It has been such a long time from my last update I almost do not know where to start from.
These past months have been incredibly challenging for me and my partner due to an unbelievable event that literally befell (upon) us: an upcoming neighbour had just bought the apartment above ours and, being an architect, decided to conduct renovation works by himself. Ignoring our several complaints of material falling into our apartment from the ceiling, he went on, until a whole section of the ceiling collapsed. Luckily we were not home at the time and my computer was not hit by any (big) debris but I would like you to see what could have actually easily killed us:
For your reference, the thickest pieces were up to 8cm thick. As one of my clients said: "But this looks like Bangladesh, can't believe this is happening in Italy". "Well, it is a very old building", I replied, trying to stay calm among the tragedy. "We have old buildings here [other EU country] as well, they just do not collapse like that".
The saddest thing is how the responsible have reacted: no one wanted to help, to collaborate, to pay us not even a night in a hostel, yet we could not call the police because that would have meant sealing the house, preventing us to even pick our things up. We needed to get out before other pieces would still fall and we had to make camp in the school where we teach.
Long story short, we are now in a new flat, found in the shortest amount of time possible and with unbelievable help from a couple of friends, swimming in boxes and waiting for the insurance to cover as much of the damage as possible. We are trying to avoid lawyers as much as possible as it seems that would be money thrown directly into the garbage. It is funny how here, in Italy, close to everyone you pass by and tell what happened reacts with "SUE THEM!", "MAKE THEM PAY!" ... and then you realise none of them has ever brought home any serious legal action, therefore has no idea how much that costs, even assuming you win.
There are so many funny aspects of what living in Italy means from a practical point of view that I could amuse all of you with but I will limit myself to just one: FERRAGOSTO! In August, nothing, absolutely nothing can be achieved in Italy, no way! Close to 90% of shops are closed for holidays, services, offices, anything, you name it ... closed! The administrator of our previous flat managed to tell us—when the damage dealer refused to support our stay in a hotel—had the guts to say: "But why don't you go on holiday?". Ah, my dear Italy, you're the most wonderful country of the world for anything tourism, sightseeing, nature, holiday, but as soon as anything even remotely serious needs to be done, you're out of luck.
Yes, there's only ugly and good in this version of the story as anything bad can be skipped. We are grateful to whatever entity decided we were not there when stones started to fall and to all those who actually helped us come out of this. We are financially broken because any expense we had (and that we demanded the insurance give us back) had to be taken from our pockets, but this gave us an even grater resolve to push our limits and to improve on what we could.
Engraving-wise I have luckily been super-busy since last Christmas, with a customer's assignments requiring me to work on Christmas Day and during Easter holidays! Now, these are most uncertain times and we need to accept anything that comes without being too picky. Covid being still among us, many publishers, composers have switched to writing/arranging for smaller ensembles and this has proven to be a very interesting challenge—more on that in a bit.
Over the last year or so I had started to use the Metagrid application from Metasystem, whose new version should come out in the upcoming months. This incredible application for the iPad allows you to control your computer (Mac or Windows) from the tablet, it switches automatically between apps, and it is deeply customisable to a sick level! Being a "mobile" worker, I needed something to offset the fact that Sibelius needs a full-sized (with numpad) keyboard to operate efficiently when I would be on the move so I started to program what Metagrid calls a viewset for Sibelius which I proudly released in February.
Here are some of the most relevant screenshot so that you can see what the app looks like on my 12.9in iPad Pro:
This tool soon proved to be my absolute bestseller and I thank all of you who purchased it and wrote me to tell how much you love it. For those who have not discovered it yet but would like to give it a go, you can find it here.
I have also received some great reviews and a suggestion on how to improve it in the future. Stay tuned!
Short after the release of the Metagrid viewset I started to work on a magnificent arrangement of Igor Stravinsky's Firebird Suite (1919 version) which will be premiered in October this year to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the composer's death. In an increasingly frenetic world it is vital that composers/arrangers have great tools at their disposal to work on so I realised a complete template of the Firebird Suite to be used with Avid Sibelius.
This template is made of 116 pages (the number of systems of the original Boosey & Hawkes edition), with condensing staves (that is Flute 1.2, Horn 3.4, etc...) already prepared and hidden in the score, parts already set up in the best possible way available for the software and ... *drumroll* ... fixed layout! This means that every bar has already been set to respect the original spacing of the music, even if now it looks empty. This will allow composers who want to print out the template to write by hand or want to use an iPad & pencil setup to directly scribble on the PDF (also provided) to be sure all music will fit nicely.
The template is offered in three different House Styles to help you choose your favourite design. It took about 20 hours to assemble it, so it was really a labor of love!
Should this series prove successful enough I will gladly create other templates and please feel free to drop me a message asking what you would like to see ported into a template.
I have a few other projects for "Engraving Tools" in the workings so it's never been a more exciting time to be alive and busy!
OTHER NEWS & PROJECTS
Thanks to the wild success of the Metagrid viewset I have passed an unbelievable (for me and for the niche that my work represents) milestone: 100 individual customers here on Gumroad. I simply feel moved and honoured by the fact that my tools and scores have been able to help more than 100 people.
If you've not yet tried any of my tools or purchased any of my scores, as an existing customer you can enjoy a 10% discount on any product in my list. Just write artistic-september in the Promo Code field and enjoy!
Another incredible milestone is passing more than 500 likes on my Facebook page! One may say five hundred likes is nothing for a FB page but wait: I am a lone freelancer, working in the niche that classical music is, within which is a small niche called music engraving! That's just awesome for me and for the 10 years of work that I celebrating right this month! Feel free to join the Artistico Score Engraving family!
It seems a cliché but after ten years in the same activity things start to move and to get somewhere! In July 2020 a young composer from the USA contacted me to inquire whether I would have been able to put together a book made of text and musical samples, all of which would have been coloured to better communicate pedagogical ideas. It turned out to be the most challenging and yet professionally rewarding assignment ever as I could use it to finally learn how to use Adobe Illustrator and InDesign properly, something that I had wanted to do for years! The book should be available for purchase by the end of the year and I will promptly notify you of its publication. Here is a picture from a page of the book:
So, now I have added two more softwares to my toolbox and can't wait to keep expanding it. I sometimes miss my programming years but it was a truly impossible task to keep as a hobby. I sometimes sell a copy of the app I have on the Apple App Store but I do not know whether I will ever be able to get back at it.
SO, WHAT'S NEXT?
Many, many things!
I for sure want to update the Scales Handbook based on Dotzauer's method after the feedback I have received from users and my students. Dotzauer's publishing will be a focus in the near future as I found some marvellous gems to be shared with the world.
More books are planned with the USA and some challenging engraving assignment for living composers is upcoming for the Fall-Winter period. School is also starting soon and I will see what it brings.
Print design is so fascinating that I truly hope to be able to study as much about it to allow me to offer all of you always better products and experiences.
Thank you all for supporting my work, my craft and for bearing with me in all this rambling. Feel free to drop me a line on your current thoughts and on what you would like me to cover in the future.
I hope you and all your dear ones are safe, we are starting to see a way out of all this but we need to keep strong!