Is the age of classical music geniuses over with invention of such pieces of software like Sibelius and MuseScore?

• Jan 23, 2023 - 02:48

Is it like with the invention of such pieces of software like Sibelius and MuseScore the whole idea of composing, especially the classical pieces, has been greatly hollowed out? I've just watched this short video on YouTube:

and was, in fact, quite disappointed by it because being a classical-music amateur and a dilettante, well, in fact, just a person who likes listening to classical music from time to time, I think I would have considered this piece to be quite a good and qualitative piece of classical music - that is, if I didn't see the score. But having seen the score, I realize now that it was just done for fun - that is, for the fun of drawing a cat using musical notes on the score - and yet it sounded, at least to my ear, as a good piece of classical music.

Besides, we can see how many Sb and MS users are now writing their music easily (using those pieces of software that helps them hear right away what they write) and uploading their creation on YouTube. And those pieces are not bad at all! In fact, I think they are on par with the classical scores written by famous composers of 18th century. But the huge and growing number of such videos on YouTube is just staggering.

So , does that all mean that the age of classical music geniuses is over with the invention of the pieces of software that kind of "exposed" the workings of the process of composing music?


Sit down with the score of a Beethoven symphony sometime. Go through it theme by theme. Modulation by modulation. Figure out, if you can, why those modulations work. See if you can figure why the instrumentation is vital to each and every section, mood and expression. Why was this key chosen and not another one. Why a soaring string section and not a bassoon solo.

This video is cute. But was never intended to have any depth or meaning past being a tribute to his cat.

You keep writing what you are writing. Notation software is but a tool. It is not inspiration. Only you can provide that.

A few years ago some programmers got together and fed many hours of Baroque music into a computer. Then had it "compose" some music. The computer knew all the styles, devices, and voicing of several composers. What it spit out was really quite convincing. It could create music that sounded Baroque. The difference was that while the computer music "sounded" Baroque, the original pieces "were" Baroque

You wrote:
But having seen the score, I realize now that it was just done for fun - that is, for the fun of drawing a cat using musical notes on the score - and yet it sounded, at least to my ear, as a good piece of classical music.

It was done for fun - as a novelty.
Such a combination of music notation that sounds good and "looks like" a picture does require talent to create. Though if you look carefully at the score, liberties are taken with note stem lengths, flags, and beams - which are "shaped" to draw curves to "create" the picture:
Published music, of course, adheres to more rigid standards for engraving music notation.

Regarding your question about the age of classical music geniuses being over because many Sb and MS users are now writing their music easily (using those pieces of software that helps them hear right away what they write), I would say that entering the notation is facilitated by the software, but creating the music itself is not "easily" accomplished. Talent, skill, and knowledge are required. The invention of software did not "expose" the workings of the process of composing music. Harmonic analysis (for example, RNA) has been around for centuries.

Finally, if you like listening to classical music from time to time, have a listen to this MuseScore composition:
Over the years, the composer has written about his desire for improved playback quality of MuseScore. There are many of his posts in these forums.

Thank you for sharing, that piece is unexpectedly satisfying.
Do you have more?

> genuius
Yes check out Nimi (was 11 years old), see if you comment pls be gentle

> hollowed out composition
I think musescore, sibelius, finale (hvn't tried dorico yet) failed in the sense of efficient music creation by experimentation, ie "write, play, edit, repeat". I doubt there exists one pianist who could jot down music ideas with them as efficiently as in front of a real piano with a pencil and paper. see
Yes with current tech, musicians don't need to own a real instrument to write for it, and they can tryout the timbre without the skill, but I believe these notation softwares are coded with focus on publishing / engraving instead of composition, they are centered on WY_See_IWYG function not WY_Hear_IYWG.
A better deal you could get would be use a DAW /sequencer.
To get my point, try recording a melody line (pitch and rhythm) with a midi keyboard in one go, like you would on a real life piano / guitar, and see the difference in workflow: quantization (correctly as you desire), ties (notes spanning multi measure), phrase looping and repeats (data and pointer) etc. Its a waste of time to use musescore as it is not designed to be used this way.
The downside / limitation of DAW/sequencer is of course the lack of staff notation display, you could only see those color bars which is quite meaningless.

