My handwriting is appalling, really dreadful. Despite this, I love writing, notebooks, stationery. I am drawn to colourful pens, particularly red, and purple. I often hand-write my to-do list for the day, and write extensive notes during business phone calls and meetings. I also love technology and waver between hard-copy and electronic formats for keeping organised from day-to-day.
In the first three years of my Bachelor of Music degree, I painstakingly hand-wrote the final copies of all my compositions for assessment. I became really good with a liquid paper pen, and being able to paste little pieces of manuscript paper very precisely over major mistakes. It was difficult, frustrating and time-consuming.
In fourth year, my Honours year, I took a course in music publishing and finally got familiar with music notation software. I started out with Finale 2002, as well as a basic introduction to Sibelius software, and never hand-wrote another composition again. Being able to produce clear, slick-looking scores and parts was so liberating that I became passionate about music notation, enough to embark on a career as a music copyist/typesetter/engraver. I’m now 12 years into this profession and rolling along happily. I’m always fascinated by how other composers work and how much variety there is in creativity; whether it be by hand, with pencils, textas, directly into the computer, what kinds of templates composers request.
As for composing: I still love to sketch with pencil and pens onto manuscript paper in front of the piano. I also use graph paper for pitch matrices or more geometric ideas, and blank paper for mind maps. Usually I frantically cobble together some basic ideas then get the sketch into Sibelius software fairly early. I then print out the sketch and write all over it in coloured pen, take some text notes, and continue making adjustments within the software. Once I have a skeleton of the piece from beginning to end, I lay out as many pages as I can in a straight line across the floor to give a kind of visual timeline of the work as I listen through it in my head. My teacher in 2001, John Peterson, first showed me this approach. I’m currently writing an orchestral piece using all these processes.
Though I love the power and crisp exactness of a computer, I can’t imagine a time where I would be as creative with only a computer at my disposal. The pen indeed is mighty!
This post was written in response to the Daily Prompt Pens and Pencils at the Daily Post.