Computers and software in the year 2013 are really wonderful. I’m thrilled yet again to be part of the digital age, reaping the benefits of technologies practically undreamed of 30 years ago.
Back in the paper and pencil days I owned a whole array of different sizes and configurations of staff paper, a veritable army of #2 pencils and several pencil sharpeners. These were mere adjuncts to the drafting table (which I gave away some years ago), a T Square, a series of different erasers and rules of various measurements, topped off by a crappy electric piano that cost way too much money.
Now I have my laptop, a couple of software programs and my Casio MIDI keyboard that does far more than I shall ever learn, comprehend or utilize. No paper, no pencils, no eraser turds.
Developing a musical idea is greatly facilitated by the use of cut | paste | copy and the various forms of inversion, transposition, retrograde and other canonic devices built into the software. And, given a decent set of headphones, my laptop produces a passable sonic experience of the score, complete with dynamics, tempi, expressions and all sorts of other tools that are part and parcel of setting music down into an understandable form that others can then learn and express. It takes only a few minutes to notate an idea, or to change a previous development of an idea – and you can HEAR a decent rendition of it! You don’t have to wait to get to campus to meet up with the soprano or cellist to hear if it sounds like you intended it to sound.
An example is a new song I’m working on with words by Sara Teasdale. This idea popped into my head after reading the poem a few times, and the new computer-supported creative process began.
There are now nine distinctly different versions of the song, each more developed both structurally and sonically than its predecessor. Noting the progress of the piece by playing these versions in date order is a rewarding experience. Saves a great deal of time and effort – exactly what computers and software are supposed to do!