Arthur Clay

updated 9.1.2013 by rrs


China Gates:

The following interview was conducted via an email questionnaire in mid-2013 by Ryan Ross Smith.

RRS: When did you start using animated notation in your work?

AC: Notation is something that a composer is always confronted with and it his or her challenge to use or create a notation that not only communicates content that needs to be reproduced by the performer, but also to allow for the possibility of "interpretation".

Interpretation, or artistic freedom varies from period to period and from score to score. There is more freedom in earlier musics such as Couperin's Preludes non measure versus Stockhausen's Klavierstücke. Cage, for example, took a different approach and saw the performer as a kind of factor that made it impossible for a work to be reproduced in a predicable manner.

In my work, even in the most earliest, the creative input of the performer has always been important and the development of the notation in my work has always been a key factor in allowing the performer to influence it through the factor of interpretation.

So to get back to the question, I started using animated notation in even my first works in the late 1980s. Of course,the term "animated" has not really been defined and I confronted here with it for the first time. The may may refer to notation that is more like a graphic animation which is malleable but no variable. So in the early works such as "Melopomne, Erato & Polymnie" (1992) for Viola da Gamba Solo. The score is actually to be created anew before the performance throw the use of 64 color coded chopsticks, which are also used later in the performance to stop the strings. Here the score can be said to be "malleable" and open to "creative interoperation", placing the performer in the role of interpreter and as the composer of the work, because in end effect it was he or she that made the score.

Other works are Ballon Music (1989) Trois Stoppage Etalon (1993) and "A River and Five Bridges" (1997). The first electronically driven, or if understand it correctly fully "animated" score would be "GoingPublik" (2006). The later work being based on the earlier and all experiments in notation culminating in GoingPublik.

RRS: What was the first piece you created using animated notation?

AC: Well, as stated above I am not sure what animated refers to, but for me it would be for me "Melopomne, Erato & Polymnie" and for you perhaps even Going Publik. The later have no score existing outside of the computer generated one, and the former having one that must be constructed by the performer before the concert. Both notation systems are completely graphic and based on a grid system, where both share the flow of time on the x axis, but have nothing in common with each other on the y axis.

RRS: What led you to start using animated notation? [This could be aesthetic/artistic concerns, technological experimentation, a bet and/or dare, etc.]

AC: The fact that I was interested in having the performer play a more creative role in the (re)production of my work and also the dissatisction of playing scores that were "overstated" and which are almost devoid of the possibility of interpreting. A score can take on a social element and as Cage noted that a ecore is in a way a model of a society in which freedom plays a large role.

The other factor is that one wants to experiment and create new sounds and most of this experimentation with notation was needed, because I was working at times with live electronics, which demands new ways of notation.

Last but not least an experiment in coding lead me to the conclusion that human interact is truly a factor in making music. Creating software applications to recreate the performance of works by Cage, Wolf and Stockhausen which had diverse aspects of indeterminacy, proved that a work interpreted by a computer versus a human vary greatly, only because the human performer is prone to "miss" detail and make errors of up to 30%.

So creating works that are impossible to play and/or which have no instructions for performance is also a method to create malleability in a score.

RRS: Where there particular compositions/notational approaches/technologies/video games/etc. that exerted any influence over your [early and/or present] work?

AC: Not really. One of the main factors was working with diverse musicians, who did or did not read music well. For example experimenting in the late 1980s with punk bands such as Agitpop, who could play anything by ear but not follow a score accurately enough to take a standard approach in notating it. Mulitple systems of notation were needed and a certain degree of freedom necessary - also due to the amount of inenibriants consumed before, during and after rehearsals.

RRS: How would you describe your current work with animated notation?

AC: This is hard to say, because I moved away from creating music pieces to creating sound art works for the public to interpret. The work that makes the most sense to mention here is the Book of Stamps. - a work that allows for the creating of collectively made sound scopes and one that requires no musical training, but just an interest to participate and love for all types of sounds.

Regardless of its form, the work uses a complete notation system and a computer applications that takes on the role of the notion left behind by the public - all based on my experience with coding works to study the human error factor in interpretation.


"The artist Art Clay was born in New York and lives in Basel Switzerland. He is a specialist in the performance of self created works with the use of intermedia and has appeared at international festivals, on radio and television television in Europe, Asia & North America. Recent work focus on performative works using mobile device and installation works that involve the public directly with "play". He has received awards for sound works, performance, theatre, and new media art. He has taught media and interactive arts at various Art Schools and Universities in Europe and North America. "[1]

1. Artist Biography,, accessed November 30, 2013,


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