Sunday, December 11, 2011


Sorry it has taken me so long to write this post, We have moved out of Grandma’s and now live in our own home! Yay!

In my last post, I made a joke about my teacher shrieking in terror because I said that I write in Sibelius.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius is notation software. There are two major notation software programs out there, Sibelius and Finale, both of which basically do the same thing. Composers will argue back and forth why whichever one is better. I don’t really care about that so that is all I am going to say about it.

The point of this post is to discuss something entirely different.

There is a major debate among composers about notation software and whether or not it should be used when writing. Some composition schools won’t allow students to use the software, and consequently some students won’t go to those schools.

To be completely honest I wouldn’t go to one of those schools. I don’t know if I know how to write without software... It is kind of embarrassing but I am completely dependent on it. I can sketch out ideas on pen and paper, but writing an entire piece without playback is something that I can’t even begin to fathom.

For those of you that don’t know, Sibelius and Finale do MIDI playback for you as you write. Which means that you get immediate results and don’t need to try and plunk out the notes on the piano.

I see problems with this method of writing... First of all our composition forefathers did not have have playback, yet were able to write symphonies, opera’s, concerto’s, and everything else without the handy use of it all being played back.

While the MIDI is helpful, it is also misleading. I might be hearing my oboe part too loud in my playback, so I write it quieter than other instruments, but in fact the oboe is already a quiet instrument, so it can easily get drowned out. The problem being that the playback is dishonest in how loud an instrument is, or what it actually sounds like, and unfortunately I respond to this misleading information.

The next point and probably most worrisome of writing in the software is writing by ear... Using the playback to write means I am writing with my ears, rather than my mind. This is the point I think about the most. It is the point that scares me the most. I can’t help but wonder how much writing like that hurts me as a composer.

I wonder about that because several composers that I respect and admire do not use software.

We had a guest speaker one semester that doesn’t use anything but a pencil, staff paper and his kitchen table (not even a piano). He played a string quartet for us, and it was fascinating! Beautiful! Interesting!

I admire that skill.

Beethoven wrote his entire 9th symphony whilst completely deaf! This is the same kind of skill. One that is, I believe a true mastery.

I can’t help but wonder about it though.

The creative process is so different for each individual, and I wonder how much of that skill can be attributed to his creative process, and how much is plain... practice... or craft for a lack of better words.

For some composers, the music is just in their heads, and they have to get it out. For some (like myself) there is no music in there, but it is playing with something, like a piano, or a guitar, or a computer that pushes my musical imagination which drives my creative process.

So I am not sure that writing like that would even work for me... But I am not against trying it. I can’t even begin to fathom if it will even work, but I know I will be stronger on the other side.

The best way for me to handle it I suppose, is to just do it, and come at it with no expectations.

It will probably be a while before I try to write that way, but I am vowing to try it.

Maybe a year of writing with no instruments, and no computer... I’ll definitely need to start small

Maybe in 2013...

That’s all for now.

Merry Christmas Friends.

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