Being less linear

I really do have to keep in mind that the best, most involved thing I’ve written was written in a very nonlinear style, as most things are — where I wrote parts of it and then proceeded to shuffle them around a bit. Lately, I’ve been writing things more each-note-in-order. Musescore, much as I love it, seems to demand that more than pencil and paper. It’s just that it’s so damned fast and convenient to use, but I’ve been limiting myself thanks to that quickness and convenience. I might want to print out what I’m doing, and then just scribble the old-school way and wait until it’s mostly done before putting it into Musescore all at once. Maybe I also need to get a printer.

For all its limitations, pencil-and-paper really is the most flexible, user-friendly way to get anything down in some ways.


Remember what I said earlier about crapping an elephant an inch at a time?

Well, I finally heard a plop. Yes, I know it’s a disgusting metaphor for what turned out to be a great piece of music. It’s also horribly appropriate.

Not only that, it’s break time! I’ve got to get this thing into Musescore, and then I take a break from sweating and killing myself. And I never go that far onto the black keys again. Four sharps to three flats, and that’s as accidental as I get from now on.

I cannot believe this thing is finally (mostly) over with. I simply cannot believe it. October 22 was when I first cranked this out, or the 21st. I think it was the 21st, and I blogged about it on the 22nd. I cannot believe it’s done, and that it was such a brutal damned experience. This was the ugliest and most undermining and confidence-destroying artistic experience I’ve ever had.

(Thus far. I hate to admit it, but there are probably worse ones up ahead. Oh joy.)

I need to get out and list all the other junk that I’ve got going on and see if I can’t prioritize what gets worked on next — everything from “Streetlights” to that abortive little thingie in AM that I’ve been thinking of in terms of Shirley Jones in a ponytail to “Son nata a lagrimar,” to the “Se fiera belva ha cinto” variations, to “Twilight.” I need to just get it all out and look at it, even that damned thing in C#m. Just get all my blocks and toys and lay them out where I can see them so I know what I’ve got going on.

Yeah, just a slog.

You just have to keep pounding. And it’s easier to edit than to come up with something in the first place.

I’m still lukewarm, and increasingly so, on the usefulness of Musescore for this sort of thing. If I have a fairly good idea of where I want to head, like I did with the D mixo thing and “Moon of Memory,” it’s great. I can get ideas down and move on very, very quickly — and I don’t have the obstacle of typesetting it all when I’m done with the actual piece. Plus, the ability to “play” it back to myself using the MIDI synth keeps me from making notation mistakes and also enables me to work away from the piano at least a little.

But sometimes the writing process just isn’t very linear, and the ability to randomly scribble ideas down, ignore them, marks things off with arrows and asterisks, and then go back and re-read what you wrote the weekend before and decide you liked it, is harder with electrons than with paper and pencil. I don’t have to worry so much about revision control with paper. I can just write and scribble it down and not worry about carrying a document management system around in my head.

Of course, Musescore still comes in handy at the end — Lilypond looked beautiful, but it took forever to typeset anything. Musescore is a six-second job, and the decrease in quality from Lilypond is more than offset by the speed and convenience (and again, the ability to suss out mistakes rapidly with the synth).

Anyhow, still just slogging away. I swear, I’m going to have more bits and pieces in six flats stocked up when I finally call done on this …

Put a little more into “Bitter Clean”

The middle theme was a little peppier than I would have guessed it would be, but this seems to be turning out oddly, like a sonatina turned inside out. The two bookending themes are slower and more melancholy, and the middle one is more lively. It’s really pushing Musescore to its limit, and I ended up with two unwanted bass clefs that refused to get gone when I’ve turned the entire lower staff into treble. No clue. I set them to invisible and moved on. 😛

Viola’s going okay. Sort of mentally dealing with the fact that my modest little epiphany didn’t turn me into Yuri Bashmet overnight, with the exception of spurring a mild desire for a glass of good wine. I ran into a cute little theme while improvving on the thing, and might put it down and write a piano accomp, and put it online for a fiddle forum I’m poking my nose into. Some of the things I’m writing for it sound like they could be done a couple of ways, folk fiddle being one of them.

Surprisingly, “There All Along” isn’t bad.

Nor is it too brutal to shovel it back into my forebrain. But I do need to get it into Musescore instead of Lilypond. *sigh* And Lilypond looks so good when it’s typeset, but it’s just too hard to manage when you have to tweak things and besides, Musescore has the MIDI thing that’s so convenient.

Oh, well. Stop whining and get to work, you.

ETA: Well, I’ve got another page or so to get into Musescore (19 measures), but I’m really surprised at how nice this piece is. Oh it’s not Brahms, but it’s awfully good for someone who had never done it before. This is the third thing I’ve ever written, and I took a lot of time with it. Months — from July/August to mid-February. I really was careful with this. Parts of it stalled for a long time while I let multiple versions of various themes duke it out in my head, mulled it in the car during my drives to work, came up with ideas and then hummed them to myself during the day so I wouldn’t forget them before I got home and could work them out and write them down … I really sweated over this thing. And for a first time at something that was longer than a page, it shows. It’s good. It doesn’t have rough edges. Oh a few typos in the notation that had to be fixed, but nothing in the music itself as I played it that had to be repaired. I removed one note in the middle of a chord, and it may find its way back there for all I know.

