Metronome marking anomaly.

Anything musical that will not fit into the above fora
Post Reply
M.J.E.

Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by M.J.E. » Sat Apr 12, 2014 7:12 am

Hallo.

     I've occasionally come across what seems like an anomaly in metronome markings, and just seen an example now - so I thought I'd ask people's opinions on it here.
     The thing I'm thinking of arises in pieces in compound time, like 6/8, where the basic beat is a dotted note of some kind, but the metronome marking is given in terms of an undotted note of that type. For instance, if the piece is in 6/8, the beat is the dotted crotchet, but the metronome marking might be given, for example, as "[crotchet, not dotted] = 60".
     Should this be interpreted as "[dotted crotchet] = 60", and the assumption made that the dot was carelessly left out? Or should it be taken literally as meaning an undotted crotchet, and so the beat adjusted accordingly? (If I've figured out the arithmetic correctly, "[undotted crotchet] = 60" is equivalent to "[dotted crotchet] = 40" - so why not just print that? - since that is the relevant unit in 6/8 time, and it makes it easier to figure out the real tempo.)
     What do people think about that? An undotted crotchet is a rather unnatural unit to choose for the metronome marking in 6/8 time, so it does lead one to think it could be a misprint.

Regards, Michael.
Last edited by M.J.E. on Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:07 pm, edited 1 time in total.

HullandHellandHalifax
Site Admin
Posts: 790
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:19 pm
Instruments played, if any: piano organ harmonium
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Zeist, The Netherlands

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:09 am

Michael, could you name one or more pieces that have this problem because then we can give you a better answer. It could simply be a misprint but by comparing editions and editors and having knowledge of the piece maybe your question can be answered.
regards
Brian

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1914
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by fredbucket » Sat Apr 12, 2014 9:07 am

Following up on HHH's point, another clue may be found in the music itself, in the sense that the music will have, in many cases, a 'natural' speed which will seem right. 33% differences in speed as you have mentioned are not subtle - one speed will seem much more appropriate than the other, and that should give you your answer, at least for that piece.

Regards
Fred

PS how's your scanning going? :)

M.J.E.

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by M.J.E. » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:02 pm

HullandHellandHalifax wrote:Michael, could you name one or more pieces that have this problem because then we can give you a better answer. It could simply be a misprint but by comparing editions and editors and having knowledge of the piece maybe your question can be answered.
     I've seen many, many over the years, but would be hard-pressed to think of many examples just now without spending possibly hours looking through old music. But I did find one just today, on this site, so I can give a link to that, at least - here:

  Louis-Albert Bourgault-Ducoudray: Souvenir de Prade: http://gallica.bnf.fr/ark:/12148/bpt6k8 ... .r=.langFR
fredbucket wrote:Following up on HHH's point, another clue may be found in the music itself, in the sense that the music will have, in many cases, a 'natural' speed which will seem right. 33% differences in speed as you have mentioned are not subtle - one speed will seem much more appropriate than the other, and that should give you your answer, at least for that piece.
     Yes, that's what I thought, that the difference would be very significant. Since I haven't played the piece I just gave the link to, but merely seen the score, it's difficult to be sure what I think about the tempo. With other pieces I have played, I would have a personal view individually about each, but without remembering the specific examples I can't cite any of those right now.
     But, apart from judging the best tempo individually (and of course I might judge this differently from others), I was just thinking there might be a general consensus about how to interpret these anomalous tempo markings in a general sense. Although I've seen such markings many times I have never read in print any opinions about how they should be interpreted.
fredbucket wrote:PS how's your scanning going? :)
     Well, I'm afraid I haven't got to that yet; I did say earlier I would most likely not be able to do anything about it until June, because I will be away for some time during May and, before that, taken up with various things I need to do before that.
     Here is my current situation, as it could affect that - I'm afraid there are various obstacles to be overcome.
     For the forseeable future, any scanning would be done at my mother's place, as she has a printer that I feel sure can scan also. But I'm a real Luddite about any technology besides basic computer functions, and about anything more complicated than a transistor radio, and so I have no idea how it works - and my mother would have no idea about scanning, either. I looked for an instruction book in the place where she keeps such things (and she's a very tidy, orderly person - the very opposite of myself, in fact), and I couldn't find it there. So there are no instructions I can look up on that.
     Maybe I could find one on a web site somewhere. I see the printer is a Hewlett-Packard one, and I thought their web site may contain an instruction manual as a .pdf file or something - but I find I cannot identify a model number on the printer at all. The site told me how to find the model number; but the instructions they gave on how to do it just didn't apply - they referred to looking in certain locations on the printer itself that I just couldn't identify.
     So I have reasonably regular access to a printer and probable scanner, but I have no idea how to operate it for scanning, its owner doesn't either, and I have no access to instruction books, nor a model number I could use to locate a manual on-line.
     I don't know how to deal with this, but, from June onwards, I will look into it and see if I can find a way of scanning scores. I just hope it's a fairly simple procedure, because if it's very complex and requires much technical knowledge, that is going to be a further obstacle in itself.
     I imagine uploading completed files to the web site is simple enough - maybe a bit like attaching an attachment to an e-mail? - it's the scanning procedure itself that I'm most concerned about - and, as I said, I'm not good about technology things. If you handed me a mobile phone, I wouldn't have the faintest idea how to use it, or even switch it on - and I don't even know an iPod by sight: that's how bad I am with this sort of stuff.
     So I will just have to see what I can do from June onwards. Of course, if anyone more knowledgeable here could advise me on certain points, that may help. So we'll just have to see.

