An Exhibit of the Diehn Composers Room, Old Dominion University Libraries

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Musical composition is perhaps one of the most mysterious of all art forms. It springs from deep wells within the human spirit, and efforts to capture music and fix it in a tangible form have preoccupied humans since the beginnings of civilization. Music was indeed encoded in the cuneiform script of Mesopotamia. Yet, the current form of notes on staff lines only dates from Guido de Arezzo's 11th century treatise, Micrologus. In the West prior to Guido, neumatic notation left the exact relationship of one pitch to another and one pitch length to another unknown. Guido's creation has inexorably led to our current ability to notate an avalanche of music with increasing speed and precision.

Compared to the myriad influences and technologies in existence today that bring music to the public, this exhibit is fairly restrained. We have chosen to treat only three aspects of musical composition.

The first is composition as a graphic art, specifically as a manifestation of the printer's art. Prior to electronic means of copying, lining up notes, rests, staff lines and spaces, the entire vocabulary of music notation, was an enormously difficult task for an industry based on moveable type. Not until the early experiments with music typewriters in the 20th century was composition finally freed from some amount of handwriting.

The second deals with composition as a musical art. Since every composer's method of creating music is different, we have chosen to let composers speak themselves through their oral histories and their sketchbooks. We have attempted to show something of the progression from idea to published score or recording in the works of Adolphus Hailstork and Allan Blank.

The third aspect is composition not as art, but rather as business. While marketing and advertising, the proper of the publishing industry, lie outside the scope of this exhibit, we show a basic process, along with a few caveats, of how to become a paid composer.

This exhibit is made possible by funding from the F. Ludwig Diehn Music Fund of the Norfolk Foundation.

Researched and presented by Dr. Jay E. Moore,
Librarian Archivist for Music Special Collections,
Diehn Composers Room,
Old Dominion University Libraries
August 2006

Copyright © 2006 Old Dominion University Libraries
Diehn Composers Room

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