Convention of ending at bottom of page.

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David Ward
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Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by David Ward »

There seems to be a convention that a musical score should always end at the bottom of a page, and indeed nearly all published scores that I've seen do just so.

I brought the subject up earlier in my post here viewtopic.php?f=5&p=7671#p7671 because with shorter pieces it is not always convenient to follow this convention, so I was wondering if it has any rational basis. Or is it just that: empty, meaningless convention that can safely be ignored when it doesn't work out. Any opinions?

Another question arises from my earlier post. The piece whose last page is shown is for three singers, viola and piano. In the full score of chamber pieces with piano it is conventional (and I believe sensible) to reduce the size of instrumental staves other than those for the piano. In this instance, since singers might be reading from the score, their staves are full-sized. I feel it could look a little odd if the viola stave were reduced, so I have kept it full-sized. Do members of this forum agree?
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OCTO
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by OCTO »

David Ward wrote:
14 Jul 2020, 16:46
There seems to be a convention that a musical score should always end at the bottom of a page, and indeed nearly all published scores that I've seen do just so. [...] Or is it just that: empty, meaningless convention that can safely be ignored when it doesn't work out. Any opinions?
I have earlier (+15 years ago) tried to fill the last page, as it is common with the old editions.
But lately I simply used empty spaces on the pages where it doesn't work, usually parts. There are two main reasons:
1. In instrumental parts with various density it is not always easy to make good turns. Here "good turns" are preferred over "filling the page".
2. In instrumental parts where "density is preferred over equally spread systems over page". Here the density is more important than "filling the page", because a correct density (vertical space) makes easier to read.

In both cases I find important to inform musicians that the blank space is not made by a mistake (bad copying, resizing etc), so that definitely nothing is missing. Therefore I write "(cont.)" or "V.S." or whatever precisely under the last measure on that page (when page is in the middle of a piece, aligned right) or "End." or some symbols such as "»»» «««" or "❧❧❧" under the last system of the part (aligned middle).

As a former orchestra musician I found very difficult to play from the parts (always new music) where the editor scarified a good vertical spacing (between systems) for the sake of "filling the page". It is extremely difficult to play when systems are too far away (and it is never difficult to play when systems are crowded, yet without any collision; see here: viewtopic.php?p=218)
David Ward wrote:
14 Jul 2020, 16:46
In this instance, since singers might be reading from the score, their staves are full-sized. I feel it could look a little odd if the viola stave were reduced, so I have kept it full-sized. Do members of this forum agree?
I would definitely make a cue staff for everything else except the main part. It is always easier to rehears, remember, practice and perform from a such part. My opinion.
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by benwiggy »

I often use this quote:

"Just consider for a moment whether you know of any piece of music where a movement finishes short of the end of a line, or the conclusion of the work itself is other than both at the end of a line and the end of a page; this is not accident but design, the design of the music engraver."

A Note on Music Engraving and Printing , Norman Gray, Boosey & Hawkes, 1952

I suspect it comes from traditions of the various printing processes, both moveable type and plate engraving.

I used to work for a book publisher who would always complain about pages with large amount of white space -- "We're not selling **** paper!"

I try to fill every page, but if it just can't be done, then it just can't be done. You could fill the rest of the page with 'printers' flowers'.

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OCTO
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by OCTO »

Here are examples of "unfinished" pages, and even "unfinished systems". For me, it was more important to get balanced systems and music spacing (according to texture and tempo), rather to balance it with the white space.
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by benwiggy »

I agree that instrumental parts are a different thing from a score.

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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by Anders Hedelin »

I've wondered why music engravings should be so different from books in that respect.

Even with good publishers you see a lot of empty space after the ends of chapters. "Selling paper".
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by Anders Hedelin »

And of course I agree with OCTO. In parts readability and playability is everything. Never mind the white spaces. My impression is that today's music publishers don't count the pages as miserly as they did in the past.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by John Ruggero »

Since page turns and cues were of paramount importance, any amount of white space on any page, as well as blank pages and foldout pages were the norm for A. Arnstein, I don't remember him having issues with short final staves either, although I avoid that.

I center the grand staff systems on a page if there are only three or four, and use a bit more white space between them than usual so they don't look "orphaned" at the top of the page.

OCTO., your parts are beautiful. Is there special significance to the parenthesized (V.S.) or is it just a normal V.S., and what does (cont.) mean?

Arnstein used the V.S. very rarely and only when a turn had to be done unusually rapidly, since most of the time there were enough measures rest at the bottom of every right page to turn comfortably. And if the played music had to go to the very edge and the measures rest were on the next page, we wrote "time" at the bottom of the right page. If there were many measures rest, they were split between the bottom of the right page the top of the next page. As much as possible, we tried to avoid situations where the player had to play immediately at the top of the next page. Because of the great care that was taken with the turns and cues, musicians loved his orchestral parts.
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OCTO
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by OCTO »

John Ruggero wrote:
15 Jul 2020, 19:03
OCTO., your parts are beautiful. Is there special significance to the parenthesized (V.S.) or is it just a normal V.S., and what does (cont.) mean?
Thank you.

In the first example, the (cont.) symbol is there to show what is coming next with a cue. The next measure (cued) is to large to be put before together and to be put as a single measure in the next system on the same page (under).
The second example shows V.S. (perhaps the parenthesis could be omitted) for two reasons: one is that the musician should turn the page really quickly, since it is played by a single musician, and two to inform that "nothing is missing" - one could suspect, even for a second, that there was a problem with copying.
The third example ends with a movement finish, so there is no rush to turn quickly. Yet, to assure musicians that "nothing is missing" and the music continues, there is added a "cont." symbol.
The fourth example basically also continues, but there is need to turn it quickly. To have both "cont" and "V.S." is tautology, thus only V.S. remains.

I personally apply the following:
- in full scores it is important to adjust all pages so that it finishes on the bottom of the page.
- in parts the rule for "filling the page" is canceled by:
        a) vertical compactness of the systems/rows
        b) good page turns.
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OCTO
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Re: Convention of ending at bottom of page.

Post by OCTO »

Here is another "difficult" example, that I have solved by unusual settings.
The left page starts with measures that are difficult to get properly in one full row. The previous page finishes with "cut off" and here "cut on" continues. If these measures are spread in the full system, it gets more difficult to read; if another measure from the next system is added, it gets to crowded. Anyway, very unusual. (cont.) here is to assure that "nothing got wrong with your part"
The right page has turn. It is going very dense afterwards and I find no possibility to turn anywhere else. So therefore I needed to make a page break just there. V.S. is both enforcing (to turn it really quickly) and informing (nothing is missing below).
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