I’m so pleased with this. I’m still sort of gobsmacked that I’m doing this.

Irritating Musescore bug

The stupid thing won’t hold onto triplets! This is driving me nuts. I will get a piece of music just right, save it to a PDF that looks perfect, close it, then open it again and the triplets are all entirely hosed up.

The PDF looks fine, I might add.

I know it’s free software, but this is annoying as all hell, especially in a piece of music that has buttloads of triplet eighths. If I go in and fix them all in the mcsz file, are they just going to hose up again later? *argh*

ETA: I messed with it a bit — I think it might have been related to the fact that, for some reason, the time signature had gotten deleted from the front of the piece. Nothing else flipped out except those pasted triplets. I have no clue if it’s going to hose up on me again, but I’ll have to see if it does. Again, the PDF saves just fine and very stably.

Well, I got a laptop.

So I’m officially one grand poorer than I used to be. This does not please me as I am a dyed-in-the-wool skinflint and intermediate-to-advanced-level miser. However, I am seriously looking forward to being able to put the thing on top of the piano and leave it there instead of what I currently do, which is periodically abscond with my work laptop (ssh) on which I have installed Musescore, Lilypond, Audacity, and various other things that haven’t got a damned thing to do with what I do for a living. It’ll be nice to uninstall them finally.

Nothing much else to report. I’ve gotten some of “Lagrimar” done but the orchestra doesn’t really do anything all that interesting in that one, frankly. There’s the occasional arp up or downward between phrases, but other than that it should be a long series of dotted quarter note chords until fine.

After that, I’m actually wondering if “Seven Journey Ballads for String Quartet” might not be a better (and possibly more lucrative) way to spend my time for the foreseeable future. I’m sure my old viola teacher can hook me up with a quartet than can test-play the things for a fee for half a day, and then I can get them in shape and send a proposal letter off to JSI or some publisher someplace. I really would prefer viola/violin+piano, but I’m not sure there would be as much of a market for it as opposed to an all-strings version.

Still mulling Musescore …

You know, it’s amazing what’s out there. This program really will serve me fairly happily for quite some time, and possibly for good. I’ve already started a Paypal transfer to donate a bit to it. If I can get a good keyboard app for the iPad, and if they ever make a full-featured version of Musescore available for the iPad, I will buy one of the damned things, finally. That’s a promise. A full-featured WYSIWYG music editor with MIDI (does anyone other than me need to say what-you-see-is-what-you-get to themselves to type that properly?), along with a vaguely acceptable piano app (good enough for a rough idea) will make it possible for me to do heavy editing of a piece of music that I’ve already roughed out at the piano. I don’t foresee ever being able to write music entirely away from an instrument, but once the basics of a piece are worked out and in the program, there is a great deal that can be done with that sort of setup.

Best of all, it’s small. My computer-related Holy Grail is to be able to take it on board an airplane without having it eat up a carry-on.

I will absolutely buy an iPad if the Musescore deities manage to put out a full-featured version of the program for it. Not a reader, but a full-featured version of Musescore for the iPad.

So I’ve got the violin and viola parts in Musescore …


And the first few measures of the piano part.

And yes, it’s in Ebm. My ears bleed when I try to do it in Em, and it’s not a real problem with the score. I’m working from the Haendelgesellschaft score, so I just write the same general notes and flatten everything by a semitone. I don’t think I have absolute pitch, at least I’ve never been tested. I don’t think I do. I can’t name a note by hearing it. But I get completely turned around when I do this in Em.

This is getting crazy. The best part of the Haendel stuff is that I can publish it without concerns, even self-publish if I choose. Maybe “Dove sei?” might be next. Or one of the pretty Grimoaldo arias from “Rodelinda.” Or “Piangero la sorte mia?”

I could grab one from “Tamerlano” or “Partenope” as well. “Si, parto ma senza cor” or something.

Then, I get started on the Journey ballads. And see if getting it pubbed is even possible, especially if it’s not big-note crap.

And I must admit, using Musescore has made this a whole lot easier. It took very little time to get the violin and viola parts in, leaving me with nothing but the piano stuff to work out and then very easily get into Musescore. The paper has ceased to be an obstacle between me and getting my music down. I may want to get a laptop to put on my piano, behind the music desk. It might even be easier to do this than to score with pencil and paper. Amazing. A tablet PC might make it even easier.

“Moon of Memory” successfully in Musescore!

It worked nicely. Using multiple voices in one staff, I could set the chords where they needed to be. The only sticking point is that I still can’t set chords across staves, which strictly speaking might be against standard practice for all I know.

So it’s Musescore well ahead of the competition (Lilypond). I can’t believe a free piece of software has so much functionality in it, including the MIDI synth. It’s really wonderful. I’m pondering putting my other stuff in there now.