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Thread: Notating works.

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    Default Notating works.

    I have significant shortcomings as a CM appreciator. I don't play an instrument and can't read music to save my life. Given a score of a piece I know well, I can follow along without getting lost too many times, but give me a few measures of something I didn't already know, and I couldn't hum it at all recognizably. My only redeeming quality is a good ear.

    Which is a way of introducing what to me is an intriguing topic: Writing music. I can more easily imagine someone musical composing -- but the act of that person writing it down astounds me. Is it second nature to a musical person? Or is it tedious? For instance, I think of initially writing down the Hammerklavier Sonata, to pick an extreme example. I know Beethoven took a scattered approach to composing, and spent a comparatively long time on his Late works, but I envision taking a month or more to write it down. But say, the "Appassionata" from his much more prolific Middle years. That's still a helluva lot of notes. How do composers do that without going crazy? Am I over-reacting?

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    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
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    I remember hearing on Sirius Radio about a sonata Beethoven wrote, not one of his most popular ones. They said he sketched it for 2 years. He wrote the rhythms first, and settled on pitches later. But I recall he was working also on other stuff in the meantime. Ravel admitted he found composing painful, and saying he composed drop by drop, and later found no joy in it. I wish I could find half the sources for stuff I've read and link it.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

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    Senior Member Allegro Con Brio's Avatar
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    I’ve always felt the same, and similarly too for all writers before typewriters. Tolstoy writing all 1,300 pages of War and Peace by hand. Incredible.
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    "If we understood the world, we would realize that there is a logic of harmony underlying its manifold apparent dissonances." - Jean Sibelius

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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    I have significant shortcomings as a CM appreciator. I don't play an instrument and can't read music to save my life. Given a score of a piece I know well, I can follow along without getting lost too many times, but give me a few measures of something I didn't already know, and I couldn't hum it at all recognizably. My only redeeming quality is a good ear.

    ...

    First of all, I'm sorry you have but one good ear. I can only imagine how redeeming you would be with two good ears. Alas …

    Scribbling down notes can certainly be taxing. Of course, most of the "original scores" I've seen don't look quite like the well-printed published scores we're used to. I often wonder how anyone read the notes on those Beethoven manuscripts. Some composers did much better for clarity, certainly.

    I once heard Itzhak Perlman remark (not directly to me, of course, but on a television interview) that Mozart wrote music "the way you or I would write a letter." Meaning, quickly and effortlessly.

    I still suspect there was some chore element involved. I surmise that a lot of those running scales are a pain to notate. But you can try this: pick a piece of music that has a lot of notes and attempt, with the help of a piece of plain score paper, to duplicate the notation for a page or two, just to see how it feels. It may well make you appreciate composers more for the actual physical labor they put into their music. If you really want a challenge, take on a large symphony or opera someday; try notating that some afternoon when you feel particularly bored. You may well welcome the boredom.

    Of course today there are several fine computer software programs for notation, vehicles such as Finale, Encore, and Sibelius. I've enjoyed using all three of these. It's especially fun when you can simply play your instrument into the machine and the notation for what you play pops up on a score sheet ready to print out. Schubert should have had such a tool.

    I once read somewhere that someone did a study of Schubert's musical oeuvre and found it rather miraculous that the man could have actually written all of that music (jotting down notes on paper with a quill ink pen) in the short time of his life from when he began seriously composing till his early death, and had time at all to eat, sleep, or play music. This researcher had apparently computed the amount of real time it would take to complete all of Schubert's scores by hand and found it nearly equaled all of the time of the man's life. What most amazed this researcher though, was not that Schubert was actually capable of this particular miracle, but that nearly everything that the man did notate is a masterpiece!

    I look over a booklet filled with Schubert's piano sonatas and am amazed that anyone could have hand notated all of that music. I suspect that most composer have strong hands, derived either from their instrumental playing or their score notating. Either way, the thought alone makes my own hand start to ache.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    I remember hearing on Sirius Radio about a sonata Beethoven wrote, not one of his most popular ones. They said he sketched it for 2 years. He wrote the rhythms first, and settled on pitches later. But I recall he was working also on other stuff in the meantime. Ravel admitted he found composing painful, and saying he composed drop by drop, and later found no joy in it. I wish I could find half the sources for stuff I've read and link it.
    Ravel on the second movement of his Piano Concert in G major:

    “That flowing phrase! How I worked over it bar by bar! It nearly killed me!”

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    Senior Member Oldhoosierdude's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by MarkW View Post
    I have significant shortcomings as a CM appreciator. I don't play an instrument and can't read music to save my life. Given a score of a piece I know well, I can follow along without getting lost too many times, but give me a few measures of something I didn't already know, and I couldn't hum it at all recognizably. My only redeeming quality is a good ear.

