Notation and Scoring Ideas (or: Dealing with One-‘Note’ Music)

My compositional approach has shifted in recent years. I use increasing amounts of open notation, open instrumentation and other such things now, which has given me cause to question what certain facets of music-making mean to me; chiefly the score, notation in general, approaches to performance, my relationship with performers, the whole business of rendering ideas, and so on. A short while ago I noticed a call for works with an unusual slant: the music had to be short and for one note only. The idea captivated me (in spite of my personal resolution not to write new works for open calls and competitions any more… ah well). On one hand the idea of music for one note is extremely limiting, but on the other it draws attention to the sheer potential within the concept of a single ‘note’. Undoubtedly, this has a lot to do with ‘note’ being so poorly defined; is a note a pitch, a dot on a page, a sound, a particular kind of tone… what? Most significantly the call made me think carefully about developing features of my work that I simply haven’t got round to scrutinising in any particularly useful way. What follows is, roughly speaking, the mental journey I’ve subsequently taken and, I hasten to add, not finished.