Monday, February 23, 2009

Cloud Composing

I've been thinking about this term and it's possibilities: "Cloud Composing". There I said it - and I'm probably a long way from the first. This isn't necessarily a new term since cloud computing can and will naturally apply to just about any creative endeavor. And for those who use little or no technology to create music - well, more power to ya!

For the rest of us, with all our mixing gear, sounds, synths and heavy hitting desktop software (e.g., Finale, SONAR, et al.) it's hard to imagine writing works completely away from those tools. Still, building the little parts away from the studio... from say, wherever we happen to be (a plane, hotel, train, work, vacation, etc.) is very compelling. More than that - it's a necessity sometimes!

As I was thinking about a "wish list" of tools for Cloud Composing, the first thing that comes to mind is some sort of nice web-based notation tool to capture little ideas. Well, turns out that the obviously talented folks at have just such a tool. Noteflight is a web-based notation application, running in Flash. On a first glance, the functionality seems way too simple and one might make the mistake of labeling this a simplistic tool. But that would be wrong.

NoteFlight, even in its current beta state, appears more than capable of enabling composers to create musically expressive scores that play back with a relatively small palette of sounds (which will undoubtably grow)... all a very good to get us on our merry way. I found note entry to be amazingly easy. I'm a Finale user - and although I've dabbled with other notation tools, I'm pretty much all thumbs with them, even if they are great. Yet I had no problem getting started with NoteFlight.

I've imported a few sketches of a piece I'm working on in Finale and I'll have with me when I'm out and about - again, this makes the tool very useful...being out in the "cloud" and all. Of course, I'm going to use Finale for the big stuff (orchestration, details, parts, etc.) - what an incredible tool that is - but because NoteFlight fits so nicely in the "cloud" space it could very well be an indispensable tool for being able to compose and sketch ideas very effectively...wherever.

No longer chained to the basement!

There are numerous "would be nice" features on's forum, but of particular interest to me are the import/export features. (Because eventually, all paths lead back to the basement for me!) Currently NoteFlight allows importing of files via MusicXML - and exporting to MusicXML appears to be a planned feature too! I can hardly wait!

Below is simple sample score I created using NoteFlight. The possibilities and ramifications for personal, professional and educational use are simply amazing! My highest raves and best wishes for NoteFlight!

Rob Birdwell

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