René Mogensen

Comparison of Comprehensibility of Analytical Representations of Electroacoustic Music: Pictographic versus Symbolic

Stéphane Roy (2003) and Lasse Thoresen (2007) propose two different approaches to analytical notation of electroacoustic music: Roy's approach is pictographic while Thoresen's is a symbol system. Both approaches have been proposed for the purpose of producing practical listening scores that have analytical usefulness. Each bases his approach on Nattiez's (1990 [1987]) semiology of music, but Thoresen modifies the semiological tripartition and allows the listener to actively determine the listening mode employed, whereas Roy adapts Nattiez's 'neutral' listening mode.
In practice, how does Thoresen's symbol system compare to Roy's pictographic representations of electroacoustic sound, in terms of musicians' comprehension of sonic characteristics? How accessible are these approaches to musicians who are not specialists in electroacoustic music?

To begin to answer these questions, I conducted an experiment to compare how the two approaches could facilitate the creation of listening scores by non-specialists. I used the same works that Roy and Thoresen analysed: Points de Fuite by composer Francis Dhomont (Roy 2003) and Les objects obscurs by composer Åke Parmerud (Thoresen 2009). The subjects were conservatoire student musicians and composers who had little or no previous experiences of these particular approaches to representation of sound. I examine the subjects' attempts at transcriptions of the two works using the two approaches. Then I consider the subjects' written and spoken comments, that resulted from their introductions to learning these approaches for representation of sound.
In response to the experiment results, I propose a higher level transcription approach that adapts transformation analysis (Lewin 1993) for work segmentation. This approach seems compatible with detail from both pictographic and symbolic notations, and may be more immediately accessible for non-specialists.