I’ve recently been writing my music on a little notebook of student ruled staff paper. I honestly think it’s a bit silly. I am leaning hard into being a horn and electronics specialist- I’ve named my computer (Stan), and I obviously don’t have a problem with technology. I premiered my newest piece, Wisdom’s Bubble, that was entirely written on paper before I started putting it into the computer.
I liked writing Wisdom’s Bubble on paper because there was a sense of immediacy to opening the notebook and knowing exactly where it is. I’ve written on a tablet or on the computer- it’s incredibly fast, but there is still a tiny loading screen or hesitation when you open i up. The notebook doesn’t run facebook or give me notifications. I don’t have to preplan when I use my paper notebook, and I can use any kind of weird notation that I want. Marks, ties, rehearsal letters, clef changes, and other musical communication happens any way I want, regardless of if it makes sense to the computer or anyone else. Some programs, like StaffPad, have done a great job of allowing you to write anywhere on the score, but you can’t just add an extra line Willy-nilly because I wanted to notate some found sounds or reduce the score down just to a single line for a solo.
I also write with a pen. There’s an undisputed advantage to working with a computer because of the undo button. I use the undo function all the time, but with a pen the only option is to cross out what I have done and write some kind of explanation for what mistake happened and what direction I’m going in and why it didn’t work. This is helpful once I have to start putting work into the computer and figuring out how exactly I’m going to do what I’ve written. The entire thought process is there, not having been deleted completely.
Are there other things we do in a certain way, despite the fact that an objectively better way has been found? Of course! This is why nobody should be taking what I say as a composer as “Oh this is the way to do it” and this is why I work really hard to make sure that nobody hears what I’m saying as “This is the only way”.
Whatever it is that you do, if it feels best on pen, do it with pen.