Regards, Michael.

HullandHellandHalifax
Site Admin
Posts: 790
Joined: Sun Sep 06, 2009 10:19 pm
Instruments played, if any: piano organ harmonium
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Zeist, The Netherlands

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by HullandHellandHalifax » Sat Apr 12, 2014 12:53 pm

Hello Michael, thanks for the link. From what I have seen I think you can safely assume that the crotchet is dotted. My reasoning is as follows, if you go to page 2 of the score we have a change from 6/8 to 2/4 and the metronome marking is reduced to crotchet 63. Turn to page 4 and we see a change from 2/4 to 6/8 with the instruction crotchet= crotchet. So what the composer is saying is that the basic two in a bar pulse remains the same, thus the dotted crotchet equals an ordinary crotchet in my opinion.
Back in the dark ages you come across passages where the notes are written as quavers but because the underlying movement is compound they must be played in a compound manner. Read up about notes inégales to go further into the minefield of notation.
I expect fredbucket will be able to add more to what I have just sketched out.
Basically use your ears and what lies between and you won't go far wrong.
regards
Brian

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1914
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by fredbucket » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:18 pm

HullandHellandHalifax wrote:I expect fredbucket will be able to add more to what I have just sketched out.
Nope.

Regards
Fred

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1914
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by fredbucket » Sat Apr 12, 2014 2:25 pm

HullandHellandHalifax wrote:Back in the dark ages you come across passages where the notes are written as quavers but because the underlying movement is compound they must be played in a compound manner. Read up about notes inégales to go further into the minefield of notation.
Actually, now that I think about it, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (the Bach original of course) is a case in point. Incidentally, this is not notes inégales, at least not to my knowledge. NI is the playing of (for example) quaver-quaver as dottedquaver-semiquaver in order to give a lift to the rhythm. This was practised mainly by the French Harpsichordists such as d'Anglebert etc.

Regards
Fred

M.J.E.

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by M.J.E. » Sat Apr 12, 2014 3:19 pm

