TOO MANY NOTES

I was in the studio with a non-musician (but exceptionally creative) friend not too long ago reviewing the final version of the score for FOUR PART HARMONY. As we listened we watched the score scroll by on the computer screen; there are lots of notes. It’s a two-hour show with a big orchestra and cast. After one especially meaty section he turned to me and said:

“How do those notes get in there”?

“I put them there, one by one”.

“Every note?

“Yup”.

“You wrote every note?”

“Yup. That’s what I do”.

He seemed stunned but in the time honored tradition, that’s how we make music here. Handcrafted, we place each one note at a time. Even our digital, sequenced scores begin life as music notation; why? It’s my language; it’s how I think. 

There is a tendency, in this age of digital downloads and ubiquitous music, to think you flip a switch and somehow there it is. Just like that. (There’s also a tendency to think that you can own it without paying for it but that’s another story.)

Mozart wrote a lot of notes; his jealous nemesis Salieri thought he wrote “too many notes”. But he didn’t because he made every note count. The more notes you write the more you need to make sure each one counts and the more space you need to leave between them. Nobody likes to feel crowded; everyone likes to shine. 

Eventually, as you continue to sculpt your work, the space becomes more important than the notes; actually the space always has been more important than the notes, it just takes us awhile to figure that out. Just like negative space in design and the infinite space between stars, it simply counts for more. 

In the end you might put some of those notes right back where you found them; their moment will come. Not every inspiration is right for every project. We learn that with experience. It's called “taste”.

So make each note, word and beat count for something. It not only makes good creative sense it makes good business sense. The crisp, clean articulation of an idea, be it music, marketing or dialogue is a rare and effective treasure indeed.