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Monday, August 13, 2012

Pyatt Recital Hall at Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music a gem

On Sunday morning at 11 am I heard the excellent Oberon Guitar Trio perform a one-hour program of mostly Canadian new music at the Vancouver Symphony Orchestra School of Music's Pyatt Recital Hall. This is by far the best-sounding recital hall for classical guitar in Vancouver. One can hear the complete dynamic range of the guitar; you can hear a pin drop. And when the flamenco techniques start up and the big chords come, they sound really big.

The Oberon played a perfect set. Their choice of music creates a wonderful flowing and satisfying program from beginning to end. Their Alice in Wonderland piece by Claude Gagnon is their signature piece, available on their "Music of Our Time" CD. They played it with verve. The new works by Nicolella and Sasquoia were welcome additions to the guitar repertoire, the Nicolella being particularly effective, with some hallucinogenic density-building chord progressions. The Beauvais was great too.

Not intending to write "a review" of the concert, I really wanted to emphasize how welcome the Pyatt Hall is to Vancouver for classical guitar and also to congratulate VSO School of Music Guitar department director (and excellent guitarist) Daniel Bolshoy on programming a great "Guitar Day" as part of MusicFest Vancouver. I wish I could have spent the whole day there to here fellow-guitarists Ed Henderson, Celso Machado, and Daniel (playing with another Vancouver treasure, cellist Ari Barnes), but 'twas not to be…

So look out Vancouver for more chamber music concerts at Pyatt Hall at the VSO School of Music.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Sibelius notation software: people plus code equals success

A little background on why I wrote an Open Letter to AVID about their plans for Sibelius software.

AVID had announced that they still fully supported Sibelius software, even though they were "letting go" of the staff in the UK that developed the code and has maintained a continuous and excellent dialogue with users (customers). In a second communication on their blog, titled "Dear Sibelius Community," AVID wanted to assuage criticism of their plans and reinforce their commitment to the software. Customers of the software, whose livelihoods depend on the excellent continued development of the software and the ongoing relationship with the developers, are very nervous the software that has enriched their creative work may lose its focus and excellence. Analysis and speculation by customers of the possible outcomes is widespread. 

I was particularly moved to write my previous blog entry (August 1) after reading the following comment written by John Murdoch  in response to the second communication referred to above, written by Martin Kloiber, VP, Product & Solutions, Audio, Avid Technology, Inc.

"… your balance sheet includes an entry for the value of the asset that is the source code to Sibelius 7 and related products. Your balance sheet does not reflect the value of the knowledge and memory of the software designers/developers who understand those lines of source code and all of the nuances of how they were developed. 

Want the bad news? Even though you count the source code as an asset, the real value is in the people. Lose them, and the source code is worthless. 

Don't believe me? Here's a list of software products that held overwhelmingly dominant market share: Ventura Publisher, WordPerfect, Lotus 1-2-3, Lotus Notes, dBase III, Paradox. What distinguishes them all? Each was acquired by a group of MBAs who bought the source code--but didn't keep the developers. And every single one of those products disappeared. (Call your colleagues at Corel--ask 'em how sales of Ventura Publisher and WordPerfect are doing.)

Not convinced? Try a thought experiment. Name a single significant software product where the original source code was handed over to a third-party out-sourcer to continue development that actually worked. 

Yeah. None."

Read the original post and comments here:

In my view, these concerns are expressed convincingly and AVID would do well to address the concerns raised.

John Oliver

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Open Letter to AVID, parent company of Sibelius

An Open Letter to the board of directors of AVID, the parent company that owns Sibelius music notation software.

Dear AVID Board of Directors,

My name is John Oliver. I am a professional freelance composer. I have been commissioned to write music for the Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, National Arts Centre Orchestra, St. Lawrence String Quartet, and others. I have been using computer music notation software since 1989.

Your dismissal of the Sibelius software development and support team from Finsbury Park UK, and your lack of appropriate response to the outpouring of complaints from Sibelius customers sends a message to me that you do not have plans to continue the investment of time, energy and imagination to keep this software great.

By displaying a lack of interest in the thoughful and mindful shepherding of Sibelius software into the future, you do a great disservice to professional, educational, and amateur music makers around the world.

Here is the impact that your decision will have on me. I came to rely on Sibelius software for all of my professional notation work about a decade ago, after holding out with Logic Pro for over a decade, and rejecting Finale because it seemed to be designed for publishers, rather than composers. In 1989 I bought my first computer, an ATARI STe, and used "NotatorSL", the precursor to Logic Audio and Logic Pro software on the Apple Mac computer. I used the notation component of that software to write my first opera, as well as all my music in the 1990s, including 4 symphonies and three concertos. I innovated a number of specialized workarounds to get the notation I needed. When Apple bought Logic Audio in 2002, the very first thing they did was to focus on audio production; the notation component became stagnant. Where Logic had become too limited in its possibilities, Finale software was aggravating in the workflow and interface design. All that changed with Sibelius.

As soon as I adopted Sibelius, writing music became almost as easy to get from the imagination to the music paper as in the past with pencil on paper. Sibelius offered me, as a professional composer, the means to create professional materials with ease, yet with sophistication and depth. The software developers clearly understand the needs of professional composers and publishers and, significantly, designed their software so that both composers and publishers could concentrate on their respective tasks with the software. Sibelius allows for the best workflow, version management, score development, intelligent layout, professional delivery of parts to orchestras with easy replacement of parts when changes are made during rehearsals, incredible plugin architecture and community of developers who have contributed much-loved additions to Sibelius (notably Bob Zawalich).

But it's not just the software alone that I admire and that keeps me using it as the principal tool for music writing. The presence of Daniel Spreadbury and other experts on the Sibelius Forum, who were always there to help with issues that would arise with this very complex software, kept my faith and kept me upgrading. When an issue was a serious one, Daniel would always respond in a timely fashion with depth of knowledge and customer service that was astonishing in content and excellence.

Due to this combination of excellence in programming and customer support, I have been a vocal advocate of Sibelius software since I began using it. Sibelius is the core software that enables me to maintain the highest standards of excellence in my own professional work as a composer.

When AVID attacks the very foundation of Sibelius software success - the combination of excellent programming and stellar customer support - I feel as though AVID is attacking my profession.

I urge the AVID Board of Directors to consider the serious negative impact your decisions around firing the staff at Finsbury Park will have on thousands of professional lives, the customers of your software. I am not alone in informing you that my own faith in Sibelius software disappears with the staff who have been let go. I will no longer be able to recommend Sibelius software to my friends and colleagues. I will not purchase any more upgrades because I do not believe that your decision will result in the coherent continued development of Sibelius.

To maintain any position of respect in the field of professional music, AVID would do well to consider the impact of their decisions on the professions that they service with their products. As a corporate strategy, I can see no financial long-term success resulting from the current plan with regard to Sibelius software. If anything, your blatant disregard for an entire professional sector cannot bode well for your repectability in other sectors. The music producers in Hollywood will not be happy with the grumblings of the composers and arrangers coming in to a recording session with ProTools.

There are only two courses of action that would restore my dedication to Sibelius software:

1] reinstate the design and support team in the UK;
2] sell the software back to the Finn brothers or, failing that, to consider any public offer that serves the interests of music in art and education, and to do so before the development team have all gone to other employment.

Sincerely yours,

John Oliver, D. Mus.
past Composer-in-Residence: Canadian Opera Company, Vancouver Opera, Windsor Canadian Music Festival, Music in the Morning.