Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

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OCTO
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by OCTO » 19 Jan 2016, 21:25

Knut, this Ravel example is indeed excellent, as well you analysis. I will definitely keep that in mind when doing my scores.
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John Ruggero
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 19 Jan 2016, 21:57

The Ravel is a great example from a different time and place. It looks like "composer stemming" for all the reasons you are giving.

Here is another example from the third movement, now in the RH. Why? Possibly because the RH represents, in orchestral terms, a full and "solid" seven note downbeat chord articulated by a kind of down and up shimmering aftershock. The uniformity of stemming gives more the impression of such a solid chord. The decision to make it up stems could be to bring it into conformity with bars 3-4 where the similar climatic melody note must have an up stem. (And there is one more similar pair of measures following.)
Ravel Sonatine Slurs.jpg
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I think that your solution to the Beethoven run is certainly better than the Complete Works engraver, but you must have much greater tolerance for this kind of thing than I do. For me, the upward sweep of the line is disrupted by any change of stem direction, even on the C.

This is actually a touchy moment in the piece, because the opening phrase for the violin ends so definitely on an F chord that it is a little hard for the piano to repeat it starting on the same chord without the piece sounding sectionalized. Beethoven's solution is to bridge over the awkward moment with the scale passage that seamlessly grows out of the accompaniment and melds the two F chords into one. The "seamless" part is thus very important.

He also provides a slight hint of a C connective chord on that fourth beat and the final G is an important link from the F in the violin to the first piano A. But Beethoven's notation with the long slur and the continuous stemming says, at least to me, don't emphasize the C chord!

I think that your version may cause some performers to put too much emphasis on that C, causing the quintuplet to become isolated from the rest and possibly played too fast, blurring the final G.

The final notes of many fast passages are actually quite important melodically, something not always recognized. In this case, it is quite possible that there should be a slight articulation between the final G and the start of the melody on A. Some pianists might finger those last five notes 1 2 3 4 5 and then play 5 again on the A to enforce the slight break! I certainly simplifies the fingering, and one wonders if that isn't exactly what B. had in mind here.
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Re: RE: Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by OCTO » 20 Jan 2016, 05:31

John Ruggero wrote:
Here is another example from the third movement, now in the RH. Why? Possibly because the RH represents, in orchestral terms, a full and "solid" seven note downbeat chord articulated by a kind of down and up shimmering aftershock. The uniformity of stemming gives more the impression of such a solid chord. The decision to make it up stems could be to bring it into conformity with bars 3-4 where the similar climatic melody note must have an up stem. (And there is one more similar pair of measures following.)
What an elegant and excellent explanation, John!
Not being able to hear the music now on my mobile, I guess the tempo is quick?
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by Knut » 20 Jan 2016, 06:22

John Ruggero wrote:Here is another example from the third movement, now in the RH. Why? Possibly because the RH represents, in orchestral terms, a full and "solid" seven note downbeat chord articulated by a kind of down and up shimmering aftershock. The uniformity of stemming gives more the impression of such a solid chord. The decision to make it up stems could be to bring it into conformity with bars 3-4 where the similar climatic melody note must have an up stem. (And there is one more similar pair of measures following.)
I think the stemming in this example is preferable, and agree with your reasoning. I think I would prefer this stemming, even without the melody notes in the following bars, for the same reasons I prefer the stemming in the Ravel example.
John Ruggero wrote:I think that your solution to the Beethoven run is certainly better than the Complete Works engraver, but you must have much greater tolerance for this kind of thing than I do. For me, the upward sweep of the line is disrupted by any change of stem direction, even on the C.
Perhaps. Also, keep in mind that I'm no pianist. My distinct impression is that Piano has a much freer tradition with regard to engraving conventions than other instruments. This is important to remember when attaching significance to such conventions, which, in essence, are designed to work for all instruments.
John Ruggero wrote:I think that your version may cause some performers to put too much emphasis on that C, causing the quintuplet to become isolated from the rest and possibly played too fast, blurring the final G.
Since the entire run shares a slur and there is no articulation, I don't see why one would assume that the C should be emphasized. I guess the crescendo is important in this regard, but even with that, I certainly wouldn't make any such assumptions. Indeed, it seems that we have somewhat differing philosophies with regard to stemming. To me, stem direction has no special significance, except in polyphonic contexts.

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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by David Ward » 20 Jan 2016, 09:44

Knut wrote:… … Perhaps. Also, keep in mind that I'm no pianist. My distinct impression is that Piano has a much freer tradition with regard to engraving conventions than other instruments. This is important to remember when attaching significance to such conventions, which, in essence, are designed to work for all instruments. … … … To me, stem direction has no special significance, except in polyphonic contexts.
This would apply to me, too, although I'm intrigued - fascinated indeed - by John's analysis, I think it speaks chiefly to (and for) pianists. However, as somebody who needs (and on occasion chooses) to write for piano from time to time, I am attempting to learn as much as I can from this discussion.
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 20 Jan 2016, 17:55

Thank you very much, OCTO. that is high praise, and I greatly appreciate it. Yes, the piece is very rapid and brilliant.

