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In an interview I threw out this term (it’s certainly nothing new, I’m sure I didn’t make it up). Most people immediately understand what I meant when I mentioned “finalemusic” (sic) in that interview, but merely for the purposes of clarification, allow me try to expound, and thereby explain myself slightly better.

First off, I am FOR whatever tools get people writing music. Period. Whether it’s working with computers, in notation programs (Finale, Sibelius) or sequencers (DP, Cakewalk, whatever), or the myriad of other tools available with which for the most part I am a complete and useless Luddite. And I don’t think that notated music, or the tools used to create notated music are any more valid than un-notated non-western music, nor do I wish to compare them in any way at all, nor do I declare any one way to write music as being ‘better’ than any other. In fact, the unparalleled quality of most un-notated musics (like African drumming for example) crystalizes my whole point–NOTATION ITSELF IS EVIL.

Well, ok, not notation per se, because a lot of terrific music is notated . . . but what my point is that the limits of notation are evil — that YES Finale (and let’s just use Finale to be a general term for all modern notation software) is a great tool for copying, for learning how to notate, for getting ideas into reality, and for hearing half-decent playback, and it is just one of the many and infinite ways all of you described above for writing, and learning how to write music. And it can also be a great tool for composition. Many many terrific pieces are written in it, and will be written with it, just as many terrific pieces are written in a sequencer, or sung into a tape recorder, or just plain not even written down. What I was attempting to define in that interview is not the practice of writing one’s music in Finale, but the practice of writing one’s music down to Finale. When I’m not writing music that I want to or can write, but when I am writing music that’s easy to write in Finale, showing no glimmer that this is something that could have been composed by writing on a piece of paper, or played on the piano, or sung out loud, or entered into a sequencer, or anything really, but that looks and sounds only like it was written into Finale and has no other properties: that’s ‘finalemusic’, to me. Finale works best when its music has meters, measures, barlines, set tempi, repeated phrases and form, and notes that fall into a 12-note scale. Now before everyone tackles me all at once — that’s not to say that the music you want to write shouldn’t neccesarily be easy to write into Finale or fall into the above categories. I’m just saying that it shouldn’t have to. Just like African drumming doesn’t have to, or the music of George Crumb doesn’t have to. For me, thinking creatively about notation–as an extension of composition–(and Crumb is just one example of thinking creatively about notation), is just as important as the notes. Try inputting Crumb into Finale. Crumb is not better, of course. It’s just different. What I hope I’m saying is–I’m glad that something different is out there…aren’t you? What if it wasn’t? What if that something different ultimately stopped being taught, or attempted, or tried by young composers, or ripped off, or just plain went away eventually?

In the same vein, I am equally critical about what I will call, for lack of a better term, “pianist-music.” That is, music that is written down to 10 fingers on a piano, and never breaks out of that box. The principle is exactly the same. I’ve known lots of composers who were unbelievable pianists — just monsters at the keyboard, and yet, this ability (in my opinion only!) actually hampered them in their composition…their music to me never sounded more than piano music, orchestrated or transcribed for something else.

For me, music composition is inherently Unlimited. Yes, of course, you are always limited, by your ensemble, by instrument range, by whatever. That’s the fun of the art, to work within those limitations. But when writing I try to think unlimited first, and then go from there. One of the great things about composing for me is you can just plain old sit back in an easy chair, close your eyes, and think about sounds…not just notes, but sounds, non-metered rhythms, and non-linear forms, and all the wonderful and interesting colors of the composing palette that the western composers of the last 80 years have left us, to say nothing of all of the hundreds and hundreds of years of ‘world music’ we now have much better access to in this digital age, or the generations of quality popular music. Then I go from there, and see how what I’m thinking of could be written and notated.

Despite how the above sounds I am not a crotchety old man with a quill pen and a candle, yearning for the good ol’ days of writing music (and reports as such have been greatly exaggerated.) I use Sibelius. I use DP. For many, MANY years I used Finale. Often, when writing, I will pour material into a sequencer, or into Sibelius, and see what I can do with it. I use it like my piano, as one of the many compositional tools available to me. I love my computer, I love using my computer to write. I used to be that 11-year old who sat at his Commodore 64 (I had a Vic-20, too) and program little songs and sequences using BASIC into the wee hours of the night. As far as I’m concerned, the music I wrote then was just as valid as Herr Composer writing Symph. No 10 with blood and scrap of sheepskin.

Now if reading this then you most likely know that I often write good old normal, notated, barred, metered music — music that is quite simply inputted into Finale, either while writing, or just copying, just like many many others who write Western music. But what is important to me is to think about the music first, and THEN think about how I’m going to notate it. Now, this whole topic and the silly term ‘finalemusic’ boils down to this, my main thesis: that writing into Finale, COULD (doesn’t have to! but could!) produce music where notating comes first, and the music comes second, thus producing what I (for lack of a better term) referred to as “finalemusic”. I accuse nobody in particular of this, nor have ever thought to. Just as I would I never “accuse” anybody of writing by any particular means, and say it’s worse than writing another way.

All that being said, my friends, I’ve taught lessons, I’ve taught classes, I’ve sat on competition panels and looked through scores . . . and I have seen something — call it a casual observation — I believe I’ve seen the music young composers are writing change slightly with the popularity of Finale. For lack of a better term, I’ve seen finalemusic. It’s not the end of civilization; Music with a capital M is not, as we speak, falling into a firey abyss of damnation…it’s just a silly made-up word I’m pretty sure I didn’t make up, to explain an observation I’ve been making to myself (and to others who will listen) for the last few years.

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