…the play that links them amongst themselves… Plato’s Pharmacy - Jacques Derrida

Clare Lesser

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contribution


Whether given willingly (or knowingly) or not, there is always a collaborative space left between the composer and performer, where each allows the other the agency to create. This is the space where the sign, the mark on the paper (or screen) is subject to the endless play of substitution, of choice, where the mute mark has the possibility to become an audible action – whether musical or not. So how does this notation operate, and in particular, how does non-standard notation, with its supplementary and frequently linguistically ‘fluid’ glossaries and pages of instructions, work; where we have the play in language, the play of the mark, and the play of the body (in its role as interpreter), in combination? As a totalising, organising principle which limits the play of the structure or the audible event that is produced, or as a means to allow the full play of substitution, of supplementarity between performer and composer in a kind of myth of notation that by its very nature must try to resist totalisation?
Using concepts drawn from the work of Jacques Derrida, with particular reference to Structure, Sign and Play in the Discourse of the Human Sciences (2001), this presentation will consider the implications of Derrida’s work for non-standard notation in Hans-Joachim Hespos’ Weiβschatten (2017), John Cage’s Four⁶ (1992) and Karlheinz Stockhausen’s Pole (1969), and how the relationship between the composer and performer is in a constant state of flux, forming a mobile hierarchy; where collaboration, although fully present, is always performed at a remove; where improvisation is not only possible, but unavoidable, and where the element of surprise, for both composer and performer, is key.
Original languageEnglish (US)
Title of host publicationInstitute for Musical Research, Conference: 'Notation for Improvisers', University of London, UK
StatePublished - Feb 9 2019


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