Slurs again

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Knut
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Re: Slurs again

Post by Knut » 20 Aug 2017, 15:11

David Ward wrote:
20 Aug 2017, 10:39
I don't think this page from a vocal score I prepared for a piece of mine in 1982 illustrates the point; but it certainly does contain some wayward slurs! (Crotchet [quarter] = 72)
Thanks for sharing this David!

Except for being struck by the general clarity and tidiness of your manuscript, there are really only one place on this page where I can see a conflict arising between your own intentions and an engraver's desire to streamline the notation; namely the slurs in the piano at mm. 398–99. Here I can see multiple potential "reinterpretations" of phrasing, based on modern conventions, which may or may not be detrimental to what you want to convey. Besides that, I think any engraver would only be tempted to do minor changes in the interaction between slurs and articulations, none of which I think you'd object to.

I'd love to see more if you should come across anything.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Slurs again

Post by John Ruggero » 20 Aug 2017, 15:40

Those measures in the piano part struck me as well. The slur through the rest is very typical of piano music to show that the fingers do not maintain a legato but the arm makes a connective gesture through the phrase. Note also the joining of two slurs on the tied note D, to show two phrases joined on one note.
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Knut
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Re: Slurs again

Post by Knut » 20 Aug 2017, 21:19

John Ruggero wrote:
20 Aug 2017, 15:40
The slur through the rest is very typical of piano music to show that the fingers do not maintain a legato but the arm makes a connective gesture through the phrase. Note also the joining of two slurs on the tied note D, to show two phrases joined on one note.
I must admit that even though I've encountered both of these methods of phrasing in several piano pieces, I've never gotten used to or "accepted" any of them. This might very well be due to ignorance, insensitivity or bad education, but I wonder, do they really contribute anything musically?

Of course, in David's example, disregarding the slur over the rest would mean that the first quarter note G on beat 3 of m. 398 would be isolated, and one might then be tempted to include it in the preceding phrase. I also imagine it can be helpful in clarifying the phrasing in certain treatments of a theme. But apart from that, it doesn't make much musical sense to me.

The connected slurs are also something I would automatically question on much the same basis.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Slurs again

Post by John Ruggero » 21 Aug 2017, 00:01

I gave a piano-technical explanation of how this is accomplished, but not the musical one. If David had written a staccato dotted quarter note (instead of the quarter rote and eighth rest) slurred to what follows, would you find that more acceptable? That would indicate a portato touch for the first note, which is possibly something like what David wants. If so, now simply replace the staccato dotted quarter note with a quarter note and eighth rest.

I also would like to amplify my explanation of the technique used in such a case. In piano playing, legato is achieved through two means, the gestures of the arm, and the overlapping of the notes with the fingers. The gestures of the arm are actually more important than finger connection because they give shape to the music, which explains why composers will write slurs over notes that cannot be overlapped by the fingers. This has lead some performers (and many editors) to misinterpret slurs as meaning "phrasing" i.e. showing the musical phrases, instead of simply showing the legato groups, which is what is intended by knowledgable composers. (Consider the many short slurs of classic style music which are clearly not phrasing.) It also allows composers to write detached notes within a slur by means of rests, showing that they want arm shaping but a clear finger disconnection.
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Knut
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Re: Slurs again

Post by Knut » 21 Aug 2017, 09:39

John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 00:01
If David had written a staccato dotted quarter note (instead of the quarter rote and eighth rest) slurred to what follows, would you find that more acceptable?
Certainly!
John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 00:01
If so, now simply replace the staccato dotted quarter note with a quarter note and eighth rest.
Well, then it wouldn't be a portato anymore.
John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 00:01
I also would like to amplify my explanation of the technique used in such a case. In piano playing, legato is achieved through two means, the gestures of the arm, and the overlapping of the notes with the fingers. The gestures of the arm are actually more important than finger connection because they give shape to the music, which explains why composers will write slurs over notes that cannot be overlapped by the fingers. This has lead some performers (and many editors) to misinterpret slurs as meaning "phrasing" i.e. showing the musical phrases, instead of simply showing the legato groups, which is what is intended by knowledgable composers. (Consider the many short slurs of classic style music which are clearly not phrasing.) It also allows composers to write detached notes within a slur by means of rests, showing that they want arm shaping but a clear finger disconnection.
In spite of my lack of understanding on this point, I've always regarded slurs in piano music as showing the legato groups, not the phrasing. Nevertheless, I would never regard a rest as part of a legato group, as it breaks the legato by its own definition.

It sounds that what you are saying is that slurs in piano music not only is intended to show the legato groups, but serve an additional purpose that is completely technical, similarly to string instruments. This would make it easier to accept this kind of notation, even though I'm still not convinced of the helpfulness of such gestural indications.

I think I'd need a piano lesson to completely embrace this kind of notation.

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David Ward
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Re: Slurs again

Post by David Ward » 21 Aug 2017, 10:31

Well here is the relevant page of full score at the stage at which I think I made the vocal score (35 years ago, so my memory…) - it's not the definitive full score, which followed a little later.

