Wednesday, October 01, 2008
An Orphan in the Tool Box
From time to time, I make a project of learning some new trick with the computer. It all began with Formula, the Anderson/Kuivila Forth-based music language (Formula was especially effective in sequenzing complex rhythmic events), long ago on an Atari ST. Then I tried writing my own notation program, then used the same Atari to drive a Rayna Synthesizer to do some high-harmonic series sound installations. Moving onto a PC, I made a point of kicking the tires of a number of programs, including CSound and, more recently, PD, if only to keep an ear out to current habits and possibilities. But mostly, I've been a notation tourist, and have seven engraving programs currently on my machine, just to have as complete a set of tools as possible (I also keep my rapidograph and calligraphy ink pens in good condition, so I can function pretty well without electricity, too). Most recently, I've been exploring Graphire Music Press, which is probably the best engraving program you've never heard of. Input is very easy, workflow efficient, any item on the page can be moved anywhere, and the font is particularly fine. It can do some things, like polymeters, with ease, that big famous programs do either not at all or via giant ugly kludges. Unfortunately, Music Press is an orphan, no longer in development, and some aspects are either rudimentary (i.e. midi) or were left unfinished when the firm went into Limbo. In an ideal world, a program like this would be bought up by someone generous, opened up, and turned into free software for further development, but we're in this world, and this tool, imperfect as it may be, is still quite useful.