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About Active Notation

Active Notation system for Self Portrait. The screen of the musical director's laptop (left) shows a full view of the piece, while players (right) have tailored versions for their instrumental groups.

The 2006 revision of Self Portrait (2002) used a further attribute of Active Notation to make practical the use of Open Form in a composition for ensemble of significant duration. Since the experiments in the 1950s of Boulez, Stockhausen and Berio there are now many works that adopt Open Form. However, the practicalities of working with conventionally printed scores often make engaging with this device unfeasible for players, who invariably end up playing the composer's original realisation. Self Portrait uses network technology to address this issue - the musical director may control the movement between the various 'panels' that comprise the work as well as adding annotations indicating repeats and so forth. These changes are then distributed to laptops used by the players ensuring that all players see the same material simultaneously. Furthermore, virtual page turns are all initiated by the director and sent to the other machines on the network,
eliminating the need for the instrumentalists to interrupt their playing or lose their place within the Open Form re-configuration of the piece.

The proposed 2008 revision of Touching the Distance (for solo piano) will enable the performer to perform from a laptop with a USB foot-pedal to control page turns. The seven movements of Touching the Distance were intended not to be played in order, but to provide material from which the performer might construct their own 'adventure' through the provided material. Although the final movement of the printed score contains a realisation of such an 'adventure', the forthcoming revision will allow the performer to work easily in an Open Form context creating his or her own score using a graphical drag-and-drop system. Computer interventions may also be called upon to add an element of surprise or re-direction for the player.

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Nigel Morgan, Prudential Buildings, 55 Westgate, Wakefield, West Yorkshire, WF1 1BW, United Kingdom Tel: 01924 383017 e-mail: tonalitysystems@mac.com

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