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One of the areas of a composer’s life where the advent of Sibelius music processing software has utterly changed things is in orchestration.  Although modern editions of the software come with some kind of auto-arrange function (so I am told, as I have never used it), a decent working knowledge of the capabilities of the various instruments is essential, especially as Sibelius will often tell the writer that something is impossible when actually it is quite simply played.  Those little foibles apart, if the software is used as servant rather than master, and nascent writers steer clear of cut and paste, then it is powerful indeed.

When it comes to writing out a full score and extracting parts, Sibelius now saves what often used to be days of work, not just hours.  I will probably form part of the final generation of writers to have had to do things by hand, and I well remember the tedium of copying out part after part from a full score, and the frustration of realising that a bar had been missed out here or there.  Proof reading was also an incredibly difficult and time-consuming experience, whereas now one can simply use a combination of brain and ear, listening back to things, to filter out the most obvious nasties.  I still remain amazed that some major publishers clearly do not have people in their organisations who do this, or maybe they simply cannot be bothered.

The ability to lay out the score as one wishes, fiddle with stave sizes, fonts, rehearsal marks, combine and separate parts and so on is such a boon to somebody who values these things and, of course, when things are done, you simply convert to pdf and fling it in the right direction on the end of an email.  No more running to Rymans with a bag of 50p pieces to use the photocopier, praying that is was not broken.  Ah, the life of the young composer in the 90s was all glamour.

Implied in all the above is that work on orchestrating 1215: Foundation Of Liberty is going very well.  I am starting with the “Runnymede” version, and am running ever so slightly ahead of schedule.  An extra stint this afternoon would put me significantly ahead and give me a decent amount of breathing space, but the sun is out and the fields beckon, so I might go a-tramping instead.  It was good enough for Beethoven, after all.

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