Tools Influence the Work
In 2007 we hosted composer John Luther Adams at Sam Houston State University for our annual Contemporary Music Festival. Part of his visit included a session with young composers. In one of the classes he talked about his process of first using a pencil and paper when working on a new composition before going to the computer for engraving. He encouraged the young composers to work in whatever way they felt comfortable, but urged a consideration of how tools influence creative work.
Beethoven was a constant reviser. You can trace his revisions because they were preserved in literally thousands of sheets of sketches.
Lou Harrison's calligraphy was so important to him that he had a font created of his handwriting!
There are two important things that we miss when we work digitally: We miss seeing the process through which we arrived at our end product, and the performer misses the connection with the composer's hand.
In the last blog entry I wrote about Austin Kleon's books Show Your Work and Steal Like an Artist. In Show Your Work, he talked about how he has divided his studio into two sides: analog and digital.
This is a terrific way of giving yourself an opportunity to make use of some analog tools. Even if you don't want to divide your workspace completely in half like Austin did, I think establishing some kind of dedicated analog space and having a few tools at your disposal (like pencils, paper, scissors, tape, sticky notes; or, if you are a composer, things like blank/staff paper, pencils and rulers) will go a long way in boosting your creative ideas.
"Inherently most tools are neither good nor bad. But I always try to be aware of the subtle and profound ways in which the tools I use shape the music I make." - John Luther Adams, Winter Music: Composing the North