fredbucket wrote:
HullandHellandHalifax wrote:Back in the dark ages you come across passages where the notes are written as quavers but because the underlying movement is compound they must be played in a compound manner. Read up about notes inégales to go further into the minefield of notation
Actually, now that I think about it, Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring (the Bach original of course) is a case in point. Incidentally, this is not notes inégales, at least not to my knowledge.
     I suspect that's a rather different thing that may not directly shed any light on my question, which just refers to perfectly ordinary music in 6/8, but the metronome marking anomalously refers to a note-value that is only two-thirds of the beat, not the full beat as you'd expect. I wonder if such metronome markings could be written by a composer who almost always writes in simple times like 3/4 or 4/4, and is not so used to writing in compound ones like 6/8 or 9/8, and so, on the occasions when they use the latter, they write the undotted note for the metronome marking out of habit, because they are not accustomed to thinking in terms of dotted notes being the beat. Only a guess.
fredbucket wrote:NI is the playing of (for example) quaver-quaver as dottedquaver-semiquaver in order to give a lift to the rhythm.
     Sounds like a Baroque version of swing rhythm, where even quavers are played like triplets. Still, as a composer, if I wanted that kind of rhythm, I would notate it - if I write even quavers, then exactly that is what I want. Yes, I realize that, in Baroque times, notation was not always interpreted as literally as that, and certain conventions were assumed. But if I had lived in those times, my literal mind would have found that *really* difficult to cope with, and the illogical, arbitrary conventions would really itch constantly at me.
     If I wrote jazz and wanted a swing rhythm, I would notate it explicitly, and probably use 12/8 time instead of 4/4 to do it, and explicitly eschew commonly-assumed but unnotated conventions. Conventions change, or sometimes get forgotten when a style of music because less fashionable, and I feel the integrity of a score can erode over time if it is not notated in a way that literally corresponds with what the composer wants - as we see with the scholarly disputes one occasionally reads where different parties differ about certain points of how early music should be interpreted and performed. If composers had from the start got into the way of notating their intentions literally, most of this ambiguity would probably never have arisen.
     I do understand that certain parts of notation arises from the accumulation of historical trends, commonly-assumed conventions of performance, and such things; but I tend to approach it like a logical system, so there is a certain amount of conflict there.
     I used to post quite a bit on the Finale list, and this topic came up once, and one or two people argued that music notation is inherently ambiguous, and you cannot prevent its meaning eroding over time, so they saw no real need to make extra efforts to prevent this. I differed, saying that much of that erosion (maybe not all - but much of it) could be prevented if composers made a real effort to notate literally and consistently, but I don't think I got much agreement. But that contrary view doesn't make sense to me: of course meaning in *anything* will be preserved better if more care is taken to be literal and consistent and logical. And I always write my own scores very literally, and I even occasionally add footnotes to explain if, for any reason, I have to do something unorthodox, or use a symbol in an unconventional way. It's very important to me.

Regards, Michael.

Timtin
Pianomasochist
Posts: 1903
Joined: Tue Sep 15, 2009 12:36 pm
Instruments played, if any: Pianoforte
Music Scores: Yes
Contact:

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by Timtin » Sat Apr 12, 2014 8:49 pm

As a metronome hater, I'd love to see the world of music
revert to the old method of time-keeping - the use of
a pendulum of variable length. One of my Handel tomes
specifies tempi in terms of pendulum length (in sensible
units of length, inches, of course) - perfect!

User avatar
fredbucket
Site Admin
Posts: 1914
Joined: Fri Sep 04, 2009 8:51 am
Instruments played, if any: Piano, Harpsichord, Organ, Piano Accordian, Button Accordian, Anglo and Duet Concertinas, Oboe, Cor Anglais, 6 & 12 string guitars, 5-string banjo.
Music Scores: Yes
Location: Sydney, Australia
Contact:

Re: Metronome marking anomaly.

Post by fredbucket » Sun Apr 13, 2014 4:23 am

M.J.E. wrote:
fredbucket wrote:NI is the playing of (for example) quaver-quaver as dottedquaver-semiquaver in order to give a lift to the rhythm.
 Sounds like a Baroque version of swing rhythm, where even quavers are played like triplets. Still, as a composer, if I wanted that kind of rhythm, I would notate it - if I write even quavers, then exactly that is what I want. Yes, I realize that, in Baroque times, notation was not always interpreted as literally as that, and certain conventions were assumed. But if I had lived in those times, my literal mind would have found that *really* difficult to cope with, and the illogical, arbitrary conventions would really itch constantly at me.
As you imply, we're getting a bit off-topic here, but I've managed to subdue my alteregotistical and moderatorial part of my brain sufficiently to keep going, for at least a little bit. Francois Couperin jr wrote "We (the French) write music differently from the way we play it, which is why foreigners play our music less well than we play theirs". One of the funniest (and as it turned out stupidest) things I've experienced was an edition of Charpentier's Messe de Munuit where the editor wrote out the notes inégales in full. The result was messy in the extreme, and totally inappropriate since notes inégales, although there are certain principles which have been handed down to us, are not a hard and fast rule but very much (as was intended) in the hands of the performer.

Your exact notation would not have gone down too well in 17th and 18th century France. Heads may well have rolled, literally :)

Regards
Fred

Post Reply