Intro to Working with Graphical Scores in Experimental Music


I had never used graphical scores for experimental music till this year. Darwin Gross, turned me on to new ways of thinking about them. I used them in a release earlier this year, and we will be using in them in tours with (no)poem.

I’m really digging the concept and results so I thought I’d share my use cases and first impressions of using graphical scores in experimental music.


I worked with graphical scores for the release and performance of MaroonedThis score was literal and had one interpretation – and like a traditional score – existed to help me remember what to do when.

 This was especially critical when performing this piece live as I used no automation at all. All hand performed :^) I made the score using Mindmeister and used its presentation featured to advance the score simply by touching the screen. In the photo below, you can see my iPad to the left on a Gig Easy Mount (the only mount I would trust my iPad to BTW made by my friend and Boulder Synthesizer Meetup member and presenter Darren Kramer).


 Below is a screen shot of score zoomed out. The score is  included in the digital booklet for Marooned when you download the album from Bandcamp.



For the upcoming (no)poem tour this weekend, we’re utilizing graphical scores created by Darwin – but this time we are using the scores in a more abstract way than I did with Marooned.

Here is the idea.

Our work is completely improvised, but are supported by the use of postcard-sized graphical scores. This gives us the ability to create structured improvisations while remaining open to react to our surroundings and to each others’ work. We do not use laptop computers or keyboards during our performance, forcing us to use alternative controlling devices to produce the work.

The graphic at the top of this post is an example of this score. Our tour posters use a second score as background. BTW – if you click the posters to see invites for these show



Here is one way we’ll be using these scores. 

Names and shapes are used to determine structure and timbre.


If you read my previous post  “(no)poem creative limitations: Modular/Looper/Max/Beatstep Meets Octatrack/Blofeld/Lemur” you’ll know that we made the decision not to use laptops on this tour. One reason is we need to be able to both see the score, plus see each other’s body language and performance. You can’t see the score if you are staring at the computer screen man. 


I’ve found there are a lot of benefits to using graphics scores. For me, one of the biggest is it changes what I do when changing gears during collaborative sessions and performances.

You know, there are always those moments where you feel it’s time to move on in a piece, or something your collaborators are doing means you need to change what you are playing. Sometimes in those gaps, you can feel a sense of slight panic as your reaching into your bag of tricks to tee up your next line of play – or tweak a patch.

This can lead to you falling back on some “go to” patches or chops rather than doing something fresh that fits the vibe. The score overlays a mental structure and acts as an abstract guide that will influence you to go where you might have never gone before – and with less stress. The bottom line is better creative results.


There are many possibilities and many more benefits to this concept than I’ve mentioned. Feel free to leave a comment with notes on how you are using scores. You might want to give this wiki article a look if you want to start digging into this more

Related articles

Introducing (no)poem – A New Collaboration with Darwin Grosse + Heartland 2015 Tour
(no)poem creative limitations: Modular/Looper/Max/Beatstep Meets Octatrack/Blofeld/Lemur
Intro to Creating and Loading Custom Wavetables into Waldorf Blofeld Synthesizer

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Hi, this is Mark Mosher. Welcome to my blog. I’m a synthesist, Composer, Producer, and Visualist living in Boulder CO. I’m also the founder of the Rocky Mountain Synth Meet and Synth Patrol.

I’ve been blogging wince 2005 and this blog is a mix of posts on artistic news as well as synth tech & technique posts under the category Modulate This!

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