- Large personal libraries, whether of books, printed music, or recordings, are a liability
- If you don't have it memorized, you don't have it
- Pianos, organs and other similar instruments will fall into disrepair, then become unusable
- Composers and players will need to be more creative making music with less-than-ideal tools
Some of this sounds like heresy. For instance, I love books, scores, and recordings, and I've always surrounded myself with them. Yet, when I had to make a move from the East Coast to the Midwest, with little time and not much money, most of them couldn't come along. Today, while I miss them, I'm in no hurry to re-buy. Stability, now more than ever, is an illusion; why buy something only to have it sit unused most of the time, and then have to get rid of it?
Many of my early-music friends discourage memorization. They point out, rightly, that it wasn't the way things were done in the 18th century and before; Clara Schumann started doing it during her concert tours, and the other concert pianists of the day followed her example. But today it isn't possible to count on having music to play from. Once, I thought public and university libraries would fill the gap, supplying the music I wanted to learn and play but didn't own. Now that they're all closed, it's clear that was too optimistic.
What about digital libraries? IMSLP, the Internet Archive (which hosts the National Emergency Library), Wikisource, and the Wikimedia Commons (where scans of the books in Wikisource are kept, along with huge amounts of other digital media) are playing key social roles. Many libraries are active in lending digital collections and providing online resources. Excellent, as long as your laptop or tablet doesn't get damaged, lost, or stolen, and you have power and internet access. These days, it's harder to guarantee those things.
So I memorize every piece I play. At the moment I have with me two relatively small boxes of printed music, down from perhaps ten times that much. But I doubt I'll ever learn it all. I'm taking my time on it.
Ask any pianist to tell you about the worst piano they ever played, and you'll get a story. When someone (especially a non-musician) says a venue has a "fine concert grand", expect an upright, out of tune, possibly missing a string or two, and with one or more broken actions. Want to get the piano repaired? The cost will be added to the cost of renting the hall. If the venue has a good piano, there's likely to be an extra charge to use it, and the organizers may balk. Once upon a time, I rashly agreed to pay to have a piano tuned. When I got to the venue, not only had the piano not been tuned, but it had mechanical issues that suggested a technician hadn't been near it in awhile. The organizers didn't refund my money. That's not my "worst piano" story, but it shows the trend.
I'd be happy to be wrong about pipe organs; perhaps they're in better shape. Leave a comment and let me know!
All of this leads to the next point: instead of assuming, as we have, that the instruments on which our music will be played will be in good repair, we composers will have to start making the opposite assumption. Pieces will have to be written for the instruments to which the players have access, and for the abilities of those players. Yes, it would be great to have a virtuoso performer on every instrument, and have that instrument be a fine one, in excellent playing condition. But fine instruments, and their maintenance, cost money, and fewer and fewer musicians have that. The best players (when not locked down at home) are frantically busy making a living; it costs to hire them, and they don't have much time to rehearse. So we'll make do with the performers who are available, and they'll play the instruments they have.
Keyboardists increasingly have to have, and bring, digital instruments. This is already a pretty well-established trend for non-classical gigs, but if you can't count on the venue having a decent piano, you're better off bringing one than taking your chances.
Which leads to a side note for composers: digital instruments can often do things that an acoustic instrument can't; for instance, a push of the button can change a "piano" into an "organ", a "marimba", and so on. So why not take advantage of those capabilities? Why keep trying to pretend you're writing for an acoustic piano if you know you're not? Needless to say, calling for things acoustic pianos can do that digital pianos can't isn't particularly wise. At the very least, a "digital ossia" might be called for: what should the performer do if they're playing a digital keyboard?
It's also worth thinking about the range of the music. While a full, professional digital piano has 88 keys, and no one disagrees about that, smaller keyboards and controllers are pretty common. I've seen controllers with as few as 13 notes! If you don't have your own keyboard, you're at the mercy of whatever you're offered. If you get invited to display your skill on a keyboard with five octaves or fewer, you could be in a bind if you don't have something suitable in your repertoire. Forewarned is forearmed.
But when the power goes out, digital keyboards turn into bricks. I don't know of any answer for that, except learning how to play another, acoustic, instrument or several. Maybe an acoustic toy piano would be a good investment. Those don't sound like pianos, either, but they don't need a lot of maintenance, and they don't need a constant supply of electricity.