The American Journal of Semiotics

Volume 39, Issue 1/4, 2023

Music Issue

Tristan McKay
Pages 107-133

Conceptual Palettes as Sites of Creative Negotiation in Leah Asher’s TRAPPIST-1

In this paper, I consider the creation and performance of Leah Asher’s TRAPPIST-1 (2017), a solo piano work in graphic notation that I commissioned and premiered. Musical works that utilize open notations often have a complex relationship to the work-concept and, in turn, an elusive ontology. I consider the role of conceptual palettes as significant sites in the creative process where ontological boundaries are delineated. I analyze four sites in the creation of TRAPPIST-1—from project proposal to premiere performance—where conceptual palettes play a dynamic role in narrowing, restricting, and guiding the identity of the work. Using Jakobson’s notion of the poetic function and Harkness’s concept of qualic transitivity, I show that conceptual palettes facilitate performance as highly cu­rated acts of translation not just of open notations but also of intangible concepts.