Developing a Phenomenological Approach to Music Notation

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Sound art theorists Seth Kim-Cohen and Salomé Voegelin regard the fixed conceptual structures of notation either as an obstacle to pure sensorial engagement with sound (Voegelin 2010), or as the site of arrogant musical exceptionalism (Kim-Cohen 2009). While sound, whether constituted in phenomenological or idealist terms, is evolving and dynamic, notation is characterised by its ossifying imperative (Kim-Cohen 2009) (Voegelin 2010). For Voegelin, a music score is regarded as conceptual, not perceptual. It is read as text and, it seems, has no meaningful place within a phenomenological practice of sound art (Voegelin 2010). The criticism that Vogelin’s phenomenalism in particular levels at notation invites close examination of notational practice and the semiotic structures that underwrite it. In this paper, I seek to challenge the conceptual imperative of fixed notation through the presentation of a case study in the form of an original composition for string quartet and tape. Drawing on research by Rudolf Arnheim and Mark Johnson, a form of notation will be proposed that enables the score to escape singularly semiotic structures so that it may address the dynamic, phenomenological mode of experience that recent theories of sound art imply is beyond the reach of musical notation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)160-170
Number of pages11
JournalOrganised Sound
Issue number2
Early online date7 Jul 2015
Publication statusPublished (in print/issue) - 31 Aug 2015


  • music cognition
  • notation
  • phenomenology
  • experimental music
  • score


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  • Cage and Tudor as Process

    Casey, R., 1 Mar 2017, (Published online) In: Contemporary Music Review. 35, 6, p. 670-685 16 p.

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