Call Me Mister Langley

Monday 24 August 2009

For only about the second time in five years, I’m writing something out in conventional music notation for a real, live musicians. I’m trying to use a music notation program but I’m finding it a particularly frustrating experience. First of all, there’s the learning curve you get with every new piece of software, but that’s to be expected.

What’s really vexed me is how the software brings the contradiction, between what makes sense to humans and what makes sense to computers, to a crisis. I just want to write down a fairly simple succession of sounds, without any particular constant beat. It’s simple to enter this into a MIDI sequencer and have the computer play it back without a hitch, but if I convert it straight to sheet music it will look like a jumbled mess.

On the other hand, it would be simple for me to write the music out by hand, and the musician could immediately understand what was going on, but the software can’t intuitively grasp concepts and becomes hopelessly confused. It needs a regular, steady beat, and needs to know how many beats will be in each bar before it begins to fill them with notes and silences.

This is like trying to draw parabolae with an Etch-a-Sketch.