The Performer Considered: A Critical Guide on the Notation of Extended Techniques to Improve Legibility

The repertoire for my M.M. recital draws heavily from the twentieth century and includes a piece I composed for première on this program: my Concerto for Flute and Orchestra. The concerto relies on the use of so-called “extended” techniques for the flute, or techniques that are outside of the conventional method of playing. In composing this piece, it was prudent to consider the notation and efficacy of these techniques which often lack a standard convention. Music notation is an inherently flawed system. It relies on the use of static symbols to represent an activity that is intrinsically tied to time. I examine the problem of notating extended techniques within my new concerto as well as a number of the recital repertoire pieces and criticize such approaches from a perspective of information design. Through this approach, a more efficient notation emerges that is capable of rapidly communicating a huge amount of information by eliminating extraneous steps at every stage of reading and performing. The concerto’s score is included in this report, which can serve as a model employing the criticisms discussed herein. I contend that the minimum amount of cognitive effort needed to understand the correct execution of a technique is ideal and that by maintaining a critical dialogue through the compositional and editorial processes toward this end, greater clarity can be achieved.