Ad libitum

"As you like it", a score annotation that gives a level of freedom to the performer.


Let's appreciate the fact that this term refers to the pleasure of the performer of music. It's certainly rare in classical music that the experience of the audience gets "overshadowed" in such a way. That's in opposition to actual games where spectating the game might be considered more of an exception and the experience of the performer of the game is more commonly in focus. In popular music the situation is hard to interpret, but we might notice that actual preferences of star-performers don't matter and their on-stage pleasures might be acted out as well.


The term might mean things like:

  • performer decides on the tempo and/or phrasing
  • a part can be ommited
  • there is a place to perform an optional virtuosic cadenza ("solo")
  • performer chooses one of the few presented versions of the section

Strictly speaking, ad libitum isn't applicable often in music games, because dealing with musical notation is quite rare here. The last definition would be probably most useful in that case, but on a more general level analogies seem clear.

Controlled aleatoricism of Witold Lutosławski [a section that will probably move ;)]

One final connection between music games and "ad libitum" is by the name of Witold Lutosławski, who although opting for a lot of control as a composer, might be considered a patron of music games never-the-less. He devised a technique called controlled aleatoricism that lets performers play their parts ad libitum, but they all do that independently. That yields a unique sound result (due to emergence) and it was coincidently (or not?) first included in the piece Venetian Games.

There is an online "game" that shows you how that works! []

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