Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

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John Ruggero
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Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 05 Feb 2016, 23:19

A recent excellent critical edition of Ravel's Ondine reads as follows:
Ravel Ondine.jpg
Ravel Ondine.jpg (27.95 KiB) Viewed 4684 times
The first edition:
Ravel Ondine 1st ed..jpg
Ravel Ondine 1st ed..jpg (26.46 KiB) Viewed 4684 times
Question: did the editor go too far in supplying a number for the LH group?

1. Most of the similar larger groups in Gaspard do not have numbers. The editor adds these throughout.

2. The LH is not 7 + 7 + 7, but 8 + 7 + 6. I think that most players will let their hands do their thinking and let the RH and LH meet as shown in both editions with the RH rhythm dominant. This will create a notated rit. in the LH.

Will any player, noting that the LH may be divided into 7s, let the RH follow the LH played in an even rhythm or position the notes incorrectly against the RH?
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Knut
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by Knut » 06 Feb 2016, 18:05

John Ruggero wrote:Question: did the editor go too far in supplying a number for the LH group?
Well, given the beaming, I don't see any real legibility improvement in this edit. Moreover, since a tuplet of equal valued notes often indicates the specific effect of fitting such notes, with precisely equal duration, within the indicated number of beats, subdivisions or timeframe, I do think the original notation may imply a somewhat freer execution.
John Ruggero wrote:2. The LH is not 7 + 7 + 7, but 8 + 7 + 6.
How do you know that? The placement of the mid measure clef indicates a 8+7+5 or 7+8+5 pattern to me, although the register is probably the guiding factor here. I'm not saying you are wrong, by the way, I'm just curious as to what your grouping is based on. Regardless, the beaming indicates no grouping at all, so it shouldn't really matter, should it?
John Ruggero wrote:Will any player, noting that the LH may be divided into 7s, let the RH follow the LH played in an even rhythm or position the notes incorrectly against the RH?
As I don't think the number necessarily would imply 3 even groupes of 7 notes, I would say no, but I'm not at all sure about this.

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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 06 Feb 2016, 20:31

John Ruggero wrote:
2. The LH is not 7 + 7 + 7, but 8 + 7 + 6.
Knute wrote:
How do you know that?
The exact placement of the RH notes over the LH indicates the notes that should be played simultaneously, and this gives the rhythm 8 + 7 + 6. This normal convention of our current engraving system often clarifies the meaning of unusual rhythmic combinations. For example:
Chopin Polonaise-Fantasie.jpg
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Chopin is showing with his "spatial notation" that the dotted eight and 16th is actually an alternative notation for a triplet, a convention that goes back to the Baroque.

The question really is: does a tuplet number always mean that the beat is being divided into notes of equal value? I have always thought that was the definition of a tuplet, but wondered what forum members would say.

E. Gould gives a very strange definition of a tuplet that is to me almost incomprehensible and seemingly incorrect:

"A tuplet is a rhythmic division that does not divide unto standard groups of two or three."

WIkipedia gives the following, which is much better:

"In music a tuplet...is 'any rhythm that involves dividing the beat into a different number of equal subdivisions from that usually permitted by the time-signature (e.g., triplets, duplets, etc.)' (Humphries 2002, 266). This is indicated by a number (or sometimes two), indicating the fraction involved."

If a number (= tuplet) means that the notes in both hand are of equal value, then the engravers have made an error in not positioning the notes in equal groups of 7 against the 3 right hand notes. Yet this seems unlikely given the fact that it is much better if the peak note in the LH meet with the middle note of the RH, not only because it is much easier to play, but because it provides a fuller texture for the middle note, which lacks the chordal support of the first and third RH melody note.

It would seem to me, then, that Ravel knew exactly what he was doing when he omitted the tuplet number.
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by cGilmore » 07 Feb 2016, 07:55

Completely agree. This just may be the percussion side of me, but with the number, it needs to be appropriately distributed 7+7+7 and leave how that is executed up to performance practice. Without the "21", it seems like the engraver (via the composer of course) can influence the interpretation.

Could, perhaps, a dashed line be used to explicitly show that the peak note and the middle note belong together?
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Knut
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by Knut » 07 Feb 2016, 13:48

Thank you both for clarifying the issue at hand!

I do agree that the tuplet number obscures the intensions of the composer. You're probably right that the most important misconception of the engraver is the grouping of the notes. However, I still feel that Ravel purposely gives the performer more freedom in the precise execution of the run by omitting the tuplet. After all, there is no secondary beam breaks to substantiate a clear distribution of notes for each right hand chord. The groupings are much more clearly outlined in the surrounding measures, which leads me to believe that this particular run is supposed to be treated somewhat more freely.

I would also agree with wikipedias definition of a tuplet. Grove Music Online has a similar definition:
A temporary increase or decrease in the number of notes subdividing a beat from what is standard for a given time signature. Tuplets are usually notated with a numeral or ratio that indicates the number of notes to be performed within the beat.

Gould's definition is so bad, in fact, that I question her understanding of even such a basic musical phenomenon, and it leads me to wonder what other nuances she might have glossed over in her book (although some of them have already been competently pointed out by members of this forum). I'm not impressed, to say the least.

