SEISO Commission: Part 7
Today's post is about every composer's worst nightmare: EDITING!
Actually figuring out what notes and rhythms are in a piece of music is only half the work. As a composer, I can figure out pretty quickly what I want my music to sound like, and write that down. But getting it from the full score (with all the instruments together) to each player-s individual part is a daunting and thankless process. Most players don't even notice if a part is edited well; they just notice if it is edited poorly.
The first step in the editing process is proofing the full score. Because the instruments on each staff have large ranges, sometimes the space between staves must be adjusted to make sure that notes and markings don't overlap, which makes a score messy and hard to read. Each page needs a fairly even amount of measures; if one page has two measures on it and the next has 20, this can be very confusing to a conductor. Also, going through the full score at the beginning helps to catch typos before they become hard to fix. Many typos can be caught early in the process, saving a lot of work later.
The next step is creating a "parts score", which I can use to make the notation software extract each individual line. This is necessary because, in a full score or conductor score, things like tempo markings and rehearsal letters only appear above two or three staves, but they need to appear on each part. Also, fonts on a conductor score are much bigger than on parts, as the conductor score is smaller and farther away. Finally, on a conductor score, instruments are "grouped" together and each group is given a name (i.e. Clarinets) and the parts are simply given numbers (1, 2, 3) to eliminate clutter on the score. But each part needs the full instrument name (Clarinet 1, Clarinet 2, Clarinet 3) on the part, so the parts score has to display all of the names for each staff.
Once the parts score is created, changing notes becomes more difficult. With any score, the more you edit it, the more mistakes you find. But once you have two scores, and eventually two scores and a set of parts, you have to edit the same error two or three times. It gets to be a lot to keep track of.
The next step in the process is extracting and editing the parts. There are several important reasons for editing each part. First of all, in an orchestra, most parts are not doubled. There is only one player reading Flute 1. This measn that each part REQUIRES adequate time at the end of each page to turn the page without missing notes. The same is true of strings, as even though there are multiple players per part, the sound is noticeably thinner if half the players have to stop playing to turn a page. So creating good page turns is most of the work when editing parts. Usually this means moving staves from page to page to make sure that there are resta at the end of a page. Sometimes, a page is left entirely blank if there are no good rests for a few pages on either side. All of this is very tedious work, but pays off in smooth and productive rehearsals.
The last step in the first "round" of editing is actually proofing the notes and markings to make sure there are no collissions. It is during this stage that most of the initial typos are found and corrected in the part, the part score, and the full score. Each page of each part must be labelled with the instrument name and page, and in percussion parts, all instrument changes must be clearly marked, and even mallet choices marked in where necessary, to save the player the time involved in figuring out which type of mallet to use.
Once this is done, a final run-through of the score often helps to catch even more typos and collissions of markings that didn't get caught earlier, as it takes days to edit the parts and this gives me a frresh perspective on the score. It's the same basic principle as doing a word-search sideways: the fresh perspective helps you notice things you didn't notice before.
This process took about two weeks for the symphony, and I have only finished the first round. As the rehearsal process gets underway, more and more typos will surface, and get corrected, and with every subsequent performance (if there are any) more mistakes will show themselves. But the feeling of releif when I finally click the "Send" button on the email with all of the parts and score PDFs for the orchestra is worth all of the drudgery.
So now the rehearsl process will be getting underway! The next post will probably revisit some of the earlier movements that I didn't get into as much detail with, while explaining just what happens in the first rehearsal of a brand-new composition. Until then, happy composing!
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