Reading the comments, I'm wondering just what were my intentions? In any case, it's on my long list of pieces which ought to be revised, but most likely won't be (one should avoid Bruckneritis and concentrate on the new, I think).
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John Ruggero
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Re: Slurs again

Post by John Ruggero » 21 Aug 2017, 11:06

Knut wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 09:39
John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 00:01
If so, now simply replace the staccato dotted quarter note with a quarter note and eighth rest.
Well, then it wouldn't be a portato anymore.
Since a staccato dot is simply an abbreviation for shortening a note and adding a rest after it, one might think of the two notations as interchangeable for the purpose of understanding the subject under discussion.

One also needs to understand what the portato touch means and how it is achieved in piano playing. The psychology of portato is that the notes are straining to be connected, but something is working against this to the point where they don't quite achieve it. This is produced by the arm gesture proceeding normally but the fingers over-holding the key, exerting much more pressure than is normally used in legato so that the release shortly before playing the next note is also somewhat difficult to achieve. (The touch has sometimes been described as "sticky".) The purpose of the touch to create a very tense feeling in the music as if it is straining and working at cross purposes to itself. While this is probably not what David wants here, the use of the rest instead of the dot often means something similar. There is an attempt by the fingers to connect across the rest, but some other mechanism is preventing it, often the arm making a slight upward departure from the keyboard within the normal gesture for continuity. So there is a difference between releasing a key willingly, so to speak, versus releasing it unwillingly. The slur over the rest shows the unwilling release of the key.
Knut wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 09:39
It sounds that what you are saying is that slurs in piano music not only is intended to show the legato groups, but serve an additional purpose that is completely technical, similarly to string instruments
Exactly. The arm gestures of piano playing are very much like bowing. And you are right, one must experience them oneself to really get it.

Also to be considered is that while slurs show legato groups, "legato" itself means more than simply "overlap the notes and then make a break". The slur means that the notes form a unbroken conceptual unit. This explains why slurs sometimes join on a single note or two tied notes. Two unbroken conceptual units are eliding. And just as elisions are shown in written language, so they must be shown in written music or the meaning is distorted, as when editors replace an elided group with a single slur.
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Re: Slurs again

Post by Knut » 22 Aug 2017, 11:19

David Ward wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 10:31
Well here is the relevant page of full score at the stage at which I think I made the vocal score (35 years ago, so my memory…) - it's not the definitive full score, which followed a little later.

Reading the comments, I'm wondering just what were my intentions? In any case, it's on my long list of pieces which ought to be revised, but most likely won't be (one should avoid Bruckneritis and concentrate on the new, I think).
Thanks, David! To me, there doesn't seem to be any particular need for the eighth rest in the middle of the legato group, other than making the entrance of the grace note figure clearly stand out, which I'm guessing was the point of including it. The connected slurs does also seem too serve a purely practical purpose (i.e., to avoid collisions), given the discrepancy between the two versions and the relatively small amount of vertical space available.

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Re: Slurs again

Post by Knut » 22 Aug 2017, 12:00

John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 11:06
Since a staccato dot is simply an abbreviation for shortening a note and adding a rest after it, one might think of the two notations as interchangeable for the purpose of understanding the subject under discussion.
Sure, although I think that if a portato is indeed what's intended, the slur and staccato combination is a much clearer way of conveying it. To me, it doesn't make much sense to have a dedicated pianistic notation for such a common articulation, even though the playing technique and method of sustain is very different from other instruments. But regardless of how I feel about it, the intention of the notation at hand is now a bit more clear to me, thanks to your explanation.
John Ruggero wrote:
21 Aug 2017, 11:06
Also to be considered is that while slurs show legato groups, "legato" itself means more than simply "overlap the notes and then make a break". The slur means that the notes form a unbroken conceptual unit. This explains why slurs sometimes join on a single note or two tied notes. Two unbroken conceptual units are eliding. And just as elisions are shown in written language, so they must be shown in written music or the meaning is distorted, as when editors replace an elided group with a single slur.
Your elision-analogy is neat, although connected musical units are not necessarily slurred according to the same principle, as seen in the differences between the two versions of David's piece above.

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Re: Slurs again

Post by John Ruggero » 22 Aug 2017, 12:50

Examples of slurs over rests in Chopin’s Etude op. 25 no. 11.
The first shows the “unwilling” release of an octave, straining but not quite able to connect to the next note within a conceptually unbroken unit.

Copyist’s Autograph:
Chopin Slurs over rests Autograph.jpeg
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It has been engraved like this ever since the first editions (the Breitkopf Complete Works is shown here):
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs B&H1.jpeg
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs B&H1.jpeg (56.23 KiB) Viewed 737 times
The following unforgivable “correction” in the Cortot edition shows two units, which could lead to an unmusical performance:
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs Cortot.jpeg
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs Cortot.jpeg (41.64 KiB) Viewed 737 times
The following example is interesting in that Chopin first uses a normal legato throughout the first LH phrase, and then encorporates “unwilling” release into the following parallel phrase. Clearly the use of two slurs for the second phrase would have been an error in logic as well as leading to distortion in performance.

Copyist’s Autograph:
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs 1.jpeg
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Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs 2.jpeg
Chopin op 25 no 11 slurs 2.jpeg (13.66 KiB) Viewed 737 times
Breitkopf Complete Works:
Chopin op 25 no 11 B&H 2.jpeg
Chopin op 25 no 11 B&H 2.jpeg (109.79 KiB) Viewed 737 times
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