SN234: Q is for Qhord

I was probably in high school trying to use Sibelius 1.2 to write an arrangement of something for me and my brass-player buddies the first time I got help from “Daniel at Sibelius.” Well, it’s been a long fifteen years for both me and Daniel Spreadbury; but, he’s as delightful and nerdy[1] as ever. This week’s SoundNotion was now the third time we’ve had him on the show to talk about Steinberg’s new scoring application, Dorico. If you’ve not been following the drama of the last few years, Daniel and many of the original Sibelius developers have been working in secret on Dorico for the last three-and-a-half years. Take a listen to our excellent conversation with Daniel. (show notes)

I gave Daniel (now “Daniel at Steinberg”) a bit of a hard time at the end of the episode on the licensing tech that Steinberg plans to impose, and I may have implied that I wouldn’t buy this thing if I couldn’t use it on two computers. I’ve been thinking about that a bit more since we recorded this show last Friday. And I’ve reached the following conclusions.

Second, it’s ok that Dorico 1.0 is not a one-for-one replacement for Sibelius 7.5 for me. I can use it for projects that fit it, and installing Dorico on my Mac isn’t going to break Sibelius. I can use them both. No, it doesn’t have chord symbols. But you know what? I don’t usually use chord symbols, and if I need them, Sibelius is a click away.

Third, this is a huge project serving a niche market. I want to show Steinberg that they aren’t wasting their time and money with it. If I don’t support the competition, I don’t think I can whine about Sibelius.

But first and foremost, the most significant feature of Dorico is not its proportional spacing algorithm, slur arc controls, or even the miraculous open meter implementation. It’s actually the people that make it. My experience corresponding with Daniel and other members of his team lead me to trust them. Trust is not a word I’m usually comfortable associating with giant multinational organizations; but, the reason I use it here is that I’m not describing a big organization. I’m describing people.

So Steinbergers, you may have my dollars later this year. I’ll even pay whatever a VAT is if I have to.

  1. On this blog, as in life, “nerd” and “geek” are terms of honor and endearment.  ↩

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.  ↩

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