Avid plays chicken with Sibelius users, loses.

Philip Rothman at Sibelius Blog:

So, after all the sturm und drang about subscription vs. perpetual licenses, revised price schemes, and deadline extensions, Avid has once again dropped the price of an upgrade for users of Sibelius 7.5 or earlier who have missed the 1-year window to upgrade. The price for those users is now $199 USD, available from Avid’s online store.

Responsive Score Layouts in Dorico

New Development Diary post over on the Steinberg blog:

A master page definition itself typically consists of a number of frames. Frames are rectangular boxes that can be positioned on a page, and then filled with content. In Dorico, there are three types of frame: music frames, into which the music chosen for your layout is flowed; text frames, into which you can either type arbitrary text, or choose from a number of tokens (sometimes called “wildcards” or “text inserts” in other programs), which are automatically replaced with preset information from elsewhere in your project; and graphics frames, into which you can load images in a variety of formats.

Frames can be positioned anywhere on the page inside the margins defined for the specific page size in use by the layout. All pages in a layout use the same page size, orientation, and margins, but frames can be laid out within those margins differently on every page, if necessary. Frames are defined in a manner that allows the page layout to adapt to changes in page size, orientation, or margins, so that the same master page definitions can be used for e.g. both A4 pages (as typically used in Europe) and Letter pages (as typically used in the United States), or even for A4/Letter and A3/Tabloid. In the language of the modern web, this is known as responsive design, and the behaviour of how a frame’s size and/or position changes when the page size or orientation change is defined in terms of constraints.

The post compares these master pages to their cousins in Adobe InDesign. If you’re not familiar with that, think of master slides in PowerPoint or Keynote. Right now, I’m using a rather silly Sibelius workaround[1] to publish the same score in both a paper and iPad screen format in which I create a “part” for each format that happens to include all of the instruments, thereby creating multiple versions of the same score. I assure you from experience that this way lies madness.

I was just telling a friend yesterday that I expect to work in both Sibelius and Dorico for different projects for the first couple of years as Dorico continues to build its core feature set. But the more I read from Daniel on the development blog, the less I want to spend any time in Sibelius.

  1. “Rather silly workarounds” could be the Sibelius slogan. Many of the silliest are even documented and recommended in the official Sibelius User Guide.  ↩

The “Hello World” Trap

Eric Chasalow writing in NewMusicBox:

My relationship to cars is a pretty good analogy to how I’ve worked with synthesizers: They look shiny, sexy, and inviting at first, but once I drive one a little, it becomes just a way to get from point A to point B—at least until something goes wrong.

The next step is knowing what to do with the synth and where to drive the car. I am not much of a synth nerd, but I am a big computer nerd. In my experiments nibbling around the edges of electroacoustic music (mostly with computers), this has been a serious distraction for me. I think of it as the “Hello World” trap. Yes, it’s nice that I can write a little script that won’t crash; but, the script wasn’t the goal. Music is the goal.

Do others face this issue? How do you work beyond the “hello world” stage in a new computer music project?

Writers of writers

In my most recent creative technology explorations, I’ve been really interested in autonomous software that can generate music or art. In reading about this stuff on the Web, I often find comments along the lines of “the computers will put the composers out of work.” In a fascinating post about neural-network-based machine intelligence writing prose and poetry, Ross Goodwin has the perfect response.

When we teach computers to write, the computers don’t replace us any more than pianos replace pianists—in a certain way, they become our pens, and we become more than writers. We become writers of writers.

Yes, please. I want to do that.

Since the above-linked post was written, Goodwin has written a new post linking to this delightfully insane film, shot from a screenplay written by his neural network algorithms.

(The writers I’m writing are much dumber than the ones Goodwin is writing, but it’s still fascinating and thrilling to me. Here’s an example of one of the better things my little guy made.)

The Great Internet Deflation continues

This week, the The New York Times announced that they would join the Associated Press in decapitalizing (decapitating?) the word “Internet.”

“In our view, it’s become wholly generic, like ‘electricity or the ‘telephone,’ ” he said. “It was never trademarked. It’s not based on any proper noun. The best reason for capitalizing it in the past may have been that the word was new. But at one point, I’ve heard, ‘phonograph’ was capitalized.”

Dumb analogy. The Internet, as a physical object, is arguably humanity’s greatest creation, and certainly among its most influential. You know how many phonographs there were? Me neither, but I’m pretty sure it’s more than one.

Furthermore, as we grapple with issues of network neutrality that may actually create many Internet-like networks, it’s important to use language to remind ourselves that the Internet is useful precisely because of its singular nature.

Long live Internet.

Career Candor

Remarkably candid post from pianist Andy Lee on NewMusicBox recently.

First, a deer chaser makes noise, and that’s exciting. There are a lot of things I want to do with my career, but making some noise and getting noticed seems like a good place to be. Second, all the water that pours out of the deer chaser has to go somewhere. No, we don’t always get to control where it goes, but that water still nourishes the soil and helps create new growth.

Likewise, career progress is often difficult to see. I haven’t sold any CDs as a result of that post, nor have any gig offers come my way, but I’ve expanded my new music network (to use a crass term), and I’ve gotten my foot in the door with an entirely new community. It was also a useful reminder that I enjoy writing. That’s not nothing.

Not only does he talk about his career struggles directly, but also the psychological impact of those struggles on his approach to future opportunities. Read the whole thing.

And when you’re done reading, buy Andy’s disc. It’s great.

The eye of the $100k-beholder

Mark Stryker of the Detroit Free Press has a great write-up of the innaugural M-Prize, a chamber music competition hosted at the University of Michigan. I love that chamber music is getting such a high-dollar award – $100,000 grand prize and $200,000 total.[1] However, Stryker had some strong words on the judges selection. The winning group was a string quartet (sigh), playing Debussy (sigh), Haydn (sigh), Mendelssohn (sigh), and a token two minutes of Webern. Another finalist, the adventurous piano-percussion quartet Yarn/Wire, played two new commissions.[2] Living in Florida, I didn’t get to hear the finals. But, I’ve heard Yarn/Wire before, and so I’m certain Stryker does not exaggerate when he writes:

[Yarn/Wire] played with a cohesiveness that at least equaled the Calidore quartet and a depth of expression and distinctive interpretive identity that surpassed the winner.

But more disappointing than that was this exchange between Stryker and a member of the winning Calidore quartet:

It’s troubling that the Calidore’s programming was so relentlessly conservative. The most recently composed music the group played was the two-minute first movement from Anton Webern’s Five Movements, Op. 5, written in 1909. After the semifinals Thursday morning, I asked Calidore violinist Ryan Meehan if his group plays any contemporary music. “Yes,” he said. “We played Webern this morning.”

The whole article is definitely worth your time. Stryker is one of the tiny handful of music critics that is willing to express an opinion.

  1. Arguably, chamber music might be better supported by giving $20,000 to each of five chamber groups, or some other division, but that’s another issue.  ↩
  2. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the other of the three finalists was a saxophone quartet.  ↩