Confessions of a Would-Be Music Forger

Confessions of a Would-Be Music Forger

My pet project over the past few days has been the development of a TrueType font that looks like my handwriting. Progress has been steady, but the flags are pretty tough to get right, and Finale is finicky about the spacing in certain characters, so you have to be careful. I don’t have a clue what I’ll use it for, but I think it’s kind of a neat trick to be able to print documents from Finale that look (somewhat) like I wrote them by hand.

An interesting question arose, however, while I was toiling away on my new hobby: Custom fonts aside, how closely could one approximate the scores of another composer who uses notation software? I’ve thought about submitting scores to competitions under the name, in the style, and in the simulated hand of one of the judges, carefully pieced together at the computer. On one level it’d be a joke, of course, but part of me thrills at freaking out successful composers this way. They exert so much psychological leverage over grad students like myself, whose careers can bloom or wilt at their whim, that the temptation to mess with them, should such an opportunity arise, is difficult to resist. I mean, mailing them a picture of their children or something would be crossing the line…but mailing them a picture of their music, so to speak, is almost too delicious not to try. Am I the only person who would get a kick out of this? Maybe it’s already been done, and I’m a day late and a dollar short. Does anyone know?

I’m aware that a few such adjudicators might be reading this column, so let me ask you: How would you feel if someone sent you a doppelganger score of the sort that I’m describing? Could you take legal action? Would you want to? Would you be flattered? Would you apply for an SCI Hired Muscle Grant and send goons after the culprit? Should we even be talking about this?

In all seriousness, it’s not just the puerile excitement and the head-game empowerment of this prank that appeal to me but also its puncturing of our fetishistic fascination with notation. Just remember: There are hundreds of musicians who spend hours every day in front of Finale or Sibelius. Combine that know-how with a little free time and a waggish impulse, and the next piece you have to evaluate on a jury may be one you didn’t even know you wrote.

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2 thoughts on “Confessions of a Would-Be Music Forger

  1. jlz

    I believe that the newer editions of Finale have a feature termed ‘the composer’s assistant’ which if properly used — fed data — can generate interim passagework “in the style of” the materials it is fed.
    Sort of a ‘sorceror’s apprentice’: it means to be helpful, and strives to cut down on the thinking-out time it may take to keep the creativity coming.
    ~ It’s a little creepy in concept, however.

  2. Colin Holter

    Man, that is creepy. It makes you wonder how many composers are getting by on Finale’s material. . .


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