H.E. Erwin Walther

“The graphical notation … was and is for me an opportunity for noting musical and other processes more obvious, compared to using conventional music notation. The performer is required to deal with musical modernity on a wide base, further needed is his gift to improvise, and his gift to translate graphical courses with the coordinates horizontal – vertical, i.e. tone pitch – time, and within its infrastructures, into acoustical courses. An essential part forms the process of ‘reading’, of grasping and then the contribution of own ideas within the given graphic chart, the chart practically forming the ‘playing field’ while the ‘match’ of the performer is running within its boundaries. The performer is - to a great extent – ‘co-editor’”.
(H.E. Erwin Walther, ca. 1975)


Musical graphic as a form of ambiguously interpretable notation was being developed since around 1952. Composer Roman Haubenstock-Ramati who coined the phrase “musical graphic” organised the first exhibition in Donaueschingen/Germany in 1959.
Today, the field of musical graphic incorporates a vast area; various forms allow to be brought into association with this rather diffuse phrase.
Erwin Walther’s phrase “Audiogramm” is vague too. It is diffuse because Walther uses this phrase for graphical notations as well as for collages made from coloured sheets and for “pure” drawn graphics; the latter by far outnumber the others.
In addition, the phrase “Audiogramm” is diffuse in its statement. “Audiogramm” – to be translated possibly as: a writing to be heard, readable as musically structured graphic, as ‘optical music’. According to Walther, the “Audiogramm” wants to establish a relationship between the graphic and the acoustic. It’s a field of action, which releases the performer, in which limits he acts out, which stimulates him”.

Somewhat more detailed – and rather visionary – Walther speaks of “the realisation (retroversion) that could be executed…
     a) mentally (meditation)
     b) practically (instrumental, electronic, or also phonetic).
My personal acoustical imaginations step back in case a retroversion is performed by other artists.
By producing the optical score I established a field of action in which any performer can act differently, today, in 20 or 100 years, in Asia, America, Europe, or Australia. Today’s acoustical orientations are different from what they are in 100 years, as are the possibilities for realisation. My optical instructions are stimulants (also aesthetically).
The retroversion of my scores is based on improvisation. Not sequences of harmony or a “Cantus firmus” are binding for the performer, but the graphical “streets” and “areas” should stimulate him for a totally free expression of his acoustical imagination.”

Totally, in the years 1966 – 1990 around 360 pieces were created, that Walther named “Audiogramm”.
Walther’s graphics could be broken down into three categories:

  1.  Graphical notations on scale paper or music paper constitute the strictest determination and form a binding room for the musical notation.

  2.  The “pure” drawn graphics leave all possible freedom for their own interpretation to the viewer as well as to the musicians.

  3.  Irrespective of the used material a specific colour could be assigned to a specific instrument or instrument group.

Erwin Walther as avant-gardist is able to advance further into noting a text no longer into printed music but into not-notable sounding colours and patterns, which unfold their sound in the head of the viewer: “Kaspar ist tot” (1989) from Hans Arp is translated into 15 powerful coloured pages, which are projected while a speaker is reciting Arp’s text.

All graphical works are in the property of daughter Michaela Grammer and are partly digitalized.

Text following: Thomas Emmerig: Musikalisch strukturierte Graphiken und „Optische Musik“ – H.E. Erwin Walthers „andere“ Musik, in: Bieler, Emmerig, Kraus, Simon: Komponisten in Bayern, Band 36, Tutzing 1998

"Obviously, it was not Anti-music in the sense of a declaration of war to music as a genre, but more the visualization of my own acoustical ideas in the shortest way. This resulted in a graphic chart, drawn either on a drawing sheet or on a continuing series of sheets."
(H.E. Erwin Walther, ca. 1979)

Audio Samples

From: Katenarien (1972)
artist: Peter Bruns, violoncello


From: Katenaria für Klavier solo  (1972)
artist: Frank Gutschmidt, piano