Instrumental

A bit late, but this is the companion post for my description last year of the first half of the first Drawing Room session I attended, back in May 2012.

In that post, I wrote how we reacted to musician Claire Docherty reacting to sculptures. An enlightening experience for me. As I explained the post, that session was the motivation for me to create this blog, so that I had another outlet to explore my learnings.

Because we spent a fair bit of time on the first part of the session, the second half was a little rushed. This is a problem with squeezing the session into only 75 minutes. I could easily do with twice that length of time! I could continue at home, but it is best in-situ.

In this second half, we explored forms of musical notation. This part was led by Emma Bowen who is an animator, film maker and musician who I understand has led other Drawing Room sessions too.

Emma brought in an amazing selection of different forms of artistic musical notation, and a diverse range of instruments. We were tasked with creating some musical notation of our own for any of the instruments.

[CORRECTION: Emma has informed me that it was actually Sharon Quigley – the organiser of the Drawing Room sessions – who brought in the examples of musical notation.]

I wanted to do something with the cowbell because it reminded me of my childhood holidays by the beautiful mountains of the Basque Country where my mum comes from. Unfortunately the sounds it produced were more limited than the other instruments on offer, so I thought I’d be able to get more out of one of them instead.

I chose a small hand drum, which on the face of it doesn’t provide much more variety of sound than the cowbell, but I could work with the strength of the beat. It also had more possibilities to provide notation for applying rhythm or sequences of taps, although I didn’t have enough time to explore those ideas.

Playing with the drum, I found 2 variables that I decided to illustrate: 1) the distance of the tap from the centre of the skin, and 2) how long the tapping fingers remained pushing on the skin after the initial strike.

drum sound visualisationThe illustration here is my representation of these variables. The image shows 3 different tap durations. The left-hand strip in black indicates this duration, so the top bar shows just a tap with a quick lift. The main part in blue illustrates the depth of the sound produced by this tap in relation to the position of the tap, with the left and right edges being close to the edge of the drum skin.

Of course, this isn’t notation. It is just a representation of the sound that can be produced with the drum. However, I could have extracted the key parts from this to produce notation. For example, I could combine the horizontal position with the tap duration indicator. And overlaying the notation over the same-duration representation would illustrate the desired result of the tap, although this probably isn’t the job of notation, and is just decoration.

Like all Drawing Room sessions, it was interesting and a good deal of fun. Love it!

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