Score II features the headings ‘Strathspey’ and then ‘Reel’ – both traditional tune forms. It is modelled on the common strathspey-to-reel structure used in traditional music and dance in Scotland for hundreds of years and so makes a special feature of a particularly idiosyncratic transition in Scottish traditional music. The move from 4/4 strathspey to 4/4 reel, often an exciting moment of pent-up, jagged rhythm taking flight into an energetic full-flow stream of melody, is a classic structure of tension and release. Variations are found in different contexts: the measured and consistent pulse of this transition when accompanying Scottish step dance, the leap in tempo of excited (pub) session players, and the disruption of the transition in modern concert arrangements by placing a 6/8 jig or a 7/8 composition between the strathspey and reel. An example: Alasdair Fraser plays Highlands of Banffshire (strathspey) into The Merry Making (reel) (Fraser and McManus 1999: 01:57–03:17).
Score II includes information such as tune form (this obviously has rhythmic implications) and the suggestion of a starting note or key signature. I consciously kept the notation as simple and approachable as possible. This was due to my increasing awareness, following an earlier creative project, that we don’t yet have a body of new traditional performers with experience of experimental music, abstract concepts, and graphic scores. I was also aware that there would be a limit to how much visual information would be conducive to reading, understanding, and performing the score.
Aware that traditional musicians bring their own stylistic knowledge to performance, and because an objective of the scores was to encourage improvisation in the performers’ own musical voices, I decided not to prescribe any ornamentation or specific stylistic details and therefore symbols for these were unnecessary. However, symbols to direct the musicians’ interaction were required for Score II.
The intended function of the symbols in Score II is directing the interaction between the musicians: playing alone, responding to or playing ‘with’ other performers, and playing together as a group. Empty boxes could be read as silence.