I’m often asked how I work when I compose and arrange music, and it seems to me that many people today work more in creating, rather than composing, new music. To me, the distinction is in the physical methods of the working process, and the methods of self-evaluation and proof-reading of what has been created.
Here you can see the notestand by my CP5 electric piano I use when I write music. On the stand is my current sketchbook, full with drafts for the first movement of Guitar Pastime Suite – which is now, finally, under way.
To bypass the manual writing process, and the page-by-page layout and overview of the score, is to me to work with creating, and not composing. Composing is to me the process of manual labor with a draft score, and the methodical work of scrutinizing how the parts interact aesthetically in the score, and probing, thinking and rethinking, and ultimately killing ideas that seem good in thought, but turn out to be dysfunctional from aspects that not always include how they sound – though those other aspects most often turn out to have a strong congruence to musical adequacy.
When I compose, I work on my piano to find the lines, chords and dynamics I want and write them in a sketchbook. From the sketchbook I write a sketch score, which I modify, extend or cut until I deem the piece to be as I want it. Finally I use my computer as
Here are two pages from the sketch score of the first movement of Guitar Pastime Suite, titled “Pick Your Point”. I use a cutting mat on the table to get a nice surface to write on, and I use a 0.7 construction/architect pencil with HB pins. I use three different erasers, depending on what is to be erased, how much and if on print or not. The pages are pre-printed from a Finale-template a teacher of mine made some twenty years ago; I still haven’t found any better. The yellow plastic folder is a hand rest so I don’t smear what I write, since I’m left handed.
a typewriter, to edit the score and the parts. Writing the sketch score by hand, makes it possible for me to see and sense the music in a direct physical way, and I can directly see the layout of the piece and the parts visually, by laying out the pages. To me, this process is essential to make the music dynamic and fluent from an over all grasp of the piece and its parts.