Multimedia Exhibits of Graphic Scores

Ontario-based Artists

Quebec-based Artists

Presentation of the Guelph Exhibit

Welcome to the Guelph extension of Hearing-Visions- Sonores, a multi-media graphic score exhibit featuring the work of four Guelph-area composers and a visual artist, and nine Quebec-based composers. This exhibit was sponsored by the University of Guelph Library and the Improvisation, Community, and Social Practice (ICASP) Project, a SSHRC-funded international research initiative, led by Dr. Ajay Heble at the University of Guelph, and in partnership with McGill University, University of British Columbia, and Université de Montréal. Hearing-Visions-Sonores (Guelph Extension) features the compositions of four Guelph-area composers, Germaine Liu, Joe Sorbara, Jesse Stewart, and Scott Thomson, and visual artist Nick Loess, to unite improvisation, musical composition, and graphic art. The first installation of Hearing- Visions-Sonores premiered on March 20th, 2009 at the Marvin Duchow Music Library, McGill University, Montreal, Quebec as part of the ICASP project. This multi-media exhibit celebrated the graphic scores and compositional works of nine Quebecbased composers, Sandeep Bhagwati, Brian Cherney, Andrew Culver, Jean Derome, Lori Freedman, Malcolm Goldstein, Joane Hétu, Robert Marcel Lepage, and Danielle Palardy Roger. Together, the two exhibits create a trans-province and transuniversity musical and visual collaboration.

Graphic Scores

Graphic notation and graphic scores use non-traditional symbols, text, photographs, and/or visual art to represent musical instructions, performance techniques, and sonic gestures. While there is a history of graphic notation going back a millennium in the Western musical tradition, it was not until the 1950s and 1960s that this form of composition began to gain widespread awareness and use in North America and Europe. During this time, graphic notation became a platform for composers and musicians to explore the ways in which other forms of visual, sonic, and compositional possibilities could be created, documented, and opened. This period has been very influential to current compositional practices and musical contexts—practices and contexts within which the 14 composers/ artists in this exhibit work and represent their art.

Graphic scores have continued to gain prominence over the last few decades, not only for their ability to represent more diverse forms of musical instructions and soundscapes, but also for their social and political implications. Throughout their use, graphic scores have begun to break down some of the barriers within the musical performance sphere, which often situate composers over performers over audience members. Furthermore, graphic scores have attempted to decentre some of the authority of the composer, and in so doing, have gone some distance in reducing the power of the composer, and in giving over more agency to musicians and audiences alike.


Graphic scores for experimental music use non-traditional symbols to convey information about the performance of a piece of music. They are artworks that creatively blur the distinction between music and visual art. Since graphic scores are often indeterminate and allow for larger degrees and areas of freedom for expression, interpretation, and performance, they have the potential to invite performers, and even audience members, to interact with the piece and to create music in ways they may not conventionally have felt possible, comfortable with, or included within. Graphic scores invite conversations between and among the composers, musicians, and audience members, and it is in this spirit of invoking and inspiring dialogue that we invite you to experience this exhibit and interact within the spaces created by the unification of the visual and sonic arts. Welcome… hear… listen… vision… enjoy!

Exhibit Organizers

One of the mandates of the ICASP project is to support and advance student-led research and involvement, and like the exhibit at McGill University, the Guelph extension of Hearing-Visions-Sonores, was almost entirely student-organized and student-led, with ICASP director, Professor Ajay Heble overseeing the exhibit.

Ashlee Cunsolo Willox (Guelph)
Project Director

Kenneth Doren (Guelph)
Videographer & Media Editor

Yvan Tétreault (McGill)
Layout & Graphic Arts Creator

Andrew Hankinson (McGill)
Website Coordinator

Professor Jerrard Smith (Guelph)
Exhibit Design & Layout

Brandon Carroll, with assistance from François Mouillot and Professor Frédérique Arroyas (Guelph)
French Translations

Exhibit biographical and explanatory essays were written by Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, with assistance from Professor Ajay Heble and the composers. Final proofing for the exhibit was done by Ashlee Cunsolo Willox, Elizabeth Groeneveld, Brandon Carroll and Professor Frédérique Arroyas.

University of Guelph Library assistance was provided by:

Michael Ridley (Guelph)
Chief Information Officer (CIO)

Cort Egan (Guelph)
Senior Communications Officer

Kirk Sprague (Guelph)
Manager, Facilities Services

Jeff Walker (Guelph)
Manager, Information Technology

We would like to extend many thanks to the McGill exhibit team — Professor Eric Lewis, Hélène Laurin, Meghan L. Dryzak, Cynthia Leive, Yvan Tétreault, Marielle Andrée Groven, and Andrew Hankinson—for their advice, guidance, and on-going assistance throughout this process. Merci beaucoup!

Our sincerest thanks and appreciation is extended to the composers and artists in this exhibit—Germaine Liu, Nick Loess, Joe Sorbara, Jesse Stewart, and Scott Thomson—for providing their time, scores, music, advice, and inspiration to this project.

Presentation of the Montreal Exhibit

Hearing/Visions/Sonores is an exhibit focusing on a selection of contemporary Québec-based ­composers who incorporate both ­notation and improvisation into their musical works, or question the dichotomy altogether.

Under the overall management of ICASP (Improvisation, Community and Social Practice, a SSHRC MCRI centered at the University of Guelph), and in partnership with the Daniel Langlois Foundation, McGill University Library, and the McGill University Schulich School of Music, this exhibit is to mark the progress of one research component of ICASP, namely to collect, catalogue, archive, and make publicly available, the “graphic scores” of composers who foreground improvisation in their musical works. We view this exhibit as a tool for furthering both the study and appreciation of these composer’s scores and music.

The exhibit features nine of the many Québec-based composers who choose to employ this compositional practice: Sandeep Bhagwati, Brian Cherney, Andrew Culver, Jean Derome, Lori Freedman, Malcolm Goldstein, Joane Hétu, Robert M. Lepage and Danielle Palardy Roger. With diverse musical backgrounds, these composers, as a group, manifest a variety of ways of bringing improvisation and composition “into dialogue,” and employ a fascinating array of notational methods. As the interviews with the artists demonstrate, they each have their own reasons for composing as they do, and the scores on display reflect each unique compositional vision.

For each composer the exhibit presents biographical information, a display of example scores, text concerning each score, and a video interview with the composer, including musical examples of the scores on display. The exhibit has an associated website:, where the full interviews can be viewed, and studied. In the ­future this website will contain further ­information concerning these ­composers and their work, and will expand to ­consider a greater ­collection of composers.

ICASP focuses on student-lead ­research, and this project was ­designed, and implemented by a group of McGill based student/scholars. This exhibit is created by:

Hélène Laurin
Project Director

Meghan L. Dzyak
Project Assistant Director

Marielle Andrée Groven
Musicology Assistant

Yvan Tétreault
Layout and Graphic Arts Assistant

Andrew Hankinson
Website Coordinator

Video shooting and editing was done by Patrick Andrew Boivin, an independent video consultant. Project oversight and implementation was provided by Cynthia Leive, Director of the Marvin Duchow Music Library, and Professor Eric Lewis, McGill Coordinator, ICASP.

Exhibit biographical texts were written by Meghan L. Dzyak. Explanatory texts were written by Marielle Andrée Groven, with assistance by Hélène Laurin. Translations were provided by Hélène Laurin, with assistance by Martine Rhéaume.

We especially thank the composers for their generosity with respect to their time, scores, music and advice.

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Copyright 2009. Last modified on February 23, 2009