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Re: Is lilypond really suitable for composing?

From: N. Andrew Walsh
Subject: Re: Is lilypond really suitable for composing?
Date: Sat, 24 Mar 2018 09:58:49 +0100

On Sat, Mar 24, 2018 at 6:03 AM, Vaughan McAlley <address@hidden> wrote:

 If it isn’t hard, you can probably do better.


From my own (admittedly pretty out-there) view on how and what one composes, I can also say that *not* having immediate acoustic feedback of the work you're doing also serves a benefit. Two examples, from very different cases:

I work with Lily occasionally on contract for a client whose musical skills are amateur at best, and whose working process is exactly the process Kieran and David alluded to above: he picks out tunes on piano, and then writes down what he likes. This effectively limits his composition to 1) what he can play (which is basically overly-sentimental pop music), and 2) what his prior experience contains (which is the same, plus late-70s academic modernism comprising essentially a rigid dodecaphony). In this case, all he can do with composing is rehash what he already has, and it makes for very uninteresting music.

Secondly, from my own experience as a composer, I stopped using any kind of auditory aid or notation software to compose some 20 years ago, early in my schooling. After that, it would very frequently occur that I would hear results in performance that weren't at all what I had imagined when writing. The instrumentation, the acoustics, the different ways living musicians approach various techniques, etc., all contributed to my often being confronted with "my" composition that turned out to sound completely new to me. That learning experience was invaluable, as I gained knowledge of how to write sounds I *hadn't* heard in advance.

For those who want to get really abstract about this, there's an excellent book on æsthetics (as a branch of philosophy) by Christoph Menke, called "Force" (in German as "Kraft") that explores the idea that we expand as people, more specifically as artists,  through the direct encounter with the unknown and unknowable, broadening our minds to incorporate possibilities we hadn't anticipated. Very worthwhile reading. 

For those reasons, I'd agree with the others here, that it's fundamentally important that you spend the extra effort to separate the creation of the music from its presentation. You need both skills, and you can't really exercise the first one to its fullest if it's constrained by the latter. 

(another personal anecdote from my schooling: I once had a fellow student at music school who blithely declared, "I just don't write anything that I can't notate easily in Finale." This was in the 90s, when Finale came on floppies, and my horror at that statement has put me off using notation software for my own scores ever since)



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