> ... genuius ... just done for fun ... users are now writing their music easily ...
agree. now you don't need a wealthy father, the only resource you need is a computer, to sing a musical Leck mich im Arsch

Well sure, notation software is one tool of many out there. I can sit at a piano and write on paper. But what have I got in the end? I've got some not so great music, on paper. But if I use notation software what have I got? I've got some not so great music that is at least legible. And software allows me to write better not so great music because I don't have to guess as much about how the clarinet and viola might sound together to make my not so great music sound a little less not so great. And it is then more possible that unsuspecting people that might be interested in said music, can truly say that indeed, that music is not so great.

Your initial question: "Is it like with the invention of such pieces of software like Sibelius and MuseScore the whole idea of composing, especially the classical pieces, has been greatly hollowed out?"

IN MY OPINION... if all complex, sophisticated notation software packages were priced from, say, $299.95 upwards, generally-speaking, we'd see far less notated compositions that are, well, obviously produced by those with marginal, little music theory grounding, and/or a shallowness of creative spark.

MuseScore is 'free'. Any Tom, Bernice or Goober can load it up, and create SOMETHING. I regularly scan scores on .COM that are specifically tagged 'original'. My mouse hovers over the pause icon, because some music..... I'd rather search out something else.

Sometimes I come across a real sparkling gem of a composition. For that profile, I search out their other compositions. And I reward such scores with 5-stars and comments why I rated it such. Que Sara.

In reply to by Are Jayem

> regularly scan scores on .COM that are specifically tagged 'original' ... hovers over the pause icon.
my fav pastime too. Could hv been much better if .com techs get rid of those stale merry-go-around and flows-in-you from the frontpage and put original scores there where they really deserve, and switch a batch periodically.

In reply to by bobjp

Don't you think that presenting your music to the world (community, audience, etc.) through .com is still something that sooner or later you should do? After all, people's feedback may give you some valuable ideas, which you will be able to incorporate into your further music-creating journey.

Sure, those who won't like your music will either ignore it or will give some negative feedback. But there will also be those who will like it and will give some positive feedback. And there will also be some - perhaps, even more - who will like it, but won't leave any feedback.

I've always been treating arts (music included) as culinary - eat it if you like it and don't eat it if you don't. It's not like sports or science, in which things can be easily verified as false or true by means of using one unique standard.

Besides, it is a bit... hm should I say selfish to write only for yourself. If God gave you some gifts, then why not give back in a way of sharing with others what you've been able to produce using those gifts? And, by the way, it doesn't necessarily have to be something that later will turn into a famous masterpiece recognized by the whole world - as long as there will be some people who will like it and benefit from listening to it, it will suffice.

What do you mean by 'it folded shortly after I joined'?

Digital music notation programs change nothing. Even as a tool, there have always been tools that aid in the audition and refinement of music (keyboard and string instruments). Keep in mind that the capabilities of legendary classical musicians remain quite legendary. A stroll through the original copies at the great music libraries of the world will demonstrate sketches that are incomplete, revised, scratched out, erased, and otherwise altered for absolutely every single composer that has left a paper trail.
Additionally, music is not notation. Notation is merely a hard copy archive of the language of music. Music will never be anything but sound. I would consider that Cat ditty to be serious music (because it is, technically and artfully). The suggestion must otherwise be that music that is written with the intention of pointing to something else (like the artfulness of the notes and extremely contorted stems and beams on the physical page) isn't or can't be serious. Obviously this can't be true because... Opera, Ballet, Programmatic Romanticism, Sacred Music, etc. Even the early 20th century composers wrote from ciphers and with musical encryption. These techniques were entirely about creating music through the influence of external restrictions. Honestly, plenty of classical music worked this way as well with ciphers and reused folk tunes.

I'll also remind us that Beethoven wrote dinner music. Haydn wrote for the wishes of a patron. Bach wrote for the glory of God. Film composers (like their predecessors) compose for the narrative support of something else.

Nothing has changed with creative genius in music. Nothing at all. Nothing. At. All

In reply to by cfirwin3

Tools. Change. Everything.

Creative genius is not static. It is a living, thriving thing. It changes every day. We are but poor purveyors.

The Parthenon was not built with a screwdriver.
The composers you mention all wrote because they got paid. It was Bach's job. Hayden worked for more than one patron. Vivaldi ran a school for female musicians. Telemann wrote thousands of pieces. Most of which are lost. Many were expected to put on a concert of new music on a regular basis. I don't think any wrote in a vacuum. Some didn't start out to be professionals.

