Xerographic scores and the condition of music

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole)

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole) detail

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #1 (punch-hole) detailXerographic score #1: full image and two details

The Xerox machine or photocopier,  is one of my most favoured drawing instruments. If time, and credit permit, I take full advantage of its ability to, replicate, generate and damage visual information. The dry (xeros) writing (graphia) process of electrophotography is of course intended to reproduce: to copy and duplicate quickly. However, the copying process introduces its own artifacts, through the mechanical and chemical degeneration of information, scratches and dirt on the glass plate, and banding streaks of diminishing ink. Such inherent loss has the potential to transform a copy into an original copy, which is both unique and singular. The forensic study of such blemishes of reproduction can actually be used to identify specific brands and models of photocopier. Such unintentional errors constitute a form of steganography or concealed writing, inscribing a hidden message, available only to those who know it is there: visual notes that only some can read

It would perhaps then seem appropriate to use Xerography as a method of creating or rather, [re] producing a graphic score. The reproduction process feels distinctly hand rendered: the touched weight and texture of each sheet of paper, the gestures of hands choreographed by the feeding and retrieving procedure. Although immediate, there is a hesitant, analogue delay, as the photo-chemically scored ‘copy’ arrives concealed, face down and late. The optional manual feed allows for the use of different (‘thick’) papers and the reorientation, repetition and layering of inscription. For me the actual labour of making the copies regenerates memories of etching and the traditional printing process.

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #2

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #4

Sebastiane hegarty: Xerox score #3 (detail)Xerographic score #2
Xerographic score #4
Xerographic score #3 detail

The xerographic scores are not made in response to sounds, like some of my other graphic scores (for example, the (mono)printed, ‘drawn’ & copied score for Yvon Bonenfant’s Masz project (see below) made in response to Diamanda Galas’s Plague Mass, or the traced, Letraset score for three landscapes and a river, made in response to my own soundscapes). The copier scores are intended as a method of making sounds yet unheard, available to hearing. They offer poetic, visual organisations of sound, open to the error of reproduction and indeterminate of any prescribed sonic response.

‘My favorite music is the music I haven’t yet heard. I don’t hear the music I write, I write in order to hear the music I haven’t yet heard’ (John Cage).

Theresa Sauer’s excellent book Notations 21, explores the graphic scores of composers such as Cage, Earl Brown and R. Murray Schafer, allowing an insight into the compositional strategies of the musically adept. As a non-musician, who cannot read musical notation, the graphic score allows for a dialogue with sound in which visual and aural information enter into correspondence. The dry writings of the Xerographic scores, offer an opportunity for not only the interpretation and organisation of yet sounds yet unheard, but also an appeal to the ‘unstruck sounds’ (Schafer) available to the imagination. Might they also allow the eye to adopt the perceptual inclination of the ear? The eye, so concerned with isolating information and bringing the indistinct into solid focus, may become draw into the unlimited rhythms of attention and hesitation, more normally allied with listening: allowing the visual to take on the perceptual ‘condition of music’ (Walter Pater).

sebastiane hegarty: graphic scoreGraphic score for Yvon Bonenfant’s Masz project (detail)

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2 comments
  1. What a poetic approach to score writing. The idea that the gradual disintegration of the original score is part of a process of creating new work, rather than one of loss, seems so simple yet quite revolutionary. I wonder if the same could be said for copies of sound files that also lose their fidelity.
    I always enjoy visiting this site, well written with engaging ideas.

    • Thank you for visiting and commenting. I must say I am equally fascinated with the sounds and thoughts on the soundslikenoise blog.

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