Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
DatOrganistTho
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by DatOrganistTho » 21 Jan 2016, 16:41

John Ruggero wrote:DatOrganistTho wrote:
I wouldn't have thought twice about what Beethoven was doing, but this is interesting and I'm willing to revisit it again.
It is precisely for this reason that Beethoven took great care to preserve his sketchbooks: he thought that it would be both interesting and enlightening for future composers.
When it comes to manuscripts, it is far more important to composers to get the idea on the paper FIRST before observing any rules of notation. I can't find a single composer who doesn't do this.
As I mentioned, the autograph under discussion is not a sketch. It is the finished work ready for the engraver. As we can see, Beethoven took great care to notate it carefully. None of the master composers that I am discussing notated final copies carelessly, even though it might appear that way on first glance; nor do master composers today notate final copies carelessly.
Second, composers never intend to write what they want people to see, but rather what they want to hear. Therefore, often, notational conventions are sacrificed in order to maintain clarity of musical thought which will eventually be notated more professionally for someone else to read.
The whole point of my presentation is that these composers were VERY concerned about notating what they wanted people to hear, especially at a time when printed music was the only means of mass music communication. Therefore, as you say, they sacrificed notational conventions as necessary to get their point across; but they did not consider this less "professional" and were concerned that their innovations were passed on to the performers through the published score.
Third, notational conventions/practices have been developed over many years and, like book-typesetting, people usually can agree on the REASONS for their conventions - clarity. You switch stem direction in the middle of the staff to keep the page from bunching up and thus making it less clear to understand. Visually it is clearer and thus easier to play. This is much similar to when book typesetters choose to put a little extra white-space between paragraphs to help the reader adjust to the new line
I totally agree with you that our notational conventions have evolved to produce the clearest possible communication between composer and performer. And these conventions work for the most part. However, there are times when they must be discarded to facilitate communication of a deeper kind. These master composers can show us when those times are.
And then, as with a lot of published composers of his time, there is less of a desire to apply what might otherwise be consequential to the performer to preserve clarity of thought, knowing full-well that someone else is about to re-imagine it's application in a much more readable format.
If anything, I see a greater concern about adherence to the original notation in the original edition of this work than in current editions. But I may not completely understand your comment.

Bonus thought: This is an astonishing example of Beethoven, because most of Beethoven is unreadable.
Browse around at IMSLP for Beethoven autographs from opus 28 through opus 78 or so (not many autographs have survived of his earlier music) and you will be very surprised. They look like this one, very clear and readable and with not that many corrections. Later, he let his handwriting go, possibly because of emotional and physical problems. But his clarity of thought in musical notation never wavers. It is all there as he wishes it to LOOK and SOUND. It's just a lot messier.
Thanks for replying!
However, there are times when they must be discarded to facilitate communication of a deeper kind. These master composers can show us when those times are.
I'm afraid I see this as moot with some conventions (like unified stem directions). What deeper kind of thought can be communicated in the performance of such music without explanation to the audience that "stems from measure x-xx are up to communicate the line is unified and clarity of thought is clear?"

I see these differences much like an author insisting the publisher use "ALL CAPS" instead of italics because he wants the reader to have a deeper understanding of what is happening in the text. In reality, it may be more difficult to read, and italics does just a fine job at doing the same thing.
The whole point of my presentation is that these composers were VERY concerned about notating what they wanted people to hear, especially at a time when printed music was the only means of mass music communication.
Is it so possible and likely to you that one cannot understand what the composer intended when the stems might be "corrected" to notational conventions? That sounds like you are making an awful amount of assumptions about the performers ability to both interpret and communicate effectively.
It is the finished work ready for the engraver.
I wouldn't want my editor at the engraver's office to miss what I'm trying to write upon the final editing of what should be printed. This does not improve implicitly nor logically that Beethoven (or any other composer from around that time) was concerned for how it was finally printed for mass production.

One thing that would be more convincing to me is to see correspondence from composers to their editors in the engraver's offices about the display of music and how their music turned out (such instances are far from rare in other publishing industries).
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DatOrganistTho
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by DatOrganistTho » 21 Jan 2016, 16:42

Knut wrote:
OCTO wrote: Yes, breaking of the rules when composing is not that something we composers think about or not. Of course, it concerns composers who have written all their opus by hand, as it is with me - so far.
I would even stress David's thought about the ink. Imagine this situation: you play with one hand a phrase, another hand has to: write by ink on paper, hold paper firm when hand is moving, and occasionally refill the pen. So if you have a phrase like John has shown, I would think that B wanted to write that phrase as quick as possible. Changing the stem direction would probably affect his speed and working flow.

But I am here most interested in the original question of John: how should we deal with this oddities?
John, possible to provide an engraved example with B original, to compare it?
Agreed.

The fundamental question is whether the stem direction in an of itself carries any significance or not. In a polyphonic context, with two voices sharing a staff, it would, but in this situation, I don't see how it matters which way the stem goes. In the absence of semantics, one is left with a choice based on ease of reading, which would certainly point towards adherence to the rules.
Agreed.
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 22 Jan 2016, 20:46

You are very welcome, DatOrganistTho.
What deeper kind of thought can be communicated in the performance of such music without explanation to the audience that "stems from measure x-xx are up to communicate the line is unified and clarity of thought is clear?"
Obviously, we are talking about communication through musical interpretation. There are many ways to play a passage, some with understanding and some with misunderstanding. I fell that some masterful composers have notated their music, either instinctively or consciously, in a way that will direct a superior player into understanding rather than misunderstanding. That understanding will be communicated to the the audience in the way it usually is: in intangible ways impossible describe in words.
I see these differences much like an author insisting the publisher use "ALL CAPS" instead of italics because he wants the reader to have a deeper understanding of what is happening in the text. In reality, it may be more difficult to read, and italics does just a fine job at doing the same thing.
The composers that I am using for illustration didn't insist on dumb things like that. They were more knowledgable than their editors and engravers, not less, and their notation is always appropriate.
Is it so possible and likely to you that one cannot understand what the composer intended when the stems might be "corrected" to notational conventions? That sounds like you are making an awful amount of assumptions about the performers ability to both interpret and communicate effectively.
I never said that it was impossible for a performer to play well from almost any edition of work. I am just showing how several master composers used notation to make things clearer to the performer.
I wouldn't want my editor at the engraver's office to miss what I'm trying to write upon the final editing of what should be printed. This does not improve implicitly nor logically that Beethoven (or any other composer from around that time) was concerned for how it was finally printed for mass production.

One thing that would be more convincing to me is to see correspondence from composers to their editors in the engraver's offices about the display of music and how their music turned out...
I am going to deal with these excellent questions in another thread.
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