History of the Electronic Score

Making a detailed score with the Acousmographe can take a lot of time, but to put things in perspective I will recount how tedious it was before we had this tool.

I began making “electronic scores”, as I then called it, as early as 1998. The process began with entering markers in a sound editor at every new sound’s beginning. Then the times of the markers where exported as a text file. For each of these time-markers I then wrote down a symbol in a list (at that time with the Addenda font, later to be replaced with the first version of Sonova), specifying duration and pitch placement and some other parameters. Pitch was mostly just entered as “relative”, using a seven step scale. But I ran IRCAM’s “AudioSculpt” at this stage as well, to get accurate frequencies from an actual Sonogram of the music.

The list was then used in “Macromedia Director”. It’s an application specifically used for making sprite animations for movies, interactive presentations, and games. The interface is basically a grid of independent “channels”, each having a slot for each frame of a movie where you put graphics or text.

I wrote a program that added prolongation lines according to the duration and placed the symbol at a height corresponding to the pitch, then inserted it into the frames at times calculated from the markers in the sound file. After this the resulting animated score could either be manually adjusted or, as often was the case, I had to go back to the sound editor and place more markers and/or edit the list. This process was slow and frustrating, but at least it prepared me with a long wish-list of requirements for a future program that could one day do this better and faster.

A similar process was also used to make the videos for the article in Journal of Music and Meaning (Thoresen 2007), but as there were only timing to worry about there, those examples were easier to make.

To make the paper prints for the articles in Organised Sound (Thoresen 2009, 2010) I used the more traditional graphics editor “Adobe Illustrator”. Once the video was reasonably accurate, I could copy and paste from the list of symbols into text objects in Illustrator, as they were just text written with the Sonova font. From the list I could also produce text that looked like “tick-marks” as guides for accurate placement of symbols in “time” (time would correspond to horizontal spatial placement on paper).

A second video was produced for the article Thoresen 2010. This time I used the printed scores as images imported into “Macromedia Director”. On top of them I could place a moving play-head cursor and animated color-fields. Today, something similar can be made with the program iAnalyse by Pierre Couprie.

The first prototypes for these videos had already been done by 2003 and had already got a little bit of attention. In 2007 this lead to a preliminary study being financed by the Norwegian foundation “Lindemanns Legat”, aiming to assess the possibility to realize the score making process within the Acousmographe. Finally, in late 2011 the actual work could begin on making the Aural Sonology plug-in. The programming was made at Ina/GRM in Paris by Adrien Lefèvre and Lydie Gustafsson.

Using the new Acousmographe version with Aural Sonology now made it possible to produce a great number of analyses in a manageable time. This work provided healthy feedback for testing (and appending to) the Aural Sonology theory presented in the book Emergent Musical Forms – Aural Explorations (Thoresen 2015).

After a lengthy period of testing, the Acousmographe 3.7.1 was finally released on May 6, 2013 with a separate installer for the Aural Sonology plug-in.