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Acoustic Orienteering (Guelph)

Nick Loess

Published: 2011-02-23

A visual and aural exploration of the acoustic animation of downtown Guelph, Ontario involving a number of musicians performing on the basic of 'cartographic scores' that guide their route through the city.

Scott Thomson has composed a series of conceptually related pieces with the aim to animate public spaces with music and to create a provocatively unconventional relationship between musicians and their audience. His scores are not merely graphic in nature; they are cartographic. In essence, he uses maps to define spatial and temporal relationships between musicians, and between musicians and listeners. While most music scores prescribe acoustic activities while leaving performance contexts undefined (or defined, by default, through convention), Thomson’s cartographic scores propose how players and/or listeners move, while leaving the musical content up to the skilled improvisers for whom the pieces are composed. Typically, he creates a context in which listeners cannot hear all of the music and thus, must choose whom they wish to hear, using the score (which doubles as an event program) as a guide, though a more serendipitous experience of the works without reference to the score is equally appealing. This performance dynamic grants audience members agency that mirrors the decision-making process that improvising musicians engage in performance.

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Improvisation is a human right

– Muhal Richard Abrams