Photo credit: Hans Lindén
Albert Schnelzer is one of Sweden’s most frequently performed contemporary composers. Chosen to be a member of the Society of Swedish Composers in 2001, Albert made his international breakthrough at the Présences Festival in Paris 2004. More recently Albert has collaborated with the Brodsky Quartet and has been featured in a BBC proms concert at the Royal Albert Hall.
Despite the fact that his music is ultimately performed by human ensembles, Albert enjoys pushing the sonic boundaries of notation software by utilizing heavyweight external sound libraries. I was particularly interested in sharing his experiences in this area with our readers, and Albert was very generous in providing these details.
Scott Yoho: When did you begin using Finale?
Albert Schnelzer: I started using Finale 1995 when I studied composition at the Malmö Academy of Music. We had compulsory classes in Finale that all composition students had to take. I learned a lot during that course: It was a great way to learn the program inside and out.
SY: What are some of your favorite Finale features?
AS: I’ve become a big fan of the ScoreMerger plug-in. Since I rely on Finale to make a living I also try to educate myself on all the new features in every upgrade. Among my recent favorites are the new rehearsal marks in Finale 2010 and the staff tools in Finale 2011; both are great timesavers.
SY: Who publishes your music? Do you send them Finale files?
AS: My music is published by Gehrmans Musikförlag and distributed internationally by Boosey & Hawkes and Breitkopf & Härtel (among others). I make all my scores and parts myself before I send them as Finale .MUS and .PDF files. We have close contact regarding layout and notation matters and Gehrmans also uses Finale in case they need to adjust or correct anything at the last minute.
SY: What kind of hardware are you using?
AS: My computer setup is a Mac Pro 2×2.8 Ghz (10 GB RAM) with one 30″ Apple Cinema Display and a 21″ Samsung TFT in portrait mode.
SY: Can you tell us about your use of external sound libraries?
AS: At the moment I’m writing a large scale cello concerto commissioned by the Gothenburg Symphony Orchestra. For this project I am using sounds from the Vienna Symphonic Library along with a set of custom Human Playback preferences I created that assist Finale in interpreting the score and sending key switches, just as Finale does automatically when using Garritan sounds.
For this project I have four separate Finale documents (one for each movement) that I work on simultaneously. Since this is a large orchestra setup, I use a “host-mixer” called Vienna Ensemble Pro. This is a 64-bit application and lets me load a full symphony orchestra in one instance. This allows me to not only use an orchestral template that is larger than 3 GB (the 32-bit limit), but also change between Finale documents without having to load all VST/AUs again. I use IAC-buses (a kind of virtual MIDI cable) to send MIDI from Finale to VE Pro.
Xsample is another great library that I mainly use for chamber music. I used this library a lot last year when I wrote my String Quartet No. 2 for the Brodsky Quartet. Because Xsample comes with its own set of HP preferences, it is very easy to use, there’s no need to tweak anything.
SY: What else would you like to share with our readers?
AS: The most important thing for me is that I don’t want to spend time with tweaking the score or adjusting anything to get proper playback. With the current version of Finale and the libraries I’ve selected (GPO, VSL, or Xsample) I can get amazing results just by pressing “Play.” Without needing to change the score in any way, Finale and HP will analyze it and simulate an orchestra sound you could only dream of a couple of years ago. I still use pen and paper A LOT while composing but having the opportunity to hear a sampled orchestra play back a score has really made a huge difference.
Of course, while I find it valuable to get high quality playback, the most important reason for me to use Finale is the unlimited possibilities to adjust the printed score. I cannot stress the fact enough that a good-looking score will have a crucial impact on how well your music is played.
Almost every time I meet a new orchestra, conductor, or ensemble they will tell me how much they appreciate a well-written score and parts. This is not a question of aesthetics; it’s about creating the best possible conditions for performers to do their best work.
Thanks again to Albert for sharing his Finale experience with us. I’d like to hear about your Finale experiences too; please share them by clicking on the “Comments” button below.