Joey Bargsten

updated 10.10.2013 by rrs


Trio for Brass and Digital Film "Ixion":

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?

JB: First a little background: I've been interested in expanding notation almost since I started composing, and my first works that stepped outside standard notation were written in 1983. Using the recently released Sony Walkman, I created multiple tempo-tracks for instrumentalists to achieve Eliot Carter-like multiple-tempi work. Next, I created multiple pitch-tracks to allow vocalists to produce very dense pitch-clusters (even microtonal ones) very quickly, in addition to expressing multiple tempi. Most of these techniques were incorporated into my first multi-media chamber opera sound chaser/soul chaser (1984-1986).

My first expansion of the visual presentation of notation happened in 1998.

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

JB: In 1998, I began working on Web Symphony™, v. 1 (screenshot at ). It ran as either a stand-alone Mac application or in a browser with the Shockwave plug-in on desktop or laptop Macs or PCs. Basically, individual orchestral players would run the application and a randomly selected fragment of notation about four or five beats in duration would appear. The time interval between appearances of the notation was also random, but within a range of several seconds to a minute. A 'solo' button generated notation more or less continuously, with up to only a few seconds between notation generations. The player could click the 'rest' button to generate rests of various lengths (sort of a sly wink to Cage's 4:33), and the stop/back button would pause the notation generating process.

Other options generated particular vocabulary elements that could be combined in any manner: regular pulse, long tones, soft, loud, all dynamics, special effects. I had created these electronic 'parts' for violin, viola, 'cello, and bass. The work was buggy, especially the online, Shockwave version.

Web Symphony™ v. 1.0 has never been performed. I was between academic appointments at the time, and when I did return to teaching, it was in the Digital Art program at University of Oregon, and my interests turned to much of the visual side of interactivity and digital film.

My next version of visual notation generation was 10 years later, with mNotation™ (2009 - present), built in Adobe Flash and running in a browser ( It's the same general principle-a random generator of notation for individual instruments. The current version is much more stable, and has a built-in metronome for more accurate tempi. Parts are currently available for all strings and brass, with the woodwind parts in various states of development. I like to say mNotation™ possesses infinite mixability!

Since mNotation™ was created for any number or combination of instruments for any length of time, scores provide an additional level of structure. Scores incorporating mNotation™ include my String Quartet, a Sextet (instrumentation not specified) and Trio for Brass and Digital Film IXION, all from 2010. The Trio was performed at the opening dedication of the Living Room Theater/Culture and Society Building on the FAU main campus in Boca Raton, FL, in November 2010. It lasted about 45 minutes.

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

JB: With both mNotation™ and the earlier Web Symphony™, I wanted to find a way to invite live musicians to participate in the random and indeterminant processes I had been applying to visuals, animations, text, narrative, and digital sound in my ongoing multimedia work Bad Mind Time™ (fl. 1995 - 2003) ( I wanted to create an open-ended, modular system that would involve orchestral players in a way that was neither improvisation nor playing from a static score.

mNotation™ seemed to be a logical and organic expansion of the Bad Mind Time™ aesthetic, as well as a way to expand static, live, or interactive visuals with performative elements supplied by highly skilled musicians in a way that was also 'cut from the same cloth', vis-a-vis interaction and rich digital media.

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

JB: Currently, I'm trying to mount a production of my digital media / iPod opera Anatomy of Melancholy™ (originally composed between 2002 and 2005). mNotation™ would be used as a way of bringing a full orchestra into the 'mix': since the vocal parts are iPod (shuffle-mode) based, using mNotation™ would be a no-brainer. There's also a through-composed electronic score to provide a foundation of "rhythmic textures projected through a timbral post-apocalyptic landscape of late 20th/early21st century electronic and digital detritus and sonic trash".

"Joey Bargsten has been composing music and creating experimental media and films since 1978.

His music has been played by the Indianapolis Symphony and the St. Paul Chamber Orchestra, and has been featured at the New York University film festival, the Atlanta Arts Festival, and on National Public Radio's International Concert Hall.

He received awards from the New Media INVISION Competition and PRINT Magazine's Interaction 2000 Annual for BAD MIND TIME(tm) (, an interactive CD-ROM/DVD/website that has been described as "a charming personal entertainment system where Joycean puns and references to game shows collide randomly in an idiosyncratic homage to twentieth century art and pop culture." (-Print Magazine). BAD MIND TIME(tm) also won the audience award at the 2004 Stuttgart Filmwinter Expanded Media Festival, and was included in the 2005 Web Bienniale.

He recently completed his digital do-it-yourself iPod opera, Anatomy of Melancholy(tm), and has presented excerpts at the College Art Association Conference, and at Future Music Oregon. His digital film American Sock(tm) (2001) was included in the 2002 Fluxus International Digital Festival, and won a Silver International Design Award from Broadcast Design Association (Los Angeles, 2002). His search-engine art film PROJEK IAGHT(tm) (2005) was shown at the New York Minute Film Festival, and the San Francisco Bay-enniale (2005).

Joey Bargsten has taught at University of Iowa, Georgia Tech, Atlanta College of Art and University of Oregon. He is currently teaching in the School of Communications and Multimedia Studies at Florida Atlantic University. "[1]

1. "Bio,", accessed November 30, 2013,


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