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Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 2:25 pm
by pcovitz1968
Greetings, all. As a collector of out-of-print scores, I have developed a hobby (by now approaching an obsession) of typesetting pieces I am particularly fond of in Sibelius, and having them professionally printed as my own personal editions. In that context, I thought I might start a topic to discuss musical notation and/or typesetting or, come to think about it, music/score printing.

The idea would be to ask questions (and provide answers) about unclear, peculiar, or puzzling notations we may come across as we study a score (for whatever reason), or questions about typesetting challenges, techniques, or best practices. I don't imagine it as a tech support group for Sibelius or Finale, etc., although if users find that to be a welcome subject and the moderators consider it on point, I think that could be included as well.

I will start the conversation going with a few posts of my own. Let me know your thoughts!

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 2:36 pm
by pcovitz1968
In typesetting various scores, I have come across many instances where slurs are provided for multiple voices played in the same hand. I'm sure I've been seeing such all my life, but the process of typesetting has led me to examine it more closely. Here is an example from W. S. Bennett's F-minor sonata, Op. 13. A marked-up screen snippet is attached.
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One reason I find this peculiar is that in the same measure, the same two voices are slurred only once. (One might even question whether there are really two voices here, since they are not given opposing stem directions.) What is this point of this notation? Is the idea that, were both voices not given their own slurs, that one voice would be slurred but the other not? And why are the two voices not given their own slurs in the second half of the same measure?

Ultimately, I think the question is, does this notation really represent a significant technical specification, or is it some kind of notational pedantry, to ensure we understand that the voices are distinct? And, most to the point, could one dispense with the double-slur in a modern, re-typeset edition?

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Wed Nov 24, 2021 2:42 pm
by pcovitz1968
Here is another question that comes up all over the place in this sonata. What is the meaning of the open parentheses/braces in these measures? Do they indicate that the chord is to be broken in some way? Is there a reason it is not marked as an arpeggio instead? If one is meant to strike the chord in two motions, which notes should be the first group and which the second? Or is there some entirely different meaning I'm unaware of?

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Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:41 am
by WalterNiemann
Niemann does this quite often. The braces just mean that the lowest note needs to be anticipated to the rest of the chord. It is a way to save space: instead of writing a grace note editors/composers placed a brace. But by no means this is an arpeggio since the sound effect is very different: the arpeggio is perceived as soft while the anticipation is rather harsh.

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 12:53 pm
by pcovitz1968
WalterNiemann wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 6:41 am Niemann does this quite often. The braces just mean that the lowest note needs to be anticipated to the rest of the chord. It is a way to save space: instead of writing a grace note editors/composers placed a brace. But by no means this is an arpeggio since the sound effect is very different: the arpeggio is perceived as soft while the anticipation is rather harsh.
Thank you; I think that is more or less how I have tended to play these. When I see it, it makes me think of the way one breaks up a chord when it spans more than a 10th, where the notes are meant to be sounded together but must be broken because the span is simply too large. But in these cases, that's clearly not the issue.

So the equivalent of this, then, would be to set the bottom note in "cue size" as an anticipated note/appoggiatura, but with a tie to the same note set as the bottom of the chord, indicating that the note is not to be released. If that is truly how it was meant to be played, I think I should set it that way, since spacing is hardly an issue with digital typesetting, and I don't think a modern reader would understand the significance of the brace.

Thanks again!

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:48 pm
by WalterNiemann
You are welcome, I am glad I could help you!

Yes, you are right: A chord with a brace is usually played as an anticipated grace note tied to the bottom of the following chord (see graphic below). When editing however, personally I would keep it the way it was edited 200 years ago. Every printed piece of music was right before publication sent to the composer so that they can check if everything is according to their wishes. The concept of Urtext - maintaining the composer's (presumed) will - is a main term in this subject.

The braces are open to interpretations - hence it is up to the performer whether they want to anticipate one or two (or three) notes of a chord. Although writing tied grace notes is more accurate, it limits the performer's possibilities - please keep that in mind while editing.

braces execution.png

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 4:04 pm
by pcovitz1968
WalterNiemann wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:48 pm When editing however, personally I would keep it the way it was edited 200 years ago. Every printed piece of music was right before publication sent to the composer so that they can check if everything is according to their wishes. The concept of Urtext - maintaining the composer's (presumed) will - is a main term in this subject.

The braces are open to interpretations - hence it is up to the performer whether they want to anticipate one or two (or three) notes of a chord. Although writing tied grace notes is more accurate, it limits the performer's possibilities - please keep that in mind while editing.
braces execution.png
WalterNiemann wrote: Thu Nov 25, 2021 2:48 pm When editing however, personally I would keep it the way it was edited 200 years ago. Every printed piece of music was right before publication sent to the composer so that they can check if everything is according to their wishes. The concept of Urtext - maintaining the composer's (presumed) will - is a main term in this subject.

The braces are open to interpretations - hence it is up to the performer whether they want to anticipate one or two (or three) notes of a chord. Although writing tied grace notes is more accurate, it limits the performer's possibilities - please keep that in mind while editing.
Ah, well... Now you touch on a *very* interesting topic in its own right... How much editing is allowed for clarity, vs. how "true to the original" does it need to be? As a former philosopher of rhetoric (sans PhD, sadly), I find this to be a fascinating subject.

In truth, my Sibelius transcriptions are really designed to be my own, personal, print editions (or as an occasional gift for pianist friends), and so I have allowed myself occasional latitudes; most of them do not cross-- in my mind-- a line for being untrue to the original. There are a couple of rare exceptions where I have plainly just renotated entire passages (without losing any actual note values; usually it's to deal with some extreme hand juggling, or awkwardly typeset passages that are nearly impossible to read). However, if I start sharing them more widely, I will be careful to include a page detailing any changes I've made.

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Thu Nov 25, 2021 8:08 pm
by WalterNiemann
Thank you for your response!

I am only a law student and no professional musician. Everything I know is from reading books and by trial and error (also in Sibelius). Indeed, this is a very interesting topic I would have loved to read about for example in Thomas Mann's 'Doctor Faustus' - a book that I can strongly recommend; there should be an English translations of it since it was originally written when Mann lived in California.

If your edition is only for yourself and for private playing and studying, you have all freedoms you need to make a clean and readable score.

Re: Music Notation and Typesetting

Posted: Fri Nov 26, 2021 6:48 am
by pcovitz1968
The question has also come up before in places where there clearly seems to be a simple typo in the original... I've encountered several instances where a sharp was printed instead of a flat, for example. I just saw the score for a Raff piece and the time signature was marked 3/4, but the entire piece was actually in 2/4. Once you've seen those kinds of errors, it makes you start wondering how many other mistakes may have been overlooked. Even composers could get tired of reading through proofs, and become less and less attentive as they marked up editions of their own works. It's not like they had autocorrect or MIDI playback to help verify the accuracy of the printed score.