John Lane

percussionist | composer

 

 

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

This is one of Beethoven's many sketches.

This is one of Beethoven's many sketches.

Lou Harrison's calligraphy was so important to him that he had a font created of his handwriting!

Score sample of Lou Harrison

Score sample of Lou Harrison

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.

  Austin Kleon's divided work space.

 

Austin Kleon's divided work space.

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

 

 

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