Emily Duncan, University of Iowa
Lexicon I begins a series of pieces that incorporate graphic and conventional notation, furthering the dialogue between the concept and perception of auditory signals communicated through (visual) symbols. Through the Lexicon series, a collection of symbols are found in each piece to create a unique, visual language, or lexigram, specific to my work. My goal, through this series, is to extend the visual and aural communication, furthering the musical/visual dialogue thereby developing my own musical language. The graphic notation utilized represents, to me, the clearest representation of the desired aural outcome which requires notation beyond convention. In Lexicon I, I aim to disintegrate the piece through destruction and deterioration of the electronic and acoustic timbres.
The thought of using newly-created, specific notation for aural communication occurred to me through my work with the Bonobo apes at the Ape Cognition and Conservation Initiative in Des Moines, Iowa. To communicate with humans, the Bonobos use custom-made lexigrams, developed by language researchers and biologists, that have images and (English) texts that represent objects and activities. Through the development of this system, new lexicons are created and combined with one another to create a unique language, based off of the written English language (extending conventional notation).
Both humans and Bonobos may respond visually, through a physical lexigram (printed sheet or computer screen) or verbally, through speech. As the Bonobos are able to understand complex (English) sentences, verbally, they are able to reply via lexigram (pointing at the symbol or symbols needed complete their response). What amazes me is the coherence of this system. Researchers will often ask a question, verbally, to a Bonobo to which the Bonobo responds via lexigram. The Bonobos may also ask questions via lexigram to which a human may respond verbally. The latter form of this communication is the driving force behind the Lexicon series - communicating through a uniquely visual system. Through the Lexicon series, I hope to devise a collection of symbols that are unique to my work and extend my musical language.