Curated Showcase Collections

Autograph Manuscripts of Composers

20th-21st Centuries The Creative Process

The path from the germ of a musical idea to the final form of a musical work of art has traditionally followed a fairly predictable route: from manuscript sketches to draft to fair copy to published work.

Manuscript sketches ordinarily consist of the basic elements of one or more musical ideas; these different ideas may or may not be directly related to each other.

The composition in draft form may contain either the entire work, one or several movements, or, at the very least, significant sections of the work representing thematic continuity. It is not at all uncommon for composers to produce several drafts of a work, each representing a different evolutionary stage of composition, and to continue to refine these drafts over time, making significant corrections or alterations as musical ideas mature.

When the work has reached its final state, the composer will prepare a so-called “fair copy” to be provided to the printer for publication. Many composers continue to make alterations or corrections to their manuscripts even at this stage.

In addition, there are a number of further stages that relate to the work’s transition from fair copy to published work. These can involve proofs, corrected proofs, pre-publication copies, and first and revised editions, all of which represent ongoing refinements in the composer’s efforts to fully realize the musical work.

In today’s “high-tech” world, it is not surprising that many composers use computer programs such as Sibelius or Finale rather than pencil and paper to compose; as the intermediary “creative” stages are often deleted in computer composition, much of the evolutionary process involved in the creation of works of musical art can thus be completely lost.

It is an honor to be privy to the compositional journey as represented by the various forms of autograph musical manuscripts. It is our hope that this special exhibition of modern-era composers’ manuscripts will highlight the importance of collecting and preserving these artifacts as an important testimony to the creative process.