Projecting the Pen

Research Project of Harry Whalley

Live Composition using pen, paper and projector for String Quartet - Harry Whalley and the Gildas Quartet July 2019

to Create and perform spontaneously or without preparation
— Improvisation

In 'Project the Pen' I use an Overhead projector (OHP) to write music in real time for musicians to perform and interpret. The boundary of improvisation and composition is challenged through this process. With the exhibition of the written score there is a concurrent representation and realisation of the music by the performing musicians, and a single reference point for an audience to understand and consider. The dichotomy between score (artifact) and music (sound) made manifest; making evident not just what the score conveys to a musician, but also what it doesn't. In all musical genre, there is an understood level of required interpretation by a musician. In Baroque music musicians will interpret dynamics and ornaments, whereas in Jazz musicians can improvise freely depending on their location and role within a score. Related to other ‘comprovisational’ practices such as live coding or conduction, ‘projecting the pen’ is an adaptable practice. The techniques allow for an intuitive approach combining graphic notation, Lutoslawski inspired aleatoric boxes, standard notation, chord symbols. Each workshop and performance has been a new negotiation with the ensemble as the expectations of performers, composer and conductor are created. This dialogue, as described by Bruce Ellis Benson is a broad definition of improvisation which extends from composer, performer to the audience. This phenomenology of music forms part of the theoretical underpinnings of my work. I first experimented with this technique in 2012 and developed it more fully with the Tinderbox Project since 2014. It has been performed with full orchestra, Jazz Ensembles and String Quartets at the Hidden Door Festival, Edinburgh Summer Hall, Edinburgh Jazz Bar, Liverpool University and London Eklectic.