[ISEA2011] Paper: Thor Magnusson – The Musical Score: The System and the Interpreter


This paper introduces live coding as a new path in the evolution of the musical score. Live coding practice accentuates the score, and whilst being the perfect vehicle for the performance of algorithmic music, it also transforms the compositional process itself into a live event. A continuation of 20th century artistic developments of the musical score, live coding systems often embrace graphical elements and language syntaxes foreign to standard programming languages. The paper presents live coding as a highly technologized artistic practice, shedding light on how non-linearity, play and generativity will become prominent in future creative media productions.

A careful investigation into the history of the score will illustrate that the score is not a simple object whose nature can be easily defined. It has had multiple functions in the various traditions at different time periods. But the score is more than encoded music. It is also a compositional tool, where composers are able to externalize their thoughts onto a medium that visually represents the sonic data. The score in its various forms is a mnemonic device that enables more complex compositional thinking patterns than those we find in purely oral traditions. This paper will consider live coding as a new evolution of the musical score. It will investigate the background of diverse scoring practices as applied in live coding, where the score is written in the form of an algorithm, either graphically or textually, yet always encoded in the functionality of a programming language.

  • hor Magnusson is a musician/writer/programmer working in the fields of music and generative art. His PhD from the University of Sussex focused on computer music interfaces from the perspective of philosophy of technology, phenomenology and cognitive science. He is a Senior Lecturer in the School of Art and Media at the University of Brighton but also teaches courses on computer music, algorithmic and interactive systems in the Creative Systems MSc course at the University of Sussex and the Sonic Arts course of Middlesex University. Thor is mainly interested in improvisation, live performances, installations and audio software production. He is a co-founder and member of the ixi audio collective. With ixi he has written various musical software and given workshops and talks in key institutions across Europe on the design and creation of digital musical instruments and sound installations. Thor has presented and performed in various festivals and conferences, such as Sonar festival, Transmediale, ISEA (International Symposium for Electronic Arts), Ertz festival, ICMC (International Computer Music Conference), NIME Conference (New Interfaces for Musical Expression), Impact Festival, Soundwaves festival, Cybersonic festival, Ultrasound festival, RE:New, and Pixelache. ixi-audio.net   Video: ixi lang take on Steve Reich’s Piano Phase 

Full text (PDF) p. 1611-1616