Score Analysis

Charles Ives

Symphony No. 4

John Cage

Concert for Piano and Orchestra

Michael Maierhof

Zonen 6

Alexander Khubeev

Ghost of Dystopia

Alexander Schubert

Point Ones

Simon Steen-Andersen


Score Analysis

Score Analysis

In the following papers and presentations, I have systematically analyzed six pieces of new music in which composers and/or artistic directors have brought into question the role of the conductor or somehow modified it either through augmentation, strict choreography, physical mapping, personnel doubling, or through a combination of any or all of these. During this phase of my research, I hypothesized artistic and socio-economic motivations behind the utilization of a conductor that can be divided into five separate criteria that are described in detail below. My aim was to test these criteria in order to better understand the composers' and artistic directors' motivations and thus begin to define a scope of responsibilities for performance practice of conductors in new music.

Hypothesis: five criteria for utilizing a conductor today in new music

I hypothesized that the following three non-exclusive actors in new music determine the utilization of a conductor:


  • Artistic directors today decide the direction of their organizations from a goal-oriented standpoint. The selection of artists is not habitual, but a clear and active expression of their vision.
  • Composers can de facto force the decision and are often present during the production phase.
  • Musicians in the last five decades have undergone increased professionalization and are more involved in such decisions.


In futherance I hypothesized and tested five detectable non-exclusive criteria considered when making said determination:


  • the artistic and substantive input of the intended conductor;
  • the presence of the conductor as subject being central to the piece;
  • economy (as in required or available rehearsal time, difficulty of the music, and tradition);
  • the perceived perception of the audience of a piece, program, and/or conductor;
  • and the conductor’s key-gestures and movement repertoire are an integral part of the piece – both musically and visually, his/her presence is not a secondary phenomenon of the music.)

In the preface to the 1965 Associated Music Publishers’ facsimile performance score, John Kirkpatrick, acclaimed pianist and Ives scholar, wrote of a ‘poly-conductoral procedure’ when describing the performance practice for the second movement of Charles Ives’ (1874-1954) Symphony No. 4 (1910-1916). [1] He indicated that it was not solely Ives’ score that ensured this procedure was implemented, but that it was publisher Theodore Seder who ‘finally persuaded’ Leopold Stokowski, music director and conductor of the American Symphony Orchestra, ‘of the necessity of a poly-conductoral procedure’ for the symphony’s posthumous premiere in 1965. The use of the word ‘poly-’ instead of bi-conductoral is intriguing because typical performance practice of this work usually sees only two silent conductors standing before the orchestra: a principal and an assistant. However, when a conductor is narrowly defined, borrowing from Michael Lebowitz’ political theory, as one who ‘exercises authority over the individual’ orchestral musicians, ‘[articulating] the separate powers of the individual musicians into a collective’ and thus winning ‘harmonious cooperation’, then six instances of poly-conducting appear in this specific symphonic movement. [2]

The goal of my research in general is to better understand the conductor’s role today and more specifically the possible scope(s) of conductoral responsibilities. This specific case study will analyze the six instances of poly-conductoral procedures found in the second movement of Ives’ fourth symphony to determine possible socioeconomic and artistic motivations for deploying and instrumentalizing multiple conductors.

[1] Ives, Charles, “Symphony No. 4” (Score, 1916 1910).
[2] Michael A. Lebowitz, The Contradictions of “Real Socialism”: The Conductor and the Conducted (New York: Monthly Review Press, 2012).

download paper via: Poly-Conductoral Procedure

During the ninth annual Nadar Summer Academy (NSA) in 2019 put on by MATRIX [New Music Centre] and Nadar ensemble, we tackled John Cage’s (1912-1992) Concert for Piano and Orchestra (1957-1958). The piece is fascinating and represents a turning point in performance practice. It is also demanding of all the involved players. There are no conventional rules or restrictions, but in Cage’s typical anarchistic style, suddenly everything a performer does on stage is on equal footing and holds just as much artistic significance. Everything, including: entering the stage, opening the piano, changing mutes, removing parts of the instruments, playing toys, (re)moving (tuning) slides, breathing, rests, silences, and of course conventional playing techniques such as striking keys, making crescendos and decrescendos, attacks and articulations, dynamics and note-lengths.  All of it is fair game for musical and performative interpretation.


download paper via: Like Clockwork

published on Hands-On Music 

download paper via: AMID

This piece was also the subject of an in-depth case study, link: Image of the conductor

At the premiere of Point Ones for small ensemble and augmented conductor (2012) by Alexander Schubert (1979-), I had a front row seat to Daan Janssens’ impressive performance as the augmented solo-conductor. There was an observable and palpable tension between the live electronics and live musicians, created both by Janssens’ performance and Schubert’s programming and composition. During the compelling solo-conductor’s cadenza, Janssens completely released control of the live musicians and freely explored the virtual realm afforded the conductor by the electronics.


