I have spent a wonderfully fruitful morning ploughing ahead with my latest piece, an anthem which could either stand alone or form the centerpiece of a much larger work. Because of constraints of time (deadline) and space (building work) I am writing directly onto Sibelius, my music processor, which is something I prefer not to do. I have nothing against Sibelius per se, but I prefer to sketch and write by hand and then transfer to the computer rather than go digital directly. I have to say, though, that today is the first time I have ever felt that I could just conceivably jettison the manuscript paper altogether and write onscreen.
I find the very act of putting pencil to paper inspirational in itself, and I have read that other writers in different fields have felt the same. Toru Takemitsu, one of my very favourite composers, would apparently sharpen his pencils and listen to some of Bach’s Mass in b minor before beginning his day’s writing. The novelist Stephen King, unless I have remembered incorrectly, still writes by hand. There are, I am sure, many others. In today’s high speed world, though, where even antibacterial soaps now claim to kill germs “20% faster” (than what?) it seems that every single second counts. You see it when people speed through red lights, yet you catch up to them when they are stopped at the next junction, when people run for the tube doors even though there is another in 2 minutes, and so on. Some people will not run for anything, and I aspire to be one of them. I’ll run from things, of course, but not for them.
So I would be sad to wave goodbye to manuscript and, in my heart of hearts, doubt that it will happen. For one thing, I have piles of it upstairs, for another, an idea can be quickly jotted down in my Moleskine manuscript book while the more tech-savvy are still waiting for their notepads to boot up. It’s part of the reason I still keep a diary using that tried and tested technology, pencil and paper. Linked to this is the reason I believe Kindle will never replace books. Yes, the LP is dead, but CDs, despite lacking those upper harmonics, produce a far better sound, all things considered. The aesthetic appeal of a good book, however, is something joyous, and my all too few Folio Society editions (including Grout’s A History Of Western Music) are a joy to behold.
So Sibelius is a tool but not a master. I remain baffled that people will speed through red lights, run for tubes, tut in queues and want faster soap, yet will vegetate their evenings away in front of pap like EastEnders. If you want more time, that’s where you’ll find it.