Lost notation 3

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John Ruggero
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Lost notation 3

Post by John Ruggero »

The following example of centered beaming occurs in the second movement of Beethoven's Sonata op. 2 no. 2 (last measure of the example in the bass voice. The example is from a working copy of my edition, so please forgive errors):
centered beaming.jpeg
centered beaming.jpeg (75.68 KiB) Viewed 3007 times
The first edition:
centered beaming first edition.jpeg
centered beaming first edition.jpeg (98.73 KiB) Viewed 3007 times
The beaming and note distribution is partially modernized in Schenker's edition. The slurring at the arrow is not completely clear in the first edition. I prefer the version shown in the first example.
Uncentered beaming.jpeg
Uncentered beaming.jpeg (84.18 KiB) Viewed 3007 times
This is one of the most beautiful examples of centered beaming I have encountered. How clearly it brings out the phrasing to show that the higher A ends the bass melody and while it holds, the lower A enters from below it to lead back to the repeat of the opening section. One can almost hear a low instrument entering! This is completely lost in the modernized version, especially with the alternative slurring.

Did Beethoven really take the musical meaning into consideration when he decided to use this centered beam? Or was it a question of crowding? Or just convention? Or maybe a combination of all of these elements coming together? Whatever it was, it communicates something more to me than I see in the modernized version.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 14 Jan 2020, 15:14, edited 1 time in total.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by John Ruggero »

Or is it that since the compositional and notational practices developed at the same time they influenced each other in a way that is disrupted when new conventions are imposed?
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by Anders Hedelin »

John Ruggero wrote:
13 Jan 2020, 22:07
This is one of the most beautiful examples of centered beaming I have encountered. How clearly it brings out the phrasing to show that the higher A ends the bass melody and while it holds, the lower A enters from below it to lead back to the repeat of the opening section. One can almost hear a low instrument entering! This is completely lost in the modernized version, especially with the alternative slurring.

Did Beethoven really take the musical meaning into consideration when he decided to use this centered beam? Or was it a question of crowding? Or just convention? Or maybe a combination of all of these elements coming together? Whatever it was, it communicates something more to me than I see in the modernized version.
I really do appreciate your idea of the low instrument entering, suddenly.

I'm afraid I can't see how the centered beam would clarify that. For me the 'uncentered' beam is just as clear. If Beethoven really wanted to show that a new part is entering he might have put an eighth rest followed by a flagged eighth note at the beginning of the measure. Admittedly that might not look like Beethoven's usual writing. My guess is that the centered beam in the first edition is, what you suggest it might be, a way to avoid crowding.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by John Ruggero »

I should also mention that centered beams were not usually used for ledger line notes, because of the engraving issues involved. The following example from the first mov. of op. 2 no. 2 illustrates how composers and engravers had no issue using both centered and uncentered beams for broken octaves in the same passage. They do seem to have preferred centered beams for larger intervals as long as it didn't impede reading.
centered beaming.jpeg
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Crowding was certainly also a factor in centered beam usage and the original example certainly might fall into that case. However, this was an intricate case to engrave both because of the ledger lines and the dotted note in the other voice. Without the missing MS, everything is just guess-work, but Beethoven's engravers did tend to stay quite close to the original notation, so there is a good change that this is Beethoven's own centered beam.

For me, centered beaming tends to bring out phrasing. This might not have been the primary intention of the composers, but it is a result of the fact that leaps tend to show the multi-voice nature of most single-line melodies. For example, in Bach's Invention no. 1, the centered beam at A separates the subject and countersubject, which actually represent two different voices, the higher one starting on C, which is the first important structural melody tone that leads on to what follows (the structural notes are starred):
Bach Invention 1.jpeg
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He doesn't use a centered beam at B both because of reading difficulties because of the ledger line and small interval and also, just by fortuitous "accident" here the countersubject does not represent a different structural voice but continues the main line from treble C in m. 1 to D in m. 2 to E in m. 3. At examples C and D, different phrases and voices are again brought out by the centered beaming. At E centered beaming is simply the then conventional way to avoid long stems for a broken octave.

I guess the conclusion I am beginning to reach is that the notational traditions evolved along with the musical development in a way that makes them inextricably connected and therefore there is a danger of information being lost through modernization.
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Schonbergian
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by Schonbergian »

Perhaps not Beethoven's exact intention, but would combining the first eighth notehead of that measure with the dotted-half notehead not achieve the same goal of presenting the lower instrument entering without the difficulties of a centered beam? It would also allow said entry to preserve all down-stems.

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Schneider
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by Schneider »

John Ruggero wrote:
21 Jan 2020, 17:07
[...] For example, in Bach's Invention no. 1, the centered beam at A separates the subject and countersubject, which actually represent two different voices, the higher one starting on C, which is the first important structural melody tone that leads on to what follows [...]
Interesting thoughts John.
Here's an extract from a Sonatina for guitar -- early work, ca. 1790, unpublished -- from Ferdinando Carulli (contemporary of Beethoven):

Carulli_1.jpg
Carulli_1.jpg (152.42 KiB) Viewed 2833 times

As you can see, the same pattern happens twice here.
So, if I follow you, Carulli clearly indicates that A should be played differently than B, or :?:
Up to now, I always considered that these beams were purely an aesthetic choice. Now I see them in a pretty different way.
Thank you for that. ;)

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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost notation 3

Post by John Ruggero »

Schonbergian wrote:
21 Jan 2020, 19:52
Perhaps not Beethoven's exact intention, but would combining the first eighth note head of that measure with the dotted-half note head not achieve the same goal of presenting the lower instrument entering without the difficulties of a centered beam? It would also allow said entry to preserve all down-stems.
Schonbergian, that would certainly be a possibility, but in this case I think that the change of stem direction, if only for one note, is a very effective way of showing the lowest A as a new voice entering. Why Beethoven didn't just put in an eighth rest instead of the down-stemmed eighth note and let the up-stemmed dotted half note suffice as the ending note of the phrase remains an open question. Perhaps the resulting change of stem direction on the last note of the phrase bothered him and that is why he resorted to the doubled note head.

Schneider, thank you for considering these issues. I think I would need to see more of the piece and, even better, other pieces in the composer's MS to hazard a guess. Aside from that, A and B don't quite match in notes. Is there an error in the MS?
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