Question about insisting on following a source score.

• Sep 26, 2020 - 22:58

By all means be my guest. I'm only asking the question.
A recent forum post highlighted a section of a Stravinsky (I think) score that combined 3rd trombone with tuba on the same staff. The question was how to get MuseScore to play this. Mike had a brilliant answer for how to get it done in quite a long post. Great.
The answer dealt with sticking with the source, or original score, because it is the authority on the music. That's absolutely true.
But I wonder how do we know and why does it matter?
I's not a big deal so why can't I just let it alone? I'm just curious, and intrigued.

Did Stravinsky actually combine those two instruments in his original score? Or did the publisher do it. Did Stravinsky care? Would he care if the two were separated?
I can't help but believe that he was much more concerned with far more important things than what instrument was on what line in the score.
Common practice is to group 4 horn parts by twos. But would it somehow diminish the music in the slightest if they were on separate lines? There are many instruments that we could combine, but we don't.

Yes I know, there was a need to save space. I have no problem with saving space. While saving space is a real world concern, it is an artificial concern to the music. In this digital age, is that same need still paramount? If saving space was the reason for combining lines, why is separating them for the sake of playback (or any reason, really) somehow contemptuous? How does separating the trombone and the tuba change the music?
Let's consider a live performance of this music. After all, that's why it was written. Go figure. Different orchestras of different sizes will play this. Is this a problem? And the 3rd trombone might not sit near the tuba player. Crap, what if the 3rd trombone player can't make it at the last minute. But there happens to be a spare bassoon that can cover the part. You can't tell me that things like that don't happen. Different conductors will direct this score differently. It makes no difference how many instruments are on a staff. They may not even look at a score anyway.
If I am too philosophical, it is because for me, music is not just notes on a page. I think a "source" score is just that. It is a beginning, a fountain head, a reference. It is a waypoint between the composer and a performance. If you don't write original music for an average size group, you may not understand. Nothing wrong with that in the least. The score is not the goal of composing. Some kind of real or digital performance is the goal. The score is not music. It is a mute collection of scribbles.

And yes, BSG, we have been over this. But no one has really come up with a good answer. Scholars may agree on an authoritative score. Fine. That may indeed be the "the one". But it is only a score. Musicians (or someone sitting at their computer) have the final say.
So we can worship the sacred score if we want. We can bow to something that is not music. Or we can move on to more important things. Like getting it heard.
I submit that in the case of easily getting playback, separating these two instruments does not go against the wishes of the composer. How could it?


I answered rather tersely when you first asked the question, so I'll answer it in a bit more detail here.

I hold no particular version of any score to be sacred and make emendations that I identify as mine in my scores. I have always preferred to keep my copies looking like the source. For one thing it makes mistakes stand out better. For another, I identify which score I'm copying and people should expect it to look like the source. The last couple of years my scores have mostly been written with the intention of being turned into braille. The main person doing this is Hu Haipeng of the Daisy project. Haipeng explains his purpose on his own site in the "About the project founder..." section.

I support his goal of making Braille editions available for blind musicians that are based upon known editions. My copies are made so that when someone says they are looking at rehearsal mark H on page 34 everyone will find rehearsal mark H on page 34. I have been forced to deviate from this at times and put a note in the scores explaining why. Haipeng looks first at the page count to see if the versions might match so he asks about it. I explained why I deviated from the source and he takes the extra time necessary in making his braille edition to account for this.

Many people know that I'm also associated with the OpenScore Lieder Corpus where we digitize old scores in large part for university research projects but they are used by musicians and educators for other purposes as well. One of the style guides in the OpenScore project says that each instrument (including voices) is to be placed on its own staff. As one of the Lead Reviewers it is my job to enforce this policy, which I do. My two projects have different goals and different standards and I enforce each when appropriate.

I have the general philosophy when it comes to copying music "To each his own" and have no problem with people either following the source or not. It's their work they can do what they like with it. I don't belittle you for your stance or BSG for his absolute opposite stance on the subject. There is also the difference that you mostly write original music and BSG presents copies of Baroque music.

When I write original music I generally put each instrument on its own staff while I write it. When I'm done and make the main score I may decide to combine some instruments (like Oboe I & II) on the same staff. I for one don't combine dissimilar instruments on a single staff even though I've proven I know very well how to do it. My decisions are based upon how I can present a score that is reasonably laid out, readable and plays correctly.

