Immage v.s. text

Use of images and text in a music score

When writing contemporary music using an extended instrumental technique, the question often arises whether it is better to use imagery or text for explanation. Here is a simple example:
The opening measures of Hilmar Thórdarson, Kuuki no Sukima 3rd. movement.
In the beginning, the string instruments play bartók pizzicato a knock on instrument body and a pizzicato. These actions are notated first with the common sign of bartók pizz. (circle with a line) then a special notation for the knock on wood with texted explanation and finally the standard pizz. articulation sign. This is a perfect example of a combination of the use of “classical” signs and newer notation (knock on instrument body) that needs to be explained with text. Although explained in the instruction page at the beginning of the score it still needs to be explained at the beginning of the passage. This has to do with the fact that there is still no standard notation for the knock-on instrument action. The performer needs to have it explained in text the first time the technique is introduced and depending on the frequency of use it might or might not need to be repeated. On the fourth beat of the first measure, the string instruments play double-stop harmonics from the highest possible notes of indicated string. This action is indicated with a texted explanation (Double stop harmonics…) and graphically notated notes consisting of arrow notes (indicating highest notes) and diamond-shaped notes (indicating harmonics). Since both of these signs, the arrow, and triangle-shaped notes have now become part of the standard notational library the texted explanation is not necessary. The composer has chosen to emphasize the technique as the continuation is somewhat special.