Contour, Motion and Gesture in Abstract Score Animation: a First Approach

Gerald Moshammer


This study examines the creation of animated music scores through the ‘bracketing’ of musical motion. The aesthetic claim that music could be perceived in terms of (spatial) motion is tested by means of abstract animations in the form of straightforward, one might say ‘naïve’, mappings of musical parameters onto space.

The proposed method establishes detailed blueprints of movement that (i) differ essentially from coarse motion types like those suggested by the German pioneers Becking and Truslit, (ii) are the result of interpretative ‘hands-on’ modeling rather than products of reductive algorithms (iii) depart from systematic methodological considerations with regard to contour, motion and gesture that sets our method apart from idiosyncratic (abstract) animation artwork.

A comparison between simple ‘duration-loudness’ animations with the visualization of pitch-based trajectories concretizes the aesthetic speculation about spatial metaphors being involved in the perception of music. Score animation suggests that motion types could be instantiated in both the visual and the audible realms and thus complement rhythmic and accentuated structure as a transferable autonomous ‘synaesthetic’ phenomenon. However, our approach provides evidence that with the ‘spatial’ variability between two diachronic notes, kinematic or tempo-based models of expressive timing ignore a crucial factor. We demonstrate that only with reference to this hidden musical parameter can one understand what could be seen a paradox: that when music’s pulse slows, its motion can still accelerate.


Musical Gesture, Musical Motion, Music Semiotics, Expressive Timing, Music Visualization

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