Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
benwiggy
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Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by benwiggy »

I mentioned this in passing on another thread about Notation Software, but I thought I'd give my rambling discourse its own thread.

I was wondering about the extent to which engraving 'technologies' -- quill pen, italic nib, woodcut, moveable type, plate, stencil transfer and ultimately computers -- have determined aspects of notation itself? In other words, what symbols and practices are the way they are because of limitations or behaviours of the process used?

Text fonts for dynamics often provoke ire on these pages, though again the established symbols are just stylized versions of a particular typeface. However, Novello and Baerenreiter both have used/use text fonts for dynamics.

Once we accept that dynamics 'are just text': -- things like clefs have their origin in letterforms, but they have become abstracted into entirely new symbols, through a process of evolution and ornament. If we know they are just stylized letters, what is functionally wrong with just using a large letter G in Myriad Bold? :eek:
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Conversely, will we ever see a further evolution of those symbols into even more abstracted forms, or are they now 'fixed'?

Moveable type in the 16th century provided greater speed and reproduction than a pen, but at a cost to flexibility and elegance.

Similarly, while we expect computers to provide fewer limitations than conventional methods, it's clear that all software struggles to contain and express the 'gamut' of musical language, with all its vagaries and exceptions. To what degree should we allow the newest process to inform and proscribe the notation that we use? In what ways will notation change in the future?

Clearly, I need to get out more.... (or at all!)

Anders Hedelin
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by Anders Hedelin »

Of course modern software opens up for limitless changes of music notation, and it might seem a waste of potentiality not to use it to its full capacity.

I think, though, that music notators are a quite conservative/consensus-minded lot, in the sense that they value and preserve a lingua franca which is ever so stable as the Latin was in the old days.

Do you have some special symbols in mind, that you think could (should, possibly/probably will) be altered?
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Schonbergian
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by Schonbergian »

I find Baerenreiter's unstylized roman dynamics to be unpractical as they simply don't stand out on the page as "dynamics" to me, as just one example of how this kind of innovation might diminish our ability to easily recognize these symbols.

benwiggy
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by benwiggy »

There is of course a 'symbiotic circle' of engravers choosing symbols that people are accustomed to seeing, and people being accustomed to symbols that engravers have chosen.

I'm also intrigued by the "jazz" faux-handwriting convention, which again is what people expect to see, yet is, to my eye, an over-precise simulacrum of pen.

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John Ruggero
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by John Ruggero »

I agree with Schonbergian that Baerenreiter's use of roman type to distinguish between original dynamics and suggested dynamics in normal italics in Mozart's Complete Works was unfortunate since Mozart's MS dynamics are cursive and the first editions imitated this with italics, which seems to have been standard at the time:
Mozart.jpeg
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although some publishers used roman style fonts:
Haydn .jpeg
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The evolution of modern music notation seems to have been heavily influenced by aesthetic considerations of that time, particularly in smoothing out and beautifying the elements as much as possible within the constraints of hand engraving to resemble the curved forms that one sees in nature. These forms also promote a flowing visual impression that aids comprehension.
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Anders Hedelin
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by Anders Hedelin »

At my age I'm quite happy with a bit of symbiosis, when most things in life are rather the opposite of being symbiotic.

As for changes or new features in music notation, I think it's easier to tell when an innovation is necessary - because you can't think of an alternative, or better, solution - than when it's unnecessary. The latter depends on repetition of practice, and on the strength of influence from musicians and genres. Only time will tell what remains.
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benwiggy
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by benwiggy »

I suppose that once a symbol becomes established, it's hard for it to change without good reason, whereas in the days when the symbol (or a particular form) is yet to be established, then it's fair game.

But it's interesting how many symbols have 'thin and thick' aspects, originally from italic nibs.

Anders Hedelin
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by Anders Hedelin »

I think notation has changed with the digital technique, or rather with the programs using it - at least marginally.

One example is the 8va and 8vb symbols together with dashed, not dotted, extensions - something that I know John isn't that keen on. I have to confess I've adopted these myself, out of convenience no doubt. (I'm sorry - possibly I'll better myself when I've found out how to produce a truly dotted 'smart line' - with dotted hooks - in Finale.)

Another example is the excessive, and rigid (sometimes difficult to change) breaking of secondary beams for rests.

Etc.

Probably the strength of digital notation, so far, lies more in the exactness and clarity it may produce, than in any innovation of notation.
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hautbois baryton
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by hautbois baryton »

If anything, digital tools have allowed a lot of terrible, terrible engraving to proliferate.

The power is there for it to be great engraving, but that requires actual knowledge, skill, and experience; it's not enough for the software to be intelligent, the user has to have a few cells to rub together as well.
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Schonbergian
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Re: Effect of Notation process on engraving rules

Post by Schonbergian »

Also, digital tools seem to have been created by those programmers not particularly familiar with the reasoning behind many traditional engraving practices, which were then thrown out without any real justification. (See: Good contrast between elements, ottava lines, optical boldness of differently sized elements, not overly spacing out the music)

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