Tuesday 17 July 2012

What no composer wants to hear

The problem with using computers as a tool to write or transcribe your compositions, is that you become dependent on the computer and the software suppliers. Some composers use manuscript paper and the computer is simply a transcription tool, whereas others (myself included) rely more heavily on the software during the writing process. (In my case it stops the neighbours having to listen to my incessant thumping out of bits of the piece on the piano).

But reliance on complex tools means that you are in a dangerous position when they let you down. The answer, of course, is to join a community, lots of people with computers like you. So someone is bound to have had the problem before or be able to advise you. The same with software, if everyone uses it then you are in a safer position, aren't you?

Of course, even manuscript isn't safe, because if you don't have it obsessively photocopied then you only have one copy, which is a problem if it goes missing. Michael Berkeley's Jane Eyre is a case in point here, where he had to re-write the first half after the only manuscript was lost.

But earlier this month the software company Avid announced that it was restructuring, divesting itself of a number of products and closing the Finsbury Park offices of Sibelius Software. Sibelius started as a cottage industry, but became an overwhelming success. The computer tool of choice for many composers, the company was bought out in 2006 and is now part of Avid. There is no suggestion that Sibelius is at risk, but Avid are getting rid of the team which have looked after it for many years.

I don't use Sibelius myself, but if I did I would be looking at my options for ensuring that I had portable versions of all my pieces.

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