Last week a friend was showing me how she can call up musical scores on various electronic devices, linking the devices so that she can use whichever best suits her needs at the time. She even had the option of writing in fingerings and expression marks with an electronic pencil; any changes she made would immediately show up across all her devices.
She also showed me the compact Bluetooth pedal she uses at the piano to turn the pages of an electronic score. The pedal had two ‘buttons’, one to turn the page forward and the other to turn it back.
She was enthusiastic about these possibilities. ‘Honestly, I would never want to go back to paper copies’, she said.
Later that day I stood looking at the shelves of (paper) music scores I’ve collected over many years, dating right back to the first little albums I had as a beginner at the age of seven. To me, this library sums up all my different learning phases and performing experiences. Many of the scores contain my pencilled remarks put in during rehearsals. As the years went by, and I found myself playing with different chamber music partners, I occasionally put in little notes of who it was who wanted more time here, or an acceleration there. So the music has sentimental value as well. Tucked inside the pages I sometimes find old concert programmes and other souvenirs. Sometimes I find faxes I received when on tour. Remember faxes?
It’s true that I have spent a ridiculous amount of time lugging around heavy volumes of music (sometimes hardback). When flying somewhere for a concert, I always make sure to have all my music with me on the plane, not in my suitcase in the hold. At least if my luggage goes astray, I can still play the concert. Thus I have dragged a separate bag of music, sometimes weighing several kilos, all over the place with me. A laptop and a Bluetooth pedal would certainly be an elegant upgrade.
But even if I were technologically confident, could I imagine abandoning my books of music? I don’t think so. A laptop would be lighter, but I would probably just be swapping one set of anxieties with another.