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Full Circle

(Note: Thanks to a mysterious computer glitch, the original version of this post was largely lost in the ether of cyber-space. I’ve reconstructed it, as best I can. But no doubt, the original was MUCH more clever. RS)

Long ago, in the Dark Ages of the Mystic 1970s, one of the several jobs I did as a free-lancer was Music Copywork. Now, for you kids, this was real “copywork.” As in – by hand, on paper, with pen and ink. No computers. No Finale or Sibelius. Lots of “Wite-Out.” (I won’t explain. Google it.)

I was a pretty good copyist. And there were plenty of months when copywork paid the bills when nothing else did. More to the point, a music copyist is the last person to pour over the composer/arranger’s score. So, for a budding composer/arranger like me, copywork was a terrific learning tool – to literally write out the notes of other composer/arrangers.

But my life goal was not to be a copyist. (Not that there is anything wrong with that.) And the day I stopped taking outside copywork from other  writers was a Red Letter Day for me, indeed. It was only surpassed a few years later by the Day of Infinite Importance, when I could hire someone else to do my copywork.

And that’s the way I worked for years. I wrote music (by hand, on paper), and somebody else copied it for the musicians. Once Finale became a Wieldy Beast (rather than an Unwieldy Beast), copyists dumped their pens and nibs and straight-edges in favor of the latest Mac with Finale (or Sibelius). Then, one by one, a lot of composer/arrangers made the switch to Finale/Sibelius. And, as you know (if you’ve read my earlier blog posts), I jumped on the Sibelius bandwagon last year, becoming the unofficial Last Composer in America to Use a Computer. (I’m still waiting for the plaque to arrive.)

All that to say, yesterday I was finishing up some music cues for a radio show when it occurred to me: I have come Full Circle. I am once again my own copyist.

I don’t know if that’s a good thing or not. Finishing in Sibelius makes my scores look better (though my hand-written scores were always pretty neat). It saves the cost of a copyist. (Though publishers still have to pay a typesetter to make everything fit their own unique templates.) And it saves me a lot of file storage space. (No small thing.)

But here’s a question: Is the current generation of burgeoning composer/arrangers missing out on a vital learning experience, never having copied the work of more established writers. Is this one of the costs of computerization?

Discuss amongst yourselves.

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