I'm working on a piece where I'd like the violins to play pizzicato notes as a background noise. However, I'd like to restrict the notes to Cm, but let chaos/noise arise through random durations and tempo changes. I.e "these are the notes, but do not stick to the tempo and beat"

Maybe leave out the notes and just write it out, e.g. "pizz. with ad lib Cm scale and tempo" ?

Edit #1: it's a Cm key signature, maybe it's enough to write "pizz. with ad lib notes and tempo"?

Edit #2: created a fast mockup as an example (This is correct in terms of ad lib tempo, but should be more random in notes though):

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    Check out scores by Krzysztof Penderecki. He has inthink this exact thing in some of his scores. Also this is done in the score for Raiders of the Lost Ark in the opening scene where they encounter the tarantulas. Mar 7, 2019 at 13:32
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    When Messiaen wanted different instrumental parts to be played each in their own tempo, he would just mark the parts "hors tempo" (outside of the tempo); e.g. in Le Prêche aux Oiseaux from Saint François d'Assise. Mar 8, 2019 at 0:20
  • Are the other instruments scored in standard notation?
    – Aaron
    Sep 14, 2021 at 4:01
  • @Aaron yes, they are
    – Creynders
    Sep 15, 2021 at 17:47

2 Answers 2


Todd W's comment inspired me to go digging. Now I'm really afraid!

It turns out there's a very nice YouTube clip which explains Penderecki's, ummmm, unusual notation. Here are a couple screenies. As to whether there's any restrictions on commercial use of his notation method, I don't know.
But for sure you can get some seriously scary sounds, as provided here

With thanks to whoever "Gerubach" is. page 1

some other page

  • Thanks, and definitely great examples of non-standard notation, but not quite what I'm looking for, both in feel and delivery. It's more like the sound you get when dragging something and it bumps and jumps erratically due to the resistance of the materials. Or like releasing pins-pong balls on piano strings, I.e. there's a bumpy, bouncy character to it. But controlled in pitch. Sec, I'll try to put up a mockup.
    – Creynders
    Mar 7, 2019 at 14:47
  • I added a link to a mockup in the question
    – Creynders
    Mar 7, 2019 at 14:56
  • Sounds like an answer to me @AlbrechtHügli
    – Creynders
    Mar 7, 2019 at 19:17
  • Ok I’ll post it there Mar 7, 2019 at 19:18

I’ve been on a youth concert with children ( 100 violoncelli and double basses. ) They had some compositions in their program with similar ideas. The effect was fantastic and I think the more musicians you have they will produce an interesting result. The instruction can be given as a drawing or in free writing of advices without regarding traditional sheet music notation

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