In this paper, I will briefly explain Schubert’s score and my analysis thereof. The usage of the live electronics is considered as well as the balance that the conductor must maintain between the electronics and the live musicians. Comparable pieces are then reviewed. I will conclude this paper by determining that there are five detectable artistic and socio-economic criteria for utilizing a conductor in Point Ones.

download paper via: Hybrid Conductor

published in the proceedings of the International Conference on Live Interfaces, Trondheim, 10-12 March 2020

download paper via: Conducting Silence

published in Forum+, volume 26, issue 3, pages 64-77 

download paper via: Ghost of Dystopia

Silences are an essential part of music. When rigorously measured, like in Michael Maierhof’s Zonen 6 for guitar orchestra, silences can structure an entire composition and help the listener make sense of a piece. Their artistic usage also has a dramatic affect on the conductor’s role and performance practice. Exactly 75% of Michael Maierhof’s Zonen 6 for guitar orchestra can be described as composed and metered soundscapes played and performed by seventeen guitar players. The other 25% of the piece is comprised of measured and conducted silence. In this article, I will delve in the artistic use of these silences and examine the manner in which they frame the soundscapes and help create structure. The use of the conductor throughout these silences will also be considered, as well as the possible ways in which this affects the guitarists’ performance and the audience’s perception of the piece.

Khubeev’s work is as much spectacle as musical experience; in this piece, conductor Thomas Moore was chained to the podium, his gestures the result of attempts both to gain musical control and break free. Though Khubeev’s training is rooted in electronics, the sounds here were largely acoustic. But what sounds! The eight-piece, string-heavy ensemble creaked back and forth like a piece of rusty machinery on its last legs: an ugly but utterly compelling piece of musical grunge. [Reynolds, 2016]

Reynold’s review serves as an unambiguous introduction to Alexander Khubeev’s (1984 -) Ghost of Dystopia for ensemble and solo-conductor. The conductor, standing at the center, bound hand and foot to Khubeev’s self-made instrument employs generally recognizable conducting gestures that generate the ‘grungy’ multiphonics. The instrument is a delicate web of glass, twine, and ‘acoustic sensors’ that focuses the audience’s attention on the role of the conductor as the subject of the piece. In this paper I will explore Khubeev’s score and self-developed gestural notation for the solo- conductor. I will then explain my analysis of the conductor’s shifting role and its development throughout the piece. Lastly, detectable artistic and socio-economic motivations for utilizing a conductor in Ghost of Dystopia will be detailed.

Conductors are performers that must utilize and are limited to movements to facilitate the sounds that audiences perceive as music. Composers, artistic directors, and concert organizers today are growing more attentive to the conductor’s repertoire of ‘normal’ movement, its potential as artistic stimuli, and are framing it to enhance the audience’s perception of a piece or program. In his compositions AMID (2004) and later, Black Box Music (2012), Danish composer Simon Steen-Andersen (1976-) deployed the ‘image of the conductor to play on the audience’s expectations’. [1] In this analysis, I will examine the role of the conductor in the first of these (later to be termed) ‘hyper-concrete’ works, AMID. [2]

AMID is scored for seven musicians all employing strictly notated movements. Steen-Andersen has created a scale for each musician from full sound potential (100%) to the musicians’ lowest sound potential (0%). The piece begins in unison and establishes a frame of building up and releasing tension, inhalation and exhalation. As AMID progresses, a dance between polyphonic passages and freezes in motion appears. Steen-Andersen describes it as a ‘movement piece’, in which he used gesture-based notation instead of the more traditional result-based notation. For the conductor this is especially relevant, as according to the composer, ‘If you have a movement piece, you may not realise it right away, but every movement becomes a part of the piece’. [3]

This score analysis will systematically catalogue the composition’s modular cells and subsequently, the conductor’s movements. The particularities of the piece and its score are first briefly explained, followed by a short description and definition of gesture that will be used throughout the remainder of the analysis. I will then detail the methodology and measurable trends that the analysis revealed. I made this analysis as the first step in a larger case study. Therefore, besides the measurable trends, I will not draw any intermediate conclusions from this analysis per ipsum.

[1] Simon Steen-Andersen, interview by Thomas R. Moore, November 10, 2019.
[2] Simon Steen-Andersen, “Behind next to Besides,” RTRSRCH 1, no. 3 (March 2010): 54–57.
[3] Steen-Andersen, interview.

presented at the Birmingham Music Analysis Conference, 29 July 2021

presented and performed at the international conference Framing the Normal, 4 May 2021

Ensemble XXI



presented at the Chigiana Conference 2020 Re-envisaging Music: Listening in the Visual Age, 11 December 2020




presented at the International Conference on Live Interfaces, Trondheim, 11 March 2020

performed in De Singel Arts Campus in Antwerp, Belgium, 12 March 2019

RCA Guitar Ensemble

presented at the symposium Methodology and Artistic Research, hosted by the Brussels Arts Platform, 26 April 2021

performed for a live stream concert for Music Impulscentrum at the Dommelhof in Pelt, Belgium, 25 March 2021

Nadar Ensemble 

performed at the Gaudeamus Muziekweek, September 2015

Nadar Ensemble