New Artistic Possibilities with

The Max Maestro - An Animated Music Notation System

for Non-Professional Performers

1. Introduction

Two terms are frequently used in this exposition. Non-professionals refers to people with various backgrounds, with no or very modest score reading knowledge and at the most limited experience of following instructions from a traditional music conductor. Furthermore, advanced musical structures refers to music written in multiple individual parts, which would demand a professional conductor leading a professional orchestra of well-experienced musicians to perform if written in the traditional western notation system.


- Music is organised sound is a quotation from the legendary composer Edgar Varese (1883-1965). As the quotation suggests, composing music is about organising various individual sounds into interesting musical structures. Traditionally, within the field of contemporary art music, professional musicians are used to produce the sounds to organise within a composition. Furthermore, the western music notation system is used for the composer to organise the sounds and give instructions to the performers how and when to play them. However, is the artistic quality of a sound necessarily connected to how the sound is produced? Moreover, could individual, simple-to-execute sounds performed by a crowd of non-professionals be as interesting as sounds produced out of an extended performance technique performed by a professional orchestra? Indeed, a non-professional performer obviously can´t perform everything that a well-trained professional classical musician could achieve. Furthermore, the complexity of the western music notation system makes it possible for a composer to describe in detail his/her artistic ideas to a professional performer. Still, the limitations of a non-professional performer or group of performers could be used as artistic advantages in the creative composition process. Moreover, could there be artistic musical ideas better suited to being performed by non-professional rather than professional musicians? The tricky part is of course - how to be able to instruct non-professional performers through the performance of music composed within the field of contemporary art music? Indeed, the graphic scores, which composers like Earl Brown [1] and John Cage [2] experimented with in the 1950s, are frequently used by non-professional performers - as for example in school settings  - to perform advanced musical structures [weblink]. While the western music notation system gives very exact, detailed instructions on how to perform a fixed composition, the graphic scores could be interpreted more freely both in terms of the musical material and the musical form, so-called open composition. [weblink]


The Max Maestro is an animated music notation system, which was developed by the author to enable the exploration of new artistic possibilities for compositions with crowds of non-professionals as performers. By using simple animated graphics presented on a screen it can give musical instructions and conduct a performance of a fixed composition in multiple parts. Indeed, animated music notation has, due to the development of technology, become an expanding field among composers and researchers, with the aim of developing new artistic expressions. However, the systems are often designed for professional musicians in small constellations and ensembles dedicated to performing contemporary art music. If the systems have addressed non-professional performers the main aim has been to explore new educational ways to play music together. The Max Maestro was created to enhance the artistic output, by enabling a group/crowd of non-professionals to perform together with an electronic music part and/or a professional chamber/ symphony orchestra. Three concert hall performances of compositions by the author with various settings, which all included The Max Maestro are highlighted in this exposition:


(1.) Voices of Umeå III: Everybody Scream!!!. Music for a large crowd of non-professional performers using their voices and electronics.

(2.) Animated Music Notation for Mixed Orchestra. Music for chamber orchestra, non-professional percussion orchestra and electronics.

(3.) Put Your Hands Together. Music for handclapping audience and electronics.


A qualitative methodology was used for the study. Audio recordings of the performances and the experiences of the author participating as a composer in the performances were used as the main empirical data to be analysed. Furthermore, the analysis was affected by the background, knowledge and experience of the author as a composer. This exposition presents the background, content and the artistic visions of The Max Maestro and reports from three performances were The Max Maestro was implemented. The results contribute with new knowledge to the field of contemporary art music, more specifically, the field of animated music notation.

[1.] Brown Earle, December 1952, - Music, Earl Brown Selected Works 1952-1965/ New world records, 2006 <>

[2.] Cage John, Fontana Mix (1958), Music, John Cage – Fontana Mix/ Cherry Red Records (2010) <>

The Max Maestro - Introduction