In reply to by mike320

Thanks Mike.
I'm not trying to change anyone's mind. Just trying to understand their viewpoint.
Sounds like you are doing amazing work.
I must confess that when I do any serious writing (serious for me, anyway) I don't use MuseScore. Mainly because of playback. Then there is the drum palette. I have written a few things in MuseScore that turned out very well. Though when I open them in other software, I have to change so many things. Like rewrite lines and change instruments to get the playback I want.
Personally, I'm not sure that it is always possible to copy a score note for note, marking for marking, and end up with a musical result. I know it's only for reference.

But this doesn't deal with why it's not OK to separate the 3rd trombone and the tuba.

I have no argument with anyone here.

In reply to by bobjp

I won't get into the noise vs. music discussion of a few days ago (please keep it there) but I'll admit that what I get plays technically correctly though it is far from sounding like a human would make it sound.

As for separating 3rd trombone and tuba I think you can see that I'll follow the source for scores that will be turned into Braille and I separate them in my own music. If it's for OpenScore I separate the trombone from the tuba. I have a couple of pieces included in shoogle's project. I've not seen a Lieder Corpus score with either a trombone or tuba but those would also be separated if they ever showed up.

In reply to by mike320

You know much more about MuseScore and do far more important work than I ever will. So thanks for not directly blowing off my questions. Questions that come from someone more concerned with playback, and who views a score as a means to an end and not the end itself. I suspect that most people use MuseScore to copy and transcribe and not to compose anything pretending to be serious.
Some have misunderstood my thoughts as saying that the authoritative source score is unimportant. I don't mean that at all. I only mean that older scores written to be played by real players were never intended to be played by a computer. And let's ignore the question of should they be performed by a computer. My thought is that we should be able to change things, like grouped instruments, to get the desired playback. Not changing the notes in the score, or anything like that. This doesn't negate the source score. It creates a usable score for a particular situation. The idea of which is not at all new. Oh, how many times I have sat through an elementary school band playing a Bach chorale, and been struck by its beauty every time.

In reply to by bobjp

There are a multitude of purposes for the users of MuseScore and I don't think telling them that their purpose is wrong is a good thing. If someone asks how to do something I generally tell them how to do it or that they can't if appropriate.

I'm not a conductor, but I don't have a problem with the tuba being combined with trombone or separate, I can read either. When the parts are distributed to the musicians, I don't expect to see a part that says Trombone 3 & Tuba but rather two separate parts. Horns are another story. Horn I & II or Horn I & III on a single part would not surprise me at all since they will often share a stand (2 stands for 4 horns) rather than have 4 stands for the 4 horns.

In reply to by mike320

Well, I guess I'm not being very clear. Sorry for that. My question refers to playback.
I'm not trying to tell anyone they are wrong. Forgive me if I came across that way.

It's fine by me if the score says that the flute and/or oboe might double the violin part. Or if the tuba and trombone are on the same staff.

I only asked why it's not OK to separate those parts for the purpose of playback. Why are we married to a certain score if it doesn't do what we want?

It seems to me that the answer would be in the long sought-after ability have a different mp3 play with a score. And to be clear, copy the source score. Prepare a second score that will playback like you want. Make an mp3 of that score. Have it play along with the first score. Rather than trying to force a source score that might have things that don't work in playback, to actually playback.

That's all I'm asking about.

In reply to by bobjp

It's OK to separate the parts for playback if necessary but it requires adding a separate staff for each of the parts. Why do that if it's rather simple to put them on the same staff? The two topics of separating parts on the score and separating them for playback are not really related in my opinion. If it were a Bb clarinet and Oboe (or any instruments with different keys) I could see doing this because the work required to put them on the same staff with proper playback would be unreasonable. I think we both know that's quite rare.

I've seen a couple of people request the ability to have an mp3 playback that can somehow sync with the score but that's quite an unrealistic request from my knowledge of how all of this works from a programming point of view. I think my first paragraph shows that I don't see a need for making one mp3 from score so you can play it with another score. A midi file syncing with a MuseScore file is probably doable, but that is kind of like separating the trombone part from the tuba for playback on invisible staves while keeping them on the same staff for the displayed score. It's rather redundant. MuseScore already plays as midi.

Finally I think this topic is moving in the direction of how good is the playback in MuseScore. I can transcribe a printed score with combined parts and make it sound just like a score you make that has the parts all separated with very few exceptions. I won't have to go into the .mscx file to edit it either. I can do this but I don't because if anyone goes back and saves the score again the .mscx edit may be overwritten.

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