Ian Baxter
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Sound Artist


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Scores and Strategies

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Scores and Strategies

Around October 2007 something strange started in my journal. Reading back it started almost directly after I finished recording the album with the band. I started writing these abstract instructions to perform. Perhaps I was sick of ‘proper music’ for a while.

I was aware of Fluxus, the La Monte Young 1960 compositions (draw a straight line, feed the piano, that stuff), Cage fusing music score and poetry. I would later become more aware of Cardew and the scratch orchestra (getting a lovely old edition of scratch music out of the library) as well as Stockhausen’s For the Seven Days.

There’s something brilliantly minimalist about the prose on the page. Something seductive about providing instructions for the situation for making music knowing that it will be unique to that particular performance. The pleasure of setting something in motion and watching how it develops.

The first score was “composition for autumnal tree and patience” I thought the final line had a puckish Zen, John Cage-ish ring to it. I’ve carried on writing them as soon as something occurs to me. I like to include a bit of prose at the start. Sometimes what inspired the score, sometimes a memory. They’re in italics as a nod to a Hemingway edition I have where each longer short story is preceded by the ultra minimal ‘In Our Time’ stories.

Preparing a gallery piece that used one of these it occurred to me that some of the pieces are correctly termed scores – they are instructions for an actual performance. Others are ‘strategies’ – they provide what I call 'structured randomness' for notes, chords and rhythms but are not instructions for actual performance. This relies on another score to actually order a performance, or the initiative of the musicians playing.

So: scores and strategies. One day I’ll put them together into a little book.

Jan 09, revised Feb 12.