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Graphic Juggling Notation by Rauli Katajavuori

GJNFIby Rauli Katajavuori, formerly known as Samuli Männistö, older brother of juggler Sakari Männistö. (Name change is because I got married and took my wife’s last name and started to use my real first name with it.)

Introduction to Graphic Juggling Notation

I got an idea for Graphic Juggling Notation that explains siteswaps and body throws easily and this all goes back to 1996 when I started to think musical notation and musical notes, how long this system has been in use and how easy of a ‘language’ it is. And how good it is even on prima vista to play, as it is images instead of words and numbers and how even our brain is wired for images. This is when I got idea to try to make juggling notation that could give lot of information easily and that maybe musical notes could be a good key to make this work.

First question was: could I use the same system or similar system for juggling? I also thought that at least for me juggling and music have many similarities. Important things are tempo, pitch and time. If I could use musical notes as foundation for my Graphic Juggling Notation there even might be a change that music and juggling would relate and communicate even more.

I was also teaching juggling a lot at that time. I teach juggling by siteswaps already, so that students could also learn the system hidden in juggling while learning the physical skill. I encouraged my students to say aloud what siteswaps they were doing. It helped show them that it’s not just a mess or ready made tricks, but a way they could understand each throw individually. During the lessons I noticed that mainly girls and younger students used some different sounds instead siteswap numbers. So I thought what if I change these numbers to be part of music like do, re, mi, fa, so, la, ti. In the same way kids learn music in musical kindergartens.

And then I got back to this Graphic Juggling Notation idea I had with musical notes. This is how it started.
To say it simply: Graphic Juggling Notation combines musical notes, siteswaps, Denis Paumier’s body throw theory, and Benesh Movement Notation in an easily adaptive and understandable way.

You must remember ms-dos computers. Black screens and C:\ on screen? compare it to windows… you basically can do all the same things but windows is much more fun to use. Even though now and then I really need to use dos anyway because some of the things you just can’t do in windows as easily and fast.

View PDFs to learn more about GJN:

I hope you find this work interesting, I am really happy to talk about it, please share your comments and ideas so we can make this even better.

Interview with Rauli

When and how did you get started with juggling?

Samuli pulpit rockMy Mom Sirpa Uimonen had a circus club as a school club and my little brother learned to ride unicycle and juggle around 1993-1994. I thought it looked fun and I had to learn those skills, too. So I think I learned to ride unicycle and juggle 3 balls around the same years as my brother. Then, in 1995, a professional circus school in Turku opened and I got in without really knowing anything about circus. There I started to practice more and with sort of a purpose. Then quite soon I found rec.juggling and the which was superb thing, siteswap notation and all. And this was way before youtube so to see juggling was a task. Luckily Finnish juggler Jani Suihkonen had lot of IJA vhs-tapes that were almost the only way to see juggling acts at the time in Finland. Also Aracady Poupon visited the circus school few times so I got first hand copy of the classic Kiev tapes etc.

Who are your biggest influences?

As jugglers I have always really liked Gregory Popovich, Evgeni Biljauer, Sergei Ignatov, Francis Brunn, Anthony Gatto, Michael Mochen. This list is quite self explanatory. Jay Gilligan was also huge thing from the IJA tapes. And later getting to see some Airjazz performance tapes from him and Sean McKinney. There are so many so talented and hard working people juggling or doing something related that it is really difficult to give exact answer on biggest influences. David Mamet, Sergei Eisenstein, and John Cage are some others.
Then Ben Beever’s book ‘Siteswap Ben’s Guide to Juggling Patterns‘ was really influential for me. And this book has been really one of the key things for me in making the Graphic Juggling Notation.

As I started juggling quite old I kind of noticed that I’ll never be the most technical juggler, so I decided that to stand out from the crowd I need to do things differently. I’m always questioning common ways of juggling/circus acts or plays or other performances. Like the multiplex sequence on Gandini’s siteswap DVD, all is based on idea that multiplex patterns are just combinations of different patterns and then I wrote down few families like combining siteswap pattern 201 with pattern 300 getting out patterns [32]01, 312, [31]02. So then the rest of the process was really easy. And I was just left with the thought why hadn’t this been done before?

Then also Harri Varpanen is a big influence for me. In NJC2009 he showed a poi state diagram as a part of lecture he was giving, and for me this was a starting point to make a diabolo state diagram. I am sure that without his work I wouldn’t have thought of this ever.

What style juggling do you like to do?

Rauli Katajavuori_nIn terms of props, I mainly use traditional juggling props: balls, clubs, rings, and I juggle diabolo as well. I do most of my juggling with these props and I really like many kinds of juggling, from Jitter rings to solving Rubik’s cubes while juggling them, etc. I don’t find all juggling interesting, but I really like how juggling unites people around the world. I’m in no position of judging how other people feel about their juggling. I like the juggling I do and I am happy if other people like their juggling too. If my juggling gives something for others watching it, it is just a good bonus.

Are you a hobbyist of performer?

