Wouldn’t it be nice

One of the main facets of a composer’s growth is to study scores and listen to pieces by important composers. The idea is that by hearing the sounds and seeing the notes, a budding composer will learn new things and grow. Just listening to a piece doesn’t connect the craft as effectively as the two together, and simply looking at a score gets pretty boring after a while (trust me, though it’s a great opportunity to practice sight-singing).

But wouldn’t it be nice if a cappella arrangers could look at scores while listening to them? We derive so much of our craft by transcribing sounds without the music that an arranger’s main job is simply figuring out the notes, rather than being able to “art it up”. It’s a baseline assumption that a faithful arrangement sounds like the original, so building the transcribing skills is essential. However, phenomenal arrangements go beyond the mechanical notes-to-page (or notes-to-ear, if you don’t write stuff down): they make amazing harmonies, great voice-leading, new spins on old ideas.

I guess (as a composer), I’d like to make people think of a cappella arranging less as a mechanical skill and more as a slice of the composer’s world. Writing new music and arranging old music doesn’t have to be mutually exclusive, no matter how snobby “real composers” can get. But gosh, it would be so cool to have a cappella scores as readily available as the Well-Tempered Clavier or Mahler 1. I suppose that’s the cue to do more public score analysis here…

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