I was offered the chance to live and work in Strathmashie House for three weeks in the month of May 2006. My first week provided an insight into the day-to-day tasks that keep Spartan Press ticking over. This involved printing, collating and stitching batches of publications, and also working on the sales side of the business, retrieving stock from the warehouse, as well as pulling and dispatching orders.
My second and third weeks provided a wonderful opportunity to learn how the music on a page is actually created by type setting three publications after a crash course in software package Sibelius. This involved inputting the musical symbols that make up a page of music (staves, crotchets, quavers etc.) using the programme, and then editing and organising the pages of music so that they were ready to be printed. I then gained an insight into the final stage of the process – cover design!
Helping to create a book of music through from start to finish made it clear to me that the job of a publisher is not merely to physically produce printed music but to help make it accessible to musicians. This means presenting it in the right way, choosing illustrations and titles that accurately reflect the music and the kind of player for which it is intended, and making the music itself as easy as possible to follow for the sight reader by using the space on a page in an intelligent way.
Spartan Press provided an idyllic and peaceful environment in which to learn all of this. The friendly nature of staff and the Laggan community, as well as the fact that I was allowed to work independently on projects in my free time if I chose to, helped me to get the very most from my time at Strathmashie House. I was also allowed a great deal of leeway to explore those aspects of the business that I felt were most relevant and useful to me, and was given a great deal of attention so that I could ask questions and benefit from the experience of those who understood the industry. Being both community orientated and musical, I felt much was being done by Mark and Pat, (the directors of Spartan Press) to connect the music being published with its target audience, and this allowed me a greater opportunity to appreciate the business in context.
There were also plenty of welcome distractions for the weekends. For those with sporting interests there were friendly cricket matches and tennis courts, and for those with drinking interests, numerous opportunities to sample locally distilled whiskies through optional visits to the pub. There was also the beautiful Scottish Countryside to admire through woodland and hillside walks!