions of the soloist.

Continuum with Blues dispenses with the need for any complex machine listening, parsing and analysing. Here the notation of work becomes ‘active’ by a unique form of presentation on a laptop computer’s visual display, and with no external devices needed by the performer to control the system.

The music is in a continuous movement of six sections lasting over 10 minutes. The first three sections have been composed formally and follow a conventional linear structure up to and including a central Blues. At the beginning of the fourth section the Active Notation System takes over control of the performance sequence displaying sub-sections of material in algorithmically generated orders, with novel mixtures of parametric modes of representation, and with the addition of sonic interventions (samples and OSC driven synthesis). The soloist nevertheless may design the level of control over all aspects of display, timing and sonic accompaniment (including the use of samples and recordings made by the player).

Continuum with Blues pays homage to the composer György Ligeti who died in June 2006. The music does not take any quotations from Ligeti’s music; it simply makes reference to a title he used for a piece for solo harpsichord, a composition which explores different perceptions about speed and time. Ligeti was throughout his creative life fascinated by ethnic and exotic musics of all kinds so the choice of a blues as a valedictory form seems appropriate. In rather simplistic terms this new work might be seen as a journey in memory of and about the music of a unique sonic inventor. The first half of the work is devoted to precisely rendered and organised music, the second half gradually explores the potential of this music to be reordered and transformed, musically and sonically. Throughout the work interpolation, the transformation from one state to another, is a favoured device, beginning with computer-generated simulations of how musicians might improvise such transformations.
Continuum with Blues was written for the American guitarist Alan Thomas as part of the composer’s research activities at the Interdisciplinary Centre for Computer Music Research (ICCMR) at the Future Music Lab of the University of Plymouth. The Active Notation System has been designed and programmed in Macromedia Director by Phil Legard.


Performing Score [pdf]

Computer-generated simulation [mp3]

Annotated SCOM score files [pdf]

SCOM score files [zip]

Active Notation User Manual [pdf]

Re-conceptualizing Performance with ‘Active’ Notation, a paper from the 2007 ICCMR conference [pdf]