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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 07 Feb 2016, 17:11

Knut, you are very welcome.

I agree most of your comments but didn't understand: "You're probably right that the most important misconception of the engraver is the grouping of the notes." I meant to say that the engraver seems to be following the composer's MS (which I would love to see) in positioning the notes as they are engraved and was right to do so.

I am sure that Gould understands tuplets as well as anyone but is having a problem expressing it clearly, something that does happen occasionally in her book.

Here is what the editor of the edition being discussed has to say about his additions: "All irrational rhythmic groupings are here indicated as such; only a few triplet markings appear in the sources." (Roger Nichols, Edition Peters 1991) The last part of this comment is inaccurate, because the first edition has 2 septuplet markings and 6 sextuplet markings on the page 2 and there are other such in Gaspard. However, it is true that there are also many unmarked tuplets. I feel that these are intentional on the composer's part. I found only one omission that seems to be an engraving error.

The editor also doesn't say is that he has added secondary beam breaks where there are none in the original (there are many by the composer in the original edition) and even changed the LH quintuplets and quadruplets from 16th to 8ths in the following passage, shown here in the first edition. The secondary beam breaks are by the composer. The two examples are continuous.(The reader will have to imagine the LH in bars 3—8 as 8th note tuplets marked 5 and 4, because I am concerned about posting it and don't have the energy to re-engrave it.)

Putting the LH into 4/4 destroys what Ravel is expressing through his notation: namely that the music is doubling in speed from 3/4 to 3/8, with the LH 16ths in 2/4 mediating visually and musically between the two meters and tempos:
Ravel Scarbo 1.jpg
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Ravel Scarbo 2.jpg
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 07 Feb 2016, 17:21

cGilmore, thank you so much for your comment. Actually, while a dotted line might be helpful occasionally, I don't think that it is necessary here because keyboard players are so accustomed to and reliant on positional notation—maybe too reliant, because students sometimes use it as a crutch and can be thrown off by inaccurate engraving!
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by MJCube » 07 Feb 2016, 19:59

I agree that the added tuplet numbers are unnecessary and possibly misleading about freedom. Also the 8-7-6 grouping is very interesting. I hadn’t noticed it before, and it makes perfect sense since arpeggiating upward in the LH is easier than downward.

As for Gould’s definition of a tuplet, “Everything should be as simple as possible, but not simpler.” [popular version of Roger Sessions’ paraphrase of Einstein]

Shall we discuss the removal of parentheses around the courtesy accidentals? This is the first difference I noticed. I think it comes down a little too hard on the side of a policy (with which I generally agree, however). A courtesy accidental shows a change from the previous bar, where the barline isn’t visually enough to make it clear. Parens around it confirm that it doesn’t contradict the key signature. When it’s the first note of a bar, a plain accidental often reads better, i.e., it goes unnoticed and doesn’t make the reader wonder why it’s there. But in this particular case there are enough notes between that I think the plain accidental is actually slightly more confusing than one with parens.

Also, looking at the bar in context brings something else to my attention: The sharp in RH is on the wrong note in BOTH editions! It should be on the F, canceling the F double-sharp in the previous bar (like the one in LH). Obviously the E is already sharp by the key sig, and was not recently otherwise. Ravel deserves better editing than this.

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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 07 Feb 2016, 21:56

MJCube, I have a confession to make, namely, that since I did the engraving of the example, I am the culprit who left off the parentheses (because I didn't consider them necessary since it was not the point I was making) and also missed the error in the first edition, even though it was corrected in the Peters edition!

Here is my problem: I am very concerned about copyright issues and posting examples from music under copyright. Therefore, I must engrave such examples and that takes time, sometimes more than I want to devote to it. So I get a little sloppy, forgetting the exceptional eyes of the forum members. And apparently I am error-prone and often have to post and repost to get them correct. But I had better watch my step, that's all I can say!

As far as parenthetical accidentals, I am all for them in this case for all the reasons you mentioned.

The famous "Einstein" quote describes the problem with her definition so well!
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Re: Composers vs Editors: A Helpful Addition?

Post by John Ruggero » 07 Feb 2016, 23:19

MJCube wrote:
the 8-7-6 grouping is very interesting. I hadn’t noticed it before, and it makes perfect sense since arpeggiating upward in the LH is easier than downward.
Your point about the keyboard technique involved is very perceptive. I had actually meant that it was easier to play because the LH turn-around falls on a well-defined point in the RH. But as you say, it is also because fast upward LH passages are easier to play than downward ones on the piano. (And fast downward RH passages are easier to play than upward ones.) Why this is, is technical and explained in detail in my book on piano technique. In short, it has to do with the way the arm must move in order to position the hand and fingers properly.

Some pianists have considered Ravel's piano music to be harder to play than it sounds, especially compared to that of his compatriot Debussy. I don't agree, but here he is definitely showing his expertise in writing in a very natural way for the instrument as well as making a beautiful effect musically, with a quick upward rush followed by gradually slowing ebbing away.
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