Over the holidays I had a conversation with some friends about the deterioration of school kids' handwriting. It seems that kids these days (did I really just write that?) spend more time typing on a computer than they do with a pencil in their hand. It's hard to blame them. If your end goal is turning in a typed paper, why would you write it out by hand?
Then I remembered what it took to write a three page paper by hand. Such effort! First you had to come up with an outline on a separate sheet of paper. You had to organize your thoughts in several stages before you even wrote your first draft. As you revised draft after draft, you'd have to write the entire paper again, even the parts you didn't need to change. By today's standards it was a tedious process, but you were really thinking about what you were doing from start to finish.
Writing with a word processor is different because you can build upon your outline in one document. This is how I write most of my blog posts or articles now. If I need to add a paragraph in the middle, I just start typing and everything shifts down! It's so easy to be happy with one section that I never revisit it until it's time to proofread, and then I have to force myself to slow down and actually read every word.
Music is no different. In my college arranging class, we used to gripe about writing out an entire big band chart by hand because Finale could produce nicer results in half the time. With recording software, we can now fix out of tune vocals or instruments, or make the drums hit exactly on the metronomic beat. It's not just convenient, it's a shortcut.
It's so easy to get a rough idea into a computer and make it look or sound slick and presentable that really thinking about the content takes far more time and effort. But when you're forced to slow down and get your noteheads between the lines, hit that guitar chord at exactly the right time, the effort of documenting is equal to that of the idea. In other words, if you have to write out every note by hand, do yourself a favor and make sure they're the best notes. If you're going to record a song, make sure you can play the hell out of it before you start rolling.
When I'm browsing the internet, I find images like the one above every day. Handwriting viewed as art. The years of effort and subsequent repetition that develops our handwriting makes it unique and personal, inconsistent and flawed. Identity and emotion are present in handwriting. There's beauty in that concept which people innately respond to.
This is how I feel about music. I admire the musicians who take the long road.