This short video, roughly 40 seconds in length, on the Instagram account of musician Marcus Fischer plays toy-piano-like music as a slender bit of map scrolls by. The map serves, in essence, as a piano roll for the gentle, lightly echoing, lightly fractured tonalities of the composition.
The brief accompanying explanatory text reads: “aleatoric composition using notes plotted to the location of wells on U.S. Department of the Interior geological survey maps.” The “aleatoric” refers to the chance occurrence of the map’s red dots. The dots are the wells, and as the music moves along, so too does the map — or perhaps more to the point, as the map moves along, so too does the composition.
The notes are instances roughly sequenced from a crow’s eye view. Fischer tags the work as a #visualscore, as a work that interprets a graphic as a musical composition, which is what is occurring here. The word “soundscape,” popularized by Canadian composer and audio ecologist R. Murray Schafer, takes its cue from the word “landscape,” both of which express a broad expanse of experience. Fischer’s music here flips the association, finding something personal, singular, and economical in its interpretation of the vast land depicted by the map.