Thursday, 8:20am
3 October 2013

Sonic treasure chest

Graphic scores go on the road – played by an alchemical, avant-garde supergroup of musicians prepared to turn line, type and image into sound

This month, an ensemble of five extraordinary musicians takes to the road to perform graphic scores (see ‘Sound code image’ in Eye 26).

In that article, John L. Walters wrote: ‘A score … is a diagram, a recipe, a route-map and an exhortation to perform. … Each score is a chest of treasures that can be unlocked by performers and interpreters not yet born, a code or puzzle to be solved in time.’

Rainer Wehinger, Ligeti Artikulation.
Top: George Crumb, The Magic Circle of Infinity (Moto Perpetuo), 1972. Part 8 of Makrokosmos Volume I, commissioned by pianist
David Burge.


The programme includes some of the most famous (or notorious) examples of graphic scores from the postwar era, including work by Crumb, Ligeti, Cage, Cardew and Berberian, whose Stripsody will be sung by Elaine Mitchener.

Cathy Berberian’s Stripsody, 1966. Comic-book drawings and lettering by illustrator Roberto Zamarin.


The other four musicians in this avant-garde ‘supergroup’ are Isambard Khroustaliov (aka Sam Britton, electronics), Tom Arthurs (trumpet), Oliver Coates (cello) and Joanna MacGregor (piano). The programme includes a mix of solo, duo, trio and ensemble pieces.

Turning such squiggles, smudges, symbols and signs into coherent music requires a special kind of musical alchemy, a familiarity with improvisation and courage.

Page 133 of Treatise, 1963-67, by Cornelius Cardew.

Cardew Treatise P133

The programme includes several graphic scores by polymath Tom Phillips, including Ornamentik, which some Eye readers may remember from our first-ever ‘Archive Night’ at the Victoria & Albert Museum.

Tom Phillips, Ornamentik.


The tour kicks off tonight at the Turner Sims Hall in Southampton, and continues with concerts in Manchester (4 Oct), Gateshead (5 Oct), London (6 Oct), Leeds (11 Oct) and Oxford (12 Oct).

George Crumb, Crucifixus [Symbol], from Makrokosmos, Volume I, 1972, the fourth of twelve pieces.


Oliver Coates on cello.


Tour details:

3 October: Southampton, Turner Sims 8pm, £20 (£19 conc / £18 friends / £10 students), 023 8059 5151, pre-concert talk with Tom Phillips RA and John L. Walters of Eye magazine at 7pm, free to ticket holders

4 October: Manchester, Royal Northern College of Music 7.30pm, £12 (conc avail), 0161 907 5555, pre-concert talk with Joe Scarffe at 6.30pm, free to ticket holders

5 October: Gateshead, Sage Gateshead 8pm, £19.50, 0191 443 4661, pre-concert talk with Joe Scarffe at 7pm, free to ticket holders

6 October: London, LSO St Lukes 7.30pm, £22 (£19 conc) / £15 (£12.50 conc) / £10, 020 7638 8891, pre-concert talk with Tom Phillips RA and John L. Walters of Eye magazine at 6.45pm, free to ticket holders

10 October: Leeds, Howard Assembly Room 7.30pm, £12.50 (conc avail), 0844 848 2727, Pre-concert talk with Joe Scarffe at 6.15pm, free to ticket holders

11 October: Oxford, St John The Evangelist, promoted by Oxford Contemporary Music 8pm, £17 (£15 conc), £14 (£10 conc), 01865 305 305, pre-concert talk with Joe Scarffe at 7pm, free to ticket holders

The tour was planned in collaboration with Theresa Sauer, the editor of Notations21. Unfortunately Ms Sauer is unable to come to the UK.

Isambard Khrostaliov.

Isambard Khrostaliov

Spread from ‘Sound code image’ in Eye 26.

Soundcodeimage Eye26 pp.24-25

Eye is the world’s most beautiful and collectable graphic design journal, published quarterly for professional designers, students and anyone interested in critical, informed writing about graphic design and visual culture. It is available from all good design bookshops and online at the Eye shop, where you can buy subscriptions, back issues and single copies of the latest issue.