MAMŰ Gallery

Graphic Score

on view until 5 March 2021

opening by Tamás Ungváry

Graphic score is a representation of music through the use of visual symbols outside the realm of traditional music notation. Graphic notation became popular in the 1950s, and can be used either in combination with or instead of traditional music notation. Graphic notation has been influenced by trends in contemporary visual art in its conception, but has been influenced by magic, the involvement of transcendent states in creative processes, and almost all experience of perceptions Two creative attitudes are pregnantly separated in them. On the one hand, the liberation and active involvement of performers has been in the process with more relevant freedom then in traditional sheet music. On the other hand, certain experimental music, as drone music, microtonality, intuitive and non-linear compositions simply cannot be described in the traditional way. The graphic scores of invited contemporary composers and artists in this exhibition seem to be closer to graphics than to sheet music – and to fine art as to music.


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Graphic Score

Gallery MAMŰ, Febr 12 – Marc 5. 2021


Dear visitors, we are in the MAMŰ Gallery, between February 12 and March 5 2021. This is the Graphic Score exhibition, which is an accompaniment of the Transparent Sound New Music Festival.

A few words about the Graphic Score exhibition.

Graphic score is a representation of music with the use of visual symbols, outside of the realm of traditional music notation. Graphic notation became widespread in the 1950’s, following the work of Earle Brown and John Cage.

Being a later generation, I met them for the first time in the works of Anthony Braxton and George Crumb. I still remember the effect it had on me. The gate of Arseny Tarkovsky’s secret realm in the First Meetings poem were opened.

We know that graphic score can be used either in combination with, or instead of traditional music notation. Its conception has been influenced by trends of contemporary visual art, but has also been influenced by magic, by involvement of transcendent states into creative processes, and almost all experiences of sensual perceptions.

According to the tradition, two pregnantly separate, creative attitudes can be found in them. On one hand, the liberation of performers and their active involvement in the creation of music, with more relevant freedom then in traditional sheet music. On the other hand, certain experimental and drone music, microtonality and intuitive, non-linear compositions cannot be noted in the traditional way.

Almost seventy years has passed since the beginning, so we have to ask, only these two attitudes exist, or are there a lot more?

In the past years, I have been invited in several group exhibitions with artists, showing graphic scores together with fine-art. Looking at graphic scores, the common reaction was that it has to be heard. But should it be? – I asked. That’s why the idea was born to exhibit graphic scores of composers in a contemporary gallery, and not in a concert hall.

‘In this exhibition the works of composers and artists seem to be closer to graphics than to sheet music – rather to fine art than to music’ I wrote in the preface of the exhibition.

Is it important to draw borders and create categories? I don’t know.

Below I will share with you some useful and useless reflections about the exhibited graphic scores.

Early pieces from Marek Choloniewski and Katalin Ladik are from the70’s, Bostjan Perovsek sent his composition from 1982, János Kalmár and Ákos Révész were invited to create works for this exhibition, and graphic scores of all others were born between these two dates.

The sheet music of six composers are temporal, that means it can be read from left to right, they are Judit Varga, Bálint Baráth, Bálint Bolcsó, Thanos Chrysakis, Máté Balogh, and Boris Janje.

All other graphic scores cannot be determined by time interval.

Works of Elisa Ulian, Elisabeth Kelvin and Péter Mátrai should be read horizontally, Tamás Ungváry, Zsolt Koroknai, Marek Choloniewski, János Kalmár, Ákos Révész and Zsolt Gyenes can be approached voluntarily, can be played in cycloidal curve, from right to left, from left to right, and there are two instantly unfurling pieces in the videos of Zlatko Baracskai and Balázs Kovács.

Sheet music is the work of Máté Balogh, Thanos Chrysakis and Judit Varga, semi-free notations are works of Attila Dóra, Bálint Bolcsó, Boris Janje and Elisabeth Kelvin, and fully open graphic scores are created by Katalin Ladik, Ákos Révész and Radim Hanousek.

Thanos Chrysakis, Máté Balogh and Bostjan Perovsek wrote on specific instruments,

David Karla, Samu Gryllus and Alan Courtis gives complete freedom, and Judit Varga incorporates the exact notes of bouncing ping-pong balls and turning pages of a book into her instrumental music.

Drone music and microtonality appears in the works of Bálint Baráth, Alan Courtis and Gergő Sós, and we can find freedom and improvisation within given forms of composition in graphic scores of Radim Hanousek and Attila Dóra.

Usually graphic scores are written by authors, but those of Radim Hanousek were drawn by Olga Piperová and David Karla works with visual artist Jen Parker.

If I approach from the point of of intention, I can see action in creation of the existing piece in everyone, although Marek Choloniewski, Tamás Ungváry and Katalin Ladik stands out from this line, because they have brought graphic scores that I cannot imagine how they will become music.

Is it important at all to have music that can be performed and heard?

What can we say about emotions that has been an integral part of the European music history for a long time. If we look at our lives as a mandala, we know that emotion is a consequence of karma. Here among the exhibited works, the emphatic role of emotions are questioned in the works of Gergő Sós and Tamás Ungváry.

Can we face the fact that we, the viewers are projecting the expected emotions into the graphic scores?

In Buddhist meditation lights and colours are associated with the state of the higher stages.

And what happens after that? Listening to sounds on the threshold of exit.

According to these thoughts we should ask about the exhibition:

Can the sight of a graphic score be detached from aesthetics?

How long do I have to look at a graphic score to hear the music in it?

Where are the boundaries of graphic notation anyway?

Can the graphic score be a photo? Or a video?

Could we still say following John Cage that: “Every single activity relies on itself, that is composition, performance, and listening to music are separate activities”?

The memory of an Adriatic afternoon, with the roar of the tide and the scent of lavender – could be a score?

Attila Dóra

Curator of Graphic Score

Mátyásföld, Febr 24. 2021



  • Dóra Attila