Graphic Scores is a collaboration between the Schools of Art and Music at Edinburgh College of Art (ECA). Specifically, the project brings visual artist and printmaker, Jo Ganter, together with musician and composer, Professor Raymond MacDonald, to co-author original prints and musical compositions.

The work tests the possibilities of images as conductors of sound, and sound as a compositional tool for images. It sees both artists breaking new ground to immerse themselves in each other’s practice, moving beyond the boundaries of conventional art/music collaborations to take equal responsibility for both media.

Original, intricate and colourful prints 

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.

Jo Ganter and Raymond MacDonald’s collaboration has produced original, intricate and colourful prints that are successful both as conductors of music and aesthetic works of visual art. In Running Under Bridges (Talbot Rice Gallery, Edinburgh, May 2015), for example, the artists showed original prints, preparatory work and animations, both as a stand-alone, two-week exhibition, and as the backdrop to three live performances and open rehearsals.

Photo of a graphic score
Image courtesy of Jo Ganter
Detail of a graphic score for Running Under Bridges

"Jo Ganter and Raymond MacDonald’s collaboration has produced original, intricate and colourful prints that are successful both as conductors of music and aesthetic works of visual art. "

Changing the experience of professional and student musicians and audiences

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. Audiences have been encouraged to attend pre-performance rehearsals and to ask questions about the methods used.

As the music can vary each time the work is played, a number of people have attended more than one performance to experience different versions of the same graphic score.

In this way, the project has achieved a deeper understanding of how musicians understand, and are able to utilise, non-conventional notation, and ultimately how audiences engage with the combined experience of music and image.

Ongoing since September 2013, 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 September 2015, the researchers co-presented a paper at the China Academy of Art’s ninth international printmaking conference, IMPACT, and collaborated with Chinese musicians to stage two performances of the musical scores: one at the conference venue; and the other on the Lineout Stage at Yuangu Creative Park, Hangzhou.

Following the success of Running Under Bridges at Talbot Rice Gallery (TRG), the project returned to the University in December this year, with a performance at the Reid Concert Hall involving musicians Xenia Pestova (piano), Aidan O'Rourke (violin), Tom Bancroft (drums) and Emma Smith (double bass), and Raymond on saxophone.

The project developed artistic images to conduct more particular musical compositions that were performed at the Kleinert James Art Center in Woodstock, New York, 2017 and in 2018 at The Briggait in Glasgow.  Proof of the appeal of the images for musicians to play, came also when the Hong Kong Sinfonietta acquired two graphic scores by Ganter/MacDonald to exhibit and perform as part of an international exhibition, Notating Beauty that Moves at Artistree in Hong Kong, 2018.

Into the Future

In 2019, Ganter/MacDonald will exhibit a new body of work in the Finlay Room of the Royal Scottish Academy.

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Photo of a graphic score on a music stand
Image courtesy of Ben Shmulevitch
Ready to play at Talbot Rice Gallery
Photo of an exhibit in a gallery
Image courtesy of Ben Shmulevitch
An insight into the Graphic Scores creative process

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