In 2004, when I first wrote about digital sheet music, for the New York Times, pre-iPad, new gadgets were just being sold to display it for traveling musicians like David Bowie's bandmate Mike Garson and violinist Izthak Perlman, both of whom kindly spoke to me for the story. But sheet music has always been a weirdly tense topic, full of salespeople and schemers: Back then, Harry Connick, Jr. (who, of all technologists, has a patent on a digital sheet music reader), had chosen not to comment on the topic but the way my editor had re-arranged my reporting on his lack of interest angered his representative, enough to insinuate legal threats (so, basically sheet music made friendly Harry Connick want to sue me). Then there was the CEO of one of the companies who claimed repeatedly that he had nothing to do with another, which we only found out after digging through his lies to us after the fact. The story -- its subtext, anyway -- turned into a piece about two companies suing each other. Not our intention.
Sheet music should not inspire fights and deception. Or should it?
In my new Spring 2013 VQR piece, "Sound + Vision," I argue that sheet music is literature (a method of storytelling), and I try to explain how it functioned that way for my family as well as discuss its future and some advocates' fears that fewer people seem able to and interested in reading it now more than ever. Is that true? It's hard to know, and I hope that my guess is wrong. What I do know is that a lot of people are creating innovative sheet music solutions for the digital space, and that despite music-budget cuts, plummeting keyboard instrument sales, and music store deaths, a lot of kids and adults want to play music. It's no surprise that the world is always changing, but notated music is in fact coming along for the ride. And thank Life that it is. I want more children to grow up being read to from the piano, or some kind of instrument, and being able to read that way themselves.