    Which is a way of introducing what to me is an intriguing topic: Writing music. I can more easily imagine someone musical composing -- but the act of that person writing it down astounds me. Is it second nature to a musical person? Or is it tedious? For instance, I think of initially writing down the Hammerklavier Sonata, to pick an extreme example. I know Beethoven took a scattered approach to composing, and spent a comparatively long time on his Late works, but I envision taking a month or more to write it down. But say, the "Appassionata" from his much more prolific Middle years. That's still a helluva lot of notes. How do composers do that without going crazy? Am I over-reacting?
    Music writing amazes me also. The detail and technical skill is astound to me. I can't read music either and can't follow a score.

    I write fiction and that seems like child's play compared to the enormity of music writing. I can say for me with fiction, it's the rewrite over and over that is so time consuming.
    Last edited by Oldhoosierdude; May-20-2020 at 09:13.
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    Senior Member Fabulin's Avatar
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    "Very difficult, just in logistical terms"---John Williams, 1999

    And that already assumes that one slams the dots and lines as quickly as possible, aesthetics be damned
    Last edited by Fabulin; May-20-2020 at 14:39.

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    Writing music is tedious. You can imagine in your head all these great ideas - then you're faced with actually having to write it down - sometimes that stops you cold. I find it challenging enough to write a work for orchestra that is only 3 to 5 minutes. I can imagine the daunting task of writing a 50 minute symphony or a 3 hour opera. It's very hard work - mentally and physically. Those few composers who could write at high speed (Mozart, Schubert, Bach, Mendelssohn, Raff) are to be respected. Of course in those days they didn't have to drive to work or watch Tiger King.

    I use Finale, but I still do sketches and a short score with paper and pencil. The software is a godsend when it comes to the parts - that used to be the most horrible part of writing music. The chances of errors creeping in when you copied from the score to the part is very high. More than one work was sabotaged by badly copied parts. I do use a piano-like keyboard to input notes and that saves a lot of time, but even then there can be so much manual correcting if the rhythmic quantization is off even a bit. Writing music is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It's hard!

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    Writing music is tedious. You can imagine in your head all these great ideas - then you're faced with actually having to write it down - sometimes that stops you cold. …
    ... Writing music is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It's hard!

    As a playwright I know that I've thrown away many more pages than I ever kept. Fortunately I've worked with a typewriter and later a computer word processor keyboard to put down my words. But the waste can would continually fill during a writing project. I suspect that composers threw away pages as well, which suggests that the music writing process is even more painful than we generally imagine it is. Imagine just having jotted down a series of scales, such as Tchaikovsky has in the third movement of his Sixth Symphony, and then discovering you've made a grave error on the page or simply had a new idea that needed inserted …. How many times did some of those great pages of music get revised before they were ready for the publisher/printer/performer?

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    Quote Originally Posted by SONNET CLV View Post
    As a playwright I know that I've thrown away many more pages than I ever kept. Fortunately I've worked with a typewriter and later a computer word processor keyboard to put down my words. But the waste can would continually fill during a writing project. I suspect that composers threw away pages as well, which suggests that the music writing process is even more painful than we generally imagine it is. Imagine just having jotted down a series of scales, such as Tchaikovsky has in the third movement of his Sixth Symphony, and then discovering you've made a grave error on the page or simply had a new idea that needed inserted …. How many times did some of those great pages of music get revised before they were ready for the publisher/printer/performer?
    I always found that learning to write on the typewriter back in the bad old days, aided my subsequent writing ability immensely. You had to be sure when you began a sentence where it was going -- because if it went bad halfway through, you had to pull the page out and retype from the beginning. People who learned on word processors/computers have it too easy!

    (Many years ago, with the newly widespread use of PCs, the student newspaper of a college I worked for surveyed the faculty and asked if student papers were any better now. The consensus was that they weren't generally better, but they were longer! :-))

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    Quote Originally Posted by mbhaub View Post
    ................. Writing music is not for the lazy or unmotivated. It's hard!
    Amen to that mbhaub.
    My last 2 pieces are 35mins and 31 mins in duration and the one I'm on now will come in around 25mins. I tend to do Sibelius work on a laptop with a touch screen and pen whilst slumming in the lounge. It's even more hard work if you are programming the piece with samples.
    Last edited by mikeh375; May-21-2020 at 14:45.

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    I was a writer most of my working years and wrote non-fiction that would for the most part be classified as technical writing. I also wrote and edited newsletters for government agencies and wrote ad copy for a daily newspaper. In college I had several beat reporter jobs in news and sports.

    I've never composed music but there is crossover between the disciplines based on people I know that compose music. In my case I liked to compose the piece in my head first, or at least sketch the major details, and then translate it to a product.

    The art of writing, however (and I suppose composing music) is rewriting. No first draft is ever ready for publication. It has to be the same with music.

    Next time you watch "Amadeus" pay attention to the end where Wolfgang is dying and reciting pieces of the Requiem.
    Last edited by larold; May-21-2020 at 22:25.

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