new dark art


This project aims to explore and demonstrate the ways in which improvisation, notation and conducting practices used in medieval music can inform and extend my practice in composing for creative musicians.


I first made a survey of the practical techniques used in music of the early to middle Medieval period that were geared towards

From this, I made some critical decisions about notation, composition and intent. I tested the techniques through a composition with score and directions, lasting around thirty minutes; and a music theory treatise. This was documented in video (above) and a short written commentary.


First, I didn't want the music I created to sound like (or be a pastiche of) medieval music, or be a blend of "medieval music" with "jazz". The idea was to make use of the ideas around the organising of improvisation within composition of that period: not to use that time's improvisational language.

Second, this was not about conducting (or spontaneously directing) totally improvised music, although I'm sure the research I did could feed into this area of my work. I wanted to control the flow and nature of improvisation using conducting and notation, which in turn is informed by a composition.

Third, the scores I produced had to head towards a "universality" in that they should be playable by musicians of almost any technical skill level, yet still retain the intention of the composition as I perceive it, when I hear it. This had a direct effect on the techniques I chose: they had to be transferable, comprehensible, unambiguous and readily (if not easily!) learned. Although I did not achieve all this within the time I had for the research project, there is a sense of approaching the aims.