lines that sing
(from “unsung songs: graphic scores”)

by Viviane Houle

The lines you see in this collection of graphic scores were literally lifelines during a period of time when my health and words evaded me. These gestures and sketches served as a form of expression when I lost the ability to read and write, to sing and perform; tentative tendrils that drew me back to my Self and then to the outside world and once more toward artistic collaboration and music — always music. I am grateful that from the losses and challenges emerged a love of lines, asemic art, and non-traditional music scores. These lines have turned into points of inspiration for musical collaborations in the form of graphic notation for improvising musicians.

The scores featured in this book were chosen from hundreds of line drawings I did between 2018 and 2022. They became the impetus for fourteen improvised duets with Canadian and international musicians. As I conceived this project during the pandemic, the recordings were all done in home studios. Seven musicians received two scores each. They chose one, recorded their musical interpretation and sent me the recording; then, on top of their sounds, I recorded my response to the score and to their improvisation. For the second score, the process was reversed: I recorded first and then sent it off to them for their musical reply. As the pandemic was raging, this remote collaboration was the best we could do; it was another vital lifeline when many of us were drifting without anchor.

In the book, you will see names of musicians under the title of the score. Whoever is listed first recorded the first improvisation inspired by the drawing, and the second name replied. I drew these scores with ink pens on watercolour paper often in the evenings, sometimes in the dark, sometimes in the mornings, but always on my own. It gives me immeasurable joy to have them come alive with the sounds of my musical colleagues on the CD and offered to the minds and creative imaginations of the viewers and deep listeners of this project.

I hope these lines drawn from and through my body, transmitted to musicians via the scores and now to you via this book and CD, can perhaps give voice to some of the many “unsung songs” of persons whose creative life forces have been unfairly (unjustly?) or prematurely interrupted, diminished or otherwise silenced.

I am deeply curious and committed to seeing where these untameable (noisy?) lines take me next. 

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