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CLASSICAL  March 2000

CLASSICAL March 2000

Subject:

Re: Howard Goodall's Big Bangs

From:

Ian Crisp <[log in to unmask]>

Date:

Mon, 13 Mar 2000 21:47:37 +0000

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James Kearney wrote:

>Yesterday I learned a lot from the first episode of British composer Howard
>Goodall's new 5-part series "Big Bangs." For instance, I didn't realise
>the significance of Guido Monaco of Arezzo, who invented the principles of
>music notation in the eleventh century.  Goodall also commented on the way
>computer tools like Sibelius will have as profound an influence on music
>composition and publication as the invention of printing.

I also saw this and although I found Goodall's presentation annoying at
times I do think he got his material across rather well.  I shall certainly
make a point of watching the next four episodes.  Goodall had another
series a little while ago provocatively entitled "Goodall's Organ Works",
which probably tells you all you need to know about his jovial style.

I do take issue with his point about Sibelius etc.  (the music software,
not the composer!) He quickly demonstrated how notes could be entered onto
a score from the computer keyboard, and then moved on to show how he could
also input music directly from playing an electronic keyboard (instrument)
onto the screen and then to a printed score.  He showed that the software
picked up every detail of his performance and therefore notated rhythmic
inaccuracies etc.  to produce a much more complex printed part than he
would have written by hand in the old-fashioned way.  He then argued that
this more-than-necessarily-difficult score would not be usable by most
practical musicians, and that the result of widespread take-up of Sibelius
et al would be to produce an elite of "literate" musicians who could cope
with such things, while the rest got along without the benefits of written
music.  Now I don't know the recent versions of Sibelius, but I imagine
they contain some sort of quantize function that ignores small deviations
of rhythm etc.  and rounds things off to the nearest eighth-note, or
whatever - i.e.  doing automatically exactly the kind of editing process
that Goodall demonstrated note-by-note to turn his high-precision score
into a more performer-friendly version.  I haven't yet had the opportunity
to read Goodall's argument in full in the book of the series, but it seems
to me that he produced a gross distortion of the value and impact of
Sibelius etc.  in order to produce a neat finish to Episode One by
Comparing his idea of a new electronic elite to the small numbers of
monks who preserved the plainchant tradition during the Dark Ages.

Ian Crisp
[log in to unmask]

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