I think I would call myself a performer with hobbyist’s mind on juggling. I juggle because I love it. I really like spending 2h a day in gym doing juggling practice. For past 15 years, performing, directing, and making art has been my career, but I enjoy the hobby part of this all. Performing juggling is part of my work that pays my living, but juggling is my hobby that I love to do. I could do something else as a job, but juggling would still be my hobby. As I have kids, 4 and 2 years old, I can really understand Anthony Gatto’s change of career. Performing arts and entertainment is a tough choice for a job. It is all fun and best job in the world when you live alone and only care about yourself, but at least for me having a family has really changed things.

Do you go to a club/conventions?

I used to go conventions a lot, but for past years I haven’t been in any but the Finnish Diabolo Convention. I am organizing FDC again for the eleventh time in 2016 and also the Helsinki 531 Festival. I really liked the Nordic Juggling Convention (too bad it hasn’t been organized for few years now), I was the main organizer for EJC 2010 in Joensuu, and before that I went to EJC for the 10 years in a row, but since 2010 I haven’t gone to any EJCs.

We have been planning a trip to USA with my family for 2017 and then it would be great fun to plan the trip in a way that I could visit some conventions/festivals.

What are your personal goals for juggling?

I don’t really know. There are things I practice in a really structured way to get them. For me all juggling patterns are beautiful in their own way and I get happy when I find a new combination of throws and catches that I haven’t done or seen before, or if I find a concept that gives possibilities to build on. At the moment I am working with ‘dropping 4’s (kind of making a carry with siteswap 4 and that I don’t throw it but I let it fall and I catch it low, kind of variation with dwell time, This is like Matt Hall’s freezes but without freezing. 😉 )

Why do you think the world needs another juggling notation?

I believe there’s space for (new) notation and as we mainly use siteswap or MHN which are good, but if we think that siteswap and its origin are just an answer to a question of how many juggling patterns there are, and if we think of body throw variations, it is not giving a sufficient answer. But it is kind of nice that this answer gave us a lot of new, never seen or juggled juggling patterns, and still after all the years jugglers are pushing limits on longer and more diverse combinations in which order the thrown objects are thrown again.

Ben Beever had his GS notation which had layers for different qualities, and as I understood Denis Paumier had similar ‘layers’ notation. Then there is also Luke Burrage’s beatmap notation. Even though I really like these, the problem with all these add ons to siteswap notation is that they get really difficult to read and understand. You really need to give effort to follow them. So, my idea was more to use what is good and not to invent wheel again. I came up with Graphic Juggling Notation as a face lift for things that people have invented before me. This also reminds me of Nokia phones which had amazing amount of cool things on them that people just didn’t use because the interface was too difficult. Then came Iphones with touch screens and a simple interface. Even though it had less useful applications than N-phones at first, it really destroyed Nokia. And we still use pen and paper even we have computers and voice-to-text software.

Why do we juggle? Do we need juggling for anything? Why did we need juggling notation in the first place? I don’t know. I hope the work I have done for Graphic Juggling Notation is not work for nothing. I use this notation when  I teach juggling and at least for me it is good tool for this.

What inspired you with the creation of your method?

IMG_9974Shortly put, the inspiration was boredom and frustration. The moment I got the idea for this was on a trip to a cabin in the woods. To be more specific it was dark, cold and stormy autumn evening in a cabin in the Finnish woods. I was spending the weekend with few of my friends and in the cabin there is not much to do. We talked about juggling and also about siteswaps and music. Then I just drew the five musical lines on a post-it note and used siteswaps on it. Then it hit me that this really might be something. It looked so obvious straight from that moment. Then I thought how would I notate the outside throws and draw the symbols for left and right hand and those black and white versions of it. Then came the first versions of body throw symbols. I spent the evening writing sketches of these. My friends went to swim and to the sauna and out drinking while I just worked out this notation thing. So it was more of questioning the current way of doing things. Then I left it for quite some time… I know this doesn’t really answer the question asked, but the inspiration was really the boredom and frustration

What are advantages/disadvantages versus other notations?

Graphic Juggling Notation combines siteswaps, inside/outside throws, and Denis Paumier’s bodythrow notation into one visual notation, that gives all this information in easily understandable form. At the moment, the clear disadvantage is the lack of software/animator that uses this notation, and that it is kind of new so there aren’t too many who can use it. The main advantage for Graphic Juggling Notation is the simple symbol/image based interface that you can understand.

How did the notation develop over time?

To be honest the notation has been quite the same from the beginning. As I did the my MA Thesis about this, that work was more of explaining how the different aspects of this notation work. Explaining how the siteswap exchange conversions etc. stuff work with this visual notation. Mainly just cleaning the system up and figuring out things that might not work with this notation and then figuring out solutions for these. I see that this moment I am still in this same situation. I hope more people would join me and we could make this Graphic Juggling Notation a better notation for juggling. I can’t do this work alone. I started the project and got this far, but I believe that now is a good time to share this work with world and see where it can lead us.

What are some future plans you have for it?

The big plan is to make a internet site with an animator that would use Graphic Juggling Notation with Benesh notation as a user interface. This would be a mouse-handled way of figuring juggling out. A post-human approach on juggling. 😉 I believe this would be really good tool for teaching juggling too. I am also trying to get to do a Ph.D. on and and within this subject. I would also like to write down classic juggling routines using Graphic Juggling Notation so they could be studied through the notation instead of copying through video. Just like in music we study songs by the musical notes and when we are able to play songs we can make our own interpretations of them. I would like to see this happen in juggling too.

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