Lost Notation 4

Discuss the rules of notation, standard notation practices, efficient notation practices and graphic design.
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John Ruggero
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Lost Notation 4

Post by John Ruggero »

Although I constantly deal with modern vs. authentic stem direction in Beethoven's pianos sonatas, the absurdity of the some of it struck me forcefully in the following example:

In the first edition, the stem direction is maintained in the left hand, since the chords are a unit. This is the usual practice for Beethoven:
1st ed.jpeg
1st ed.jpeg (18.14 KiB) Viewed 239 times
In the modern example (Schenker's is given in the example) the unity of the passage is compromised by a change stem direction merely to carry out a mechanical engraving rule that has no connection with the musical content.
Schenker.jpeg
Schenker.jpeg (27.49 KiB) Viewed 239 times
And aside from the musical content, does it look better? For me, it looks worse.

I think there is a connection between the disregard for the musical meaning of stem direction and the chord-by-chord approach that infected musical thinking in the 19th century. Beethoven understood and notated a single basic harmony being elaborated by contrary motion neighboring tones to produce a harmony of a lesser weight within it (Example A). The engravers saw only three "different" harmonies of the same weight and therefore saw no reason to maintain stem direction (Example B):
analysis.jpeg
analysis.jpeg (49.5 KiB) Viewed 239 times
Schenker, who understood this better than anyone, did his best to preserve as much of the original in his edition as he could, but may have had no control over the modernization of some aspects of the engraving practice.
Last edited by John Ruggero on 15 Feb 2020, 13:27, edited 1 time in total.
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Den
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Re: Lost Notation 4

Post by Den »

I love the 1st example (old)! This is correct for my eyes and it is a simple example where different kinds of comprehension in notography can be analyzed. Good "engraving" rules. Thanks for this observation Mr. Ruggero!
Why are publishers always trying aggressively to complicate what's already simple and good?

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John Ruggero
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Re: Lost Notation 4

Post by John Ruggero »

Den wrote:
15 Feb 2020, 12:31
Why are publishers always trying aggressively to complicate what's already simple and good?
One theory: The rules of music notation as used by the best composers of that time were highly complex, because they reflected the complexity of the music. But engravers were also dealing with the haphazard notation of composers who were less expert. So publishers tended to try to find a simplistic approach that would at least make the music look consistent. Or another way to put it is that since the real rules of notation were not immediately apparent, they were replaced by artificial rules that would be obvious to everyone.

As with so many human endeavors, what starts out as spontaneous, creative and exciting eventually becomes calculated, mechanical and humdrum as the heights of human achievement are ground down to stolid mediocrity.
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David Ward
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Re: Lost Notation 4

Post by David Ward »

John Ruggero wrote:
15 Feb 2020, 14:37
As with so many human endeavors, what starts out as spontaneous, creative and exciting eventually becomes calculated, mechanical and humdrum as the heights of human achievement are ground down to stolid mediocrity.
Ha! Yes.
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