So what is musical genius? Is it limited to someone like Mendelssohn? Who would sit under a tree with a piece of paper. Then draw his own staff paper and write a symphony without corrections and hand it to someone who would write out the parts for a rehearsal. Is it only for the professional composer?

I will say this: I gave up writing on paper long ago. There was zero reward. Other than finishing my music degree. Midi instruments had just come out and everyone was afraid that it was the end for real musicians. Thirty years later, I got access to notation software. My journey down the road of writing a lot of not so great music began. I don't care about arranging. I don't even care if my music is played by real musicians. I write because I can. It is good for my soul.

In reply to by bobjp

The proliferation of writing does not result in the decay of creativity where it always existed and continuesto thrive. The composers that I mentioned didn't write well because they got paid. They got paid because they wrote well. That equation is still very much in effect.
If this discussion was about how tools create access... then tools change everything. If this discussion was about how tools save time... then tools change everything. If this was about how tools make work portable... then, the same.

But this discussion is about if tools somehow eradicate musical genius at any level. And I maintain that tools don't depreciate the spark of genius where it exists, not one bit.

A secondary assertion seemed to be that music written for something other than its own purpose might be somehow less than great. I.e. a short piece written to demonstrate the physical form of a cat in notation is less than good music because the picture of the cat dictated aspects of the music. I was pointing out that this line of reasoning is simply non sequitur as most music is written to serve the dictates of something outside of itself. In some circles, art can't possibly be art unless it points to something else.

That cat piece is a level of genius, even if it was done just for kicks and giggles. It's a level of genius because the music is good, the visual art is good, both are successfully made to conform through many choices and each points to the other. Notation programs didn't make that happen... an artist/musician did.

Everyone can try this right now. Go draw a picture with your notation programs and see if the resulting music happens to conform to the conventions of western music... in any genre.
Best of luck!

I would also add, as a music educator, I don't care that you consider the music that you write, however you choose to write it, to be poor or less than creative.

I just want you writing music. You learn every single time that you do it. If the tools help you do it more... then the suggestion that the tool somehow hurts music can't be true.

In reply to by cfirwin3

I think part of the problem is that we have the gift of hind sight. I don't think that most people who lived 200 years ago could name any of the composers of the time. I think the same is true today. So it's easy to look around and wonder what has happened. Who is writing music like Bach did? What modern music is being performed in concerts? There are, of course, musical geniuses today. Though not widely known. It is easy to look around and think that software is part of the problem. I'm not surprised it is possible to think that access to software waters down musical creation. We know that it does not.
For my own part, composition is not a trade. It is not something I am trying to learn, or get better at. It is something that I like doing. I used to post some of my pieces on a different forum. A few there claimed that my music was too simple. No argument from me. It is simple. On purpose. I don't believe that music has to be complicated or intricate or long to be good. So I wrote a four part fugue for orchestra. The one piece I have on the COM site is a piano reduction of that fugue. It is as complicated a not so great piece as I would ever want to write.
I too believe that notation is not music. This is part of why I'm less interested in posting on COM. I'd rather post an mp3.

In reply to by bobjp

I don't have any music on the .COM, but I have written plenty for live ensembles film and recordings. I see the .COM more as a showcase of MuseScore itself, with the focus on notation and scoring.

My big question isn't "who is writing like Bach today?" My question is "If Bach were alive now, what would his music sound like?"

Software tools for writing down music don't "hollow out" the process they just make it easier to produce and preserve sheet music, and are really just the electronic equivalent of pencil, eraser and pre-printed stave lines. Of course they are a lot more flexible and also produce playback so composers can hear the results of their effort in real time - no need to get an orchestra together. I guess that many composers in history could probably hear the music in their minds without even needing physical instruments.

The growth in AI and machine learning systems will almost certainly add a whole new level of music making, since these technologies will compose music as well as writing it down.

I know many contemporary classical composers, like Ola Gjeilo, Dan Forrest, Jake Runestad, Daniel Elder or Helen Jane Long. They use music notation software of course, but this tool cannot replace creativity.

So my answer to your very question is: No.

Do you still have an unanswered question? Please log in first to post your question.