How does using music notation software affect your music? Mary Ellen Childs

Mary Ellen Childs
Photo by Warwick Green

I love using notational software when I write traditionally notated instrumental pieces. However, I also write a lot of music that can’t be notated in any standard notation, mainly because movement is an integral part of my music and I often use invented playing techniques for percussionists. The “scores” for these pieces take on whatever form is needed, whatever notation is needed—often created for the piece—and for these pieces I only rarely use notational software. It simply makes no sense. Instead I use a combination of invented names, written and verbal explanations, some traditional notation (written out by hand), and videotape to create the score: the way of communicating with performers.

But for my instrumental music I’ve been using Finale since shortly after it became available. I still write with pencil and paper, but each day I enter newly written measures and any corrections into the computer and print out a the latest version of my piece. Although I miss the tactile experience of seeing how the work has changed over time (erasures, added measures taped here and there, passages crossed out), it’s wonderful to know that when the piece is done, the score will be in a copied and usable version. Often I still hire a “copyist,” who will make sure the score looks great and the parts are properly formatted, but this is a copying job that takes very few hours.

Score sample from Missing Link for ocean drums

Score sample from Shiva