ERC funding

This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under the DigiScore project, grant agreement No 101002086

Sunday, November 7, 2021


An early decision was that all the participating artists will be d/Deaf, hard-of-hearing or neurodivergent. One of the 'Digital Scores' project's high level objectives is to find out:

"how new computational technologies, integrated as innovative music score systems, can lead to the communication of innovative music ideas, new music experiences, novel compositional approaches, new performance opportunities and music-making engagements, and broader accessibility for musicians of traditional and non-traditional backgrounds"

My own work with Aural Diversity and on Spectrum Sounds arises out of my hearing loss and autism, so this just seems natural. I am also interested to test the "double empathy" theory in a musical setting. In creating Spectrum Sounds, I found some examples of what I perceive to be particularly effective communication between autistic musicians and myself. I wonder whether that is just something that applies to me, or whether it could operate between other autistic musicians too.

All this led to a crucial decision about the identities of the participants, with which I have been grappling for the past month or so. The budget allows for three or possibly four others apart from myself. I'm not greatly involved in the music business, so I know relatively few people anyway, which narrows the field. However, making the right decision has been very difficult. Part of me wants to work with people I already know well, for security, but another part of me wants to break away from that and do new things. 

To resolve this, I made a spreadsheet of a 'pool' of potential participants, indicating their status as autistic or not, hard of hearing or not, what instruments they play, whether they are composers, and any other relevant notes about them. This is where the novelty of the digital score really began to hit home, because some would be relatively new to anything like this, while others would have more experience but might still have difficulties with the approach.

I initially drew up three scenarios:

  • Scenario 1: I create the score(s) and the musicians only perform.

In this scenario I would only use people who play instruments. Composers would be used only for their instrumental abilities.

  • Scenario 2: form a composer’s ensemble and have everybody compose scores

In this scenario, it’s a question of who would be the right composers and also who would play the music? If it is the composers playing their own music, then will that work well?

  • Scenario 3: work with one other composer and two musicians only

The advantage of this is that both composers would have some good specialist musicians to call upon.

In the end, I have settled on a different scenario again, and plan to invite two composer-instrumentalists and one instrumentalist-only. The desire to work again with people I already know has won out, because I need to have confidence that they will be able to adapt to the requirements of the project. These individuals may yet decline the invitation, so I am not naming names at this point, but I have fairly high confidence that they will participate. One is an autistic instrumentalist, another is not autistic but has severe-to-profound hearing loss and is a composer and instrumentalist, and the third has heightened listening differences, such as hyperacusis, due to autism.

Some of the others on my list were fascinating and terrific artists, but coming from a tradition of contemporary classical music that shows little evidence of engaging with the digital world. These artists write or perform "dots" scores in a way that is well established and traditional. I didn't want to exclude this group completely, so one of my chosen artists is a well known performer of that type. It will be interesting to see how that artist responds to the challenges. 

The other two can inhabit that world of contemporary classical music, but also work in a variety of other ways including improvisation and digital composition. They exist more on the margins of established musical society - to some extent they are outsiders, which I also consider myself. Finally, the sonic palette available across this quartet is satisfyingly broad, so the potential for many different forms of musical experience exists.

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