Behind Bars - Elaine Gould

Dear community,

I would not write the following if I had received an answer from Faber Music in the last four weeks. This was not the case, so I do post here - sorry!

I am always refining my work, and since all people are fascinated with Elaine Gould’s book - me too!!! - there are lots of points of her view which may be criticised. For once, she is very strict in her rules, which is not the case with engraving. There are many very important rules, yet it often comes down to taste, experience and differences between editions and national traditions. These are to be appreciated, like traditions in the different sound of orchestras (in danger of extinction by reason of demands from the music industry) or interpretations of french, english, german, czech, russian or else music by differently raised musicians (and no, americans are not able to interpret all of them in the right manner because they have less traditional rules - it comes down to the greatness of the single musician!).

Of course with the dawn of computer supported engraving, one has to take in account that there are hundreds of bad engraved editions out there (e.g. I once read proof for an already published Schott symphonic edition criticised by Franz Welser-Möst, and since SCORE does the distance for accidentals often wrong, most of them were out of place. This is the reason why Thomas Brodhead created his tool accs.exe)…

These above mentioned points of view taken in account, very important differences she often does not consider in her statements (e.g. french beaming). More to that: Sometimes she rather contradicts herself, when she excludes notes on the middle line to be stemmed down and writes in another context that many editions stem the note on the middle line down.

I beg your pardon that I do not have the page numbers by hand right now for the examples above, if you are interested, I will find it for you again.

Here an example with page number:
S. 108: “Do not place a hairpin before a note is started, nor after a note is finished.” Quite often it is the case that a composer wants to imply to let the music start before you play or that the sound shall kind of linger on without sound. In these cases it is common practice to write a hairpin before a note starts or after it is finished (musicians know what I mean). What about hairpins written beneath rests?

So, with all due and very big respect to Elaine Gould and her awesome, more than important work: Do not take all of her statements as top rule or common law in all cases.

Dorico is a very young piece of software. Not everything it does will please everyone all the time - an impossible task in any event. However, to put your mind at ease, let me quote what Daniel wrote yesterday as part of a thread where some of us disagreed with a Gould suggestion:

"Fellow forumite Stephen Taylor drew an excellent analogy with the editing of dictionaries, and the issue of prescriptive (i.e. what is “right” and “wrong”) versus descriptive (i.e. what do people actually do) grammar, and Dorico I think has to walk this line as well.

Gould is an excellent starting point, but it is by no means the only text we use as reference when planning how to handle various notational features. My desk is literally buried under all of the standard notation texts and dozens of scores by various publishers. We discuss at great length within the team everything that we tackle, and spend a lot of time researching different possible approaches. I also have a number of expert music engravers based both in Europe and the US that I am fortunate enough to be able to call upon when I need a third or fourth opinion.

And Dorico’s philosophy is not to hardwire things. If the plan was to hardwire everything, then we wouldn’t have bothered with the hundreds of engraving options that are implemented in the very first release of Dorico. The philosophy is to provide excellent, configurable defaults, and the means to override them if need be. I think those users who have actually spent some time with the software (and, with respect, I don’t believe this includes you, John) can see this very clearly.

However, writing software is not a zero-sum game. Adding options takes time not only in development, but also in testing, in localisation, in documentation, and it adds to the cognitive load on the user. We have a huge amount of ground to cover in continuing to make the software useful to as many people as possible. This is a daily balancing act, and I think the biggest challenge we have in front of us is effective prioritisation so that the software develops in the right directions quickly enough that it can continue to build its momentum in its adoption within the global community of musicians."

“Contemporary informed performance” isn’t one of my strengths, but as a performer, I’m having trouble understanding how this would work.

Behind Bars is of course “The Faber Style Guide”, and it goes without saying that other houses have other styles. I agree that the main problem of music notation software is the balance between “automatic helping” and “actually that’s not helping”. Adobe Illustrator gives you the greatest flexibility for notation, but provides no help either. :laughing:

Perhaps Dorico could have different modes of notation assumptions: “Renaissance”, “Baroque”, “Classical”, “2nd Viennese”, “Avant garde”, etc…?

I think the quick answer here is that one has to start somewhere, and the Gould manual is a reasonable place to start. Where the end point is, we will see (and may even affect somewhat–through respectful comments).

And quite often composers hope that performers will guess what they mean, even when they don’t know themselves, or were just careless. When Schubert wrote “sf”, “sfz”, and “rf” under similar passages of music all on the same page of a manuscript, does that really mean you are supposed to play it three different ways, and if so what exactly did Schubert (not Gould, or any other musicologist) think the difference was?

As a player I would think

„sf“ as an accent
„sfz“ as a strong accent
„rf“ more as a sort of a crescendo

music does live from these subtleties.

Thank you all for your comments!

My topic was not supposed as critics to the Dorico team, not at all! But there are a lot of people out there who just write music for a publisher because it became so easy, and even some of these have not so high standards. Since it is published, one can get the impression Elaine Gould’s book is kind of a new standard. I even know of publishers who want to give it their freelancers as general guideline. And that is, what it is: a guideline, and that is what I meant. Do not take everything what she writes as - ahem - gold standard :wink: There are so many subtleties in engraving (as in music)! I wanted to get these people, who also read topics in this forum, to attention, nothing else.

To subtleties in music (and engraving): There is a big difference between sf, sfz and rf! In the named context sf is more an emphasis, sfz an accent and rf is indeed an emphasis which begins a bit softer, kind of a crescendo. Schubert is one of the composers where you can be really sure that he means these differences and does not write them by chance! - Another example: Think about the discussions of dots and prolonged dots (not really wedges!) with Mozart. The difference is huge!

A music beginning in total silence and ending there - indicated through elongated hairpins - has to do with breath, concentration and suspense, used and created by the performer, and is definitely perceptible!

That is the reason why “Urtext” is so important, because engravers in the 19th century (and before) tended to correct manuscripts of composers or there were different originals present or perhaps they simply had not enough sophisticated engraving tools at hand. Musicologists - if and when they are good - take many different sources in account and try to really find out what the composers original intention was. Best to ask him personally of course, and because of that many editions are printed only after some performances, in presence of and in coordination with composer and conductor/musician. Of course experienced composers - not necessarily old ones - know what they have to write exactly. Look at the scores of Gustav Mahler for example.

The small differences and subtleties are what a good engraver must understand, and that is why Daniels blog was so fascinating and - yes - soothing for me!

@Derrek: I totally agree. Yet one has to bear in mind … One british man once told me, if a British says: “Oh, you must come to dinner sometimes!” does mean that he never wants to see you again, since he would have told you date and time otherwise. Of course nowadays this will be (slightly?) different, but if a german says the same, he means it, otherwise he would be more kind of rude… (piss off, you guy!) (I am german…)
–> I would have had to use too many smilies in the last paragraph, please try to understand without!

I still think that, as Tom Gerou’s and Linda Lusk’s Essential Dictionary of Music Notation state and Finale does, dynamic markings should be placed horizontally slightly BEFORE the note they belong to. The way how Elaine Gould wants us to and Dorico and Sibelius do centre them feels and looks strange to me. I believe that there is no one correct answer, but perhaps this can be an example about how one does not have to agree with Gold and how still no-one might be “right”. If interested, please read the thread about Horizontal alignment of dynamics here: