The latest performance in a collaboration between the Schools of Art and Music at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA) has taken place in the Reid Hall. In this article, we talk to the people behind Running Under Bridges about the process of creating graphic scores and using them in musical performance.

Running Under Bridges is the name given to performances, open rehearsals and exhibitions linked to the Graphic Scores research project, which began in 2013.

The latest event involved five musicians playing from original artistic prints, rather than conventional music scores, as part of an exploration of images as conductors of sound, and sound as a compositional tool for images.

Graphic scores have been an effective way for experimental musicians to convey musical ideas since the 1950s. However, while many are visually interesting, few claim to be works of art worthy of exhibition in their own right.

Josephine (Jo) Ganter and Professor Raymond MacDonald’s collaboration has produced original, intricate and colourful prints that have been exhibited independently of the music, including at the Talbot Rice Gallery. 

Drawing the scores

Talking us through the process of creating the scores, Jo Ganter (a Lecturer in the School of Art) says “Typically, it begins with drawn abstract matrices and computer drawings abstracted from collaged photographs. The drawings are scanned and coloured digitally.

Raymond (outgoing Head of the Reid School of Music) and I work together, sometimes in the same space with paint and pencils, digitally or sketching rough versions with pen and paper, and sometimes remotely - scanning and digitally editing images to send to one another electronically. 

Individual images might pass between the artists several times as each responds to a contribution from the other, ultimately creating intricate, colourful images. These are then printed as archival inkjet prints”.

Raymond adds “I have really enjoyed working with Jo, and combining music and art in this project has opened up many new ideas and possibilities in terms of developing and disseminating new work.

Thinking about my work visually, as well as sonically, is both challenging and liberating. My father was an artist, so I guess of all the other art forms I was going to jump into, art is probably the most natural for me.”

Performing the scores

As well as Jo and Raymond, the project has involved small groups of professional and student musicians who have come together to perform the work, most recently at the Reid Hall.

The musicians receive guidance on how they should respond to the score, for example, colour might denote a musical event (a duet, or solo), an instrument, or a kind of musical material (melodic, pointillistic), while the matrix - or 'grid' - often denotes timing. The music may vary each time the score is played, but is always specific to the score.

The Reid Hall performers were Xenia Pestova (piano), Aidan O'Rourke (violin), Tom Bancroft (drums) and Emma Smith (double bass), with Raymond on saxophone.

Tom says "I enjoyed playing the graphic scores a lot. I was made easier by the quality and thoughtfulness of both the graphic scores and the other musicians".

Graphic Scores is funded by the University of Edinburgh through various mechanisms, including the CAHSS Research, Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund, the Challenge Investment Fund and The Hope Scott Trust Fund.

In 2017, the aim is to develop the project to create artistic images that conduct more particular musical compositions, culminating in an exhibition and performance at the Kleinert James Art Center in Woodstock, New York.

Related people