David, I am glad that you are enjoying the discussion!

I have appreciated all the comments, some of which I have answered only indirectly, for which I apologize. I will look over all the comments to be sure that I have responded to everyone in a future post.

Knut wrote:
it seems that we have somewhat differing philosophies with regard to stemming. To me, stem direction has no special significance, except in polyphonic contexts.
Knut, I think that we can all agree that musical notation is a kind of language. Every aspect of this language, even something as mundane as stem direction, is open for use to communicate ideas. One of the things I am trying to bring to composer's and engraver's attention is the subtle use of musical notation by several master composers.

David Ward wrote:
I think it speaks chiefly to (and for) pianists.
Knut wrote
My distinct impression is that Piano has a much freer tradition with regard to engraving conventions than other instruments. This is important to remember when attaching significance to such conventions, which, in essence, are designed to work for all instruments
Knut and David, piano music lends itself to this kind of stemming, especially when implied inner voices are omitted in conveying orchestral effects. We saw this in the Chopin Sonata example, where the opening high notes have up stems because they are the soprano voice to inner voices soon to arrive. However, composer stemming has been destroyed in piano music as in other genres, so it is the exception, as in the Ravel, rather than the rule. I would say that pianists now are no more aware of it than other musicians.

Beethoven uses the same kind of stemming in the violin part as seen in example 4 in my original post. There is nothing piano-specific about it.

Here is a selection from the first edition violin part which generally follows the autograph. Note that the notation is generally "standard", but with a little more cross-beaming than we use today. However, there are to us a few unusual places:

Marked B, the stem direction is as in the 1st edition score and autograph shown above.

Marked A and similar places: There are competing forces at work in the direction of the triplet stems: the desires (1) to preserve the stem direction of the inner "trill" droning notes and keep up what is set up by the first beat stem direction, (2) for the melody note of each triplet to have have up stems if possible, (3) while at the same time for this melody note stem direction to lead smoothly into the stem direction of what follows.

Marked x The engraver was actually too conscientious and preserves stem directions forced by space pressure in the autograph that should have been brought into conformity with (1) and (2). To me, that says that someone (Beethoven?) was very concerned that he engrave accurately, or that it was just normal for the time. It also says that the engraver was not completely aware of the meaning of what he was engraving.
Beethoven Sonata op. 24 Violin Part1.jpg
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In this second example, the 16th notes illustrate B.s desire to keep the legato motives smooth and looking the same by avoiding changes in stem direction.
Beethoven Sonata op. 24 Violin part2.jpg
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by Knut » 20 Jan 2016, 19:19

John Ruggero wrote:Knut, I think that we can all agree that musical notation is a kind of language. Every aspect of this language, even something as mundane as stem direction, is open for use to communicate ideas. One of the things I am trying to bring to composer's and engraver's attention is the subtle use of musical notation by several master composers.
You're absolutely right, and I for one really appreciate these discussions and what you bring to the table.
John Ruggero wrote:I would say that pianists now are no more aware of it than other musicians.
Really?

Wouldn't you agree that these kinds of notational 'liberties' are more common in the classical piano literature than works for other instruments, even though Beethoven (among others) have treated works for other instruments in a similar way?

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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 20 Jan 2016, 19:34

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.
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 20 Jan 2016, 20:07

Thank you so much, Knut. I really appreciate that.

John Ruggero wrote:
I would say that pianists now are no more aware of it than other musicians.
Knut wrote:
Wouldn't you agree that these kinds of notational 'liberties' are more common in the classical piano literature than works for other instruments, even though Beethoven (among others) have treated works for other instruments in a similar way?
I just meant that pianist's are not AWARE of these "liberties", not that they aren't more common in piano music. Now I will "prove" it, which involves an embarrassing admission: even though I have played Ravel's Sonatine for a long time and love the piece, those two spots in the third movement didn't immediately come to my mind at all notationally. I may have noticed them at some time or other—it rang a bell when you posted the first one, but that is all. And this in spite of my great interest in such matters! I think that this is a great compliment to the notation, whether it be Ravel's or the engraver's. It is so totally natural and right interpretively, that it passes by without notice. But if the notation had been some other way, it would have been noticed, but in a bad way.

I think you are undoubtedly correct that exceptional stemming occurs more frequently NOW in piano music than in music for other instruments. But it definitely doesn't occur with great frequency (because of current engraving practices.) This is another reason that pianists are not aware of it.
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Re: Engravers vs Composers: Stem Direction 2

Post by John Ruggero » 21 Jan 2016, 00:45

MJCube wrote:
Do engravings which ignore Beethoven’s stem directions in favor of rules tend to make these passages convey any different impression of line? If we can determine any real difference in how one would play it, then maybe there’s a case to be made for reproducing some or all of the non-standard stem directions as written.
I think that the opening piano run of the op. 24 would be a good test. To me, momentum, sweep and continuity is suggested when there are no stem direction changes. Would it have a similar effect on your playing of the run?

Such a fast rush connecting two distant notes is quite a dramatic event in such a lyrical context, as if a beautiful vista were unfolding. I think the original notation conveys that.
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