Tools of the trade

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.

9 thoughts on “Tools of the trade

  1. ohmyglai says:

    i also responded to the Pens and Pencils prompt. Like you, I also lve writing, notebooks and stationeries. In fact, I call myself a stationery freak haha. I also love colorful pens. The pen is indeed mighty!


  2. diane e. dreyfus says:

    PENS… the other vice
    besides shoes…
    I have bouquets of writing implements all over..
    I once invented a Dance Notation to remember Tai chi..
    then discovered others had also tried to capture 3D moves in one dimension.
    PS I had a bit of trouble reading the small white on black text but persisted because of the way you handled the subject ..


    1. Peggy says:

      Thanks Diane – yes, I have heard of dance notation but have never actually looked into it. I’ve got no idea what it even looks like, onwards to Wikipedia! The idea of notating Tai Chi is fascinating.
      Thanks for your feedback regarding colour scheme – your the second person to mention this recently, so something I will definitely look at adjusting in the near future.


  3. Dawn Marie says:

    Your article was music to my ears!
    I will sometimes look for hours (maybe an exaggeration,) to find the particular pen I want to write with. Simple because it makes me happier when jotting down whatever note it is I need to make.


  4. jrbjork says:

    Pen and papper are difficult to replace. I have to have a clear idea of were my work is taking me. That I can get with my pen and a piece of papper. Interesting to have seen a bit of how you work.


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