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Writing Music that Speaks to the Human Spirit

A visit with Thomas McKenney, Professor, Composition and Music Theory

By LuAnne Roth
Published: - Topics: electronic music composition music

More on the pros and cons of using computerized software to compose music

Topics: electronic composition teaching composition

McKenney combines pencil and paper composition methods with Finale, a professional musical transcription program. McKenney describes the pros and cons of using computer software to compose music. Mostly he uses such programs for playback (comparable to a word processor)—to check for wrong notes—and to transcribe his writing into a form that other people can read and then perform accurately. “You can’t really know until the live performance whether everything is going to work together the way you think it’s going to. You hope your ear hasn’t deceived you.” In spite of its speech synthesis ability, however, “the computer can’t sing a text.” Lacking the nuances of live performance, the computerized voices “sometimes sound like a dead woman’s choir.” Although these programs can’t reproduce the real musical instruments faithfully, McKenney still finds them useful. Listen to his recently composed choral piece, “Come Spirit Come,” as rendered via the music software program Finale.