computers · Sibelius · teaching

Sibelius 7.1.3 released…the end of an era?

Daniel Spreadbury at Sibelius (or at least he is for one more month) announced on the Sibelius blog the availability of version 7.1.3. It contains a number of bug fixes and support for both the Apple Mountain Lion OS and the Macbook Retina Display. It should be gorgeous on that display!

It’s a difficult day for many of us who have worked with Sibelius for so long. We really don’t know how well AVID will pick up the ball with their new development team, but we do know that some of the development will be outsourced to a company in Ukraine.

Outsourcing software development is not that unusual, but the team at Finsbury Park had worked on Sibelius as a labor of love, not just a job, and those of us who have used the program so much have felt a personal connection, especially to Daniel. Not only did he serve as program manager for a number of years and is responsible for writing most of the user documentation, but he was the face and voice of Sibelius, appearing on the user forums constantly and getting folks out of all kinds of tight places. He gave the company and product a very personal and caring face.

Composers and arrangers by the nature of the job work in solitary. I think a lot of craftsmen develop certain relationships with the tools they use, whether they be computer software or woodworking hand tools. Certainly I have that relationship with Sibelius. I was a Finale user until Sibelius 1.4 came around, and I pretty much never looked back. I looked at Finale again recently because of my fear Sibelius would be abandoned, and I just can’t bring myself to relearning it. A lot of the interface issues that slowed me down with it a decade or more ago are still there…I assume by now they are considered features, not bugs.

I even looked at other tools, like MuseScore, but they seem incredibly primitive compared to the view I see on my monitor every day.

Composer Philip Sparke said it best, on the Sibelius forums:

Thanks Daniel, 

It’s not an exaggeration to say Sibelius has changed my life as it enabled me to become a full-time composer in 2000. Your role in this cannot be overestimated. 

I’m sure you will find a great new path in life. 

Best wishes, 

Philip

I’m not a full-time composer but increasingly my income is derived from composition and arranging. I want to make it clear that a possible end to Sibelius is not like, say, Microsoft deciding to not update Word any longer. (Some would call that a blessing, I’m sure!) There are other word processors that are full-featured and, while the workflow would change, the basic act of putting words on a page is essentially the same in all of them, as it is in this little window where I am typing this blog entry.

There are good reasons to use Word, many of them. It is very deep and full-featured. But at its core a music notation program is a different animal – it is more like a combination of a word processor and a graphics program. Anything that will speed up the workflow is appreciated. From the outset that was the goal of the Sibelius team – to make notation as fast and easy as possible – and they succeeded far beyond our expectations.

As I update to 7.1.3, I do so feeling as I never have about a computer program before, and probably never will again.

So my own two cents – thank you, Daniel and all who made Sibelius such an amazing tool for us to use to create the best possible music we could. You will all be missed. My best wishes for your continued success!

Note: If you would like to join the fight to keep Sibelius in development, go to www.savesibelius.com.

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