Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Music Typesetting and Beauty

How typesetting can help your rehearsals be more efficient and your singing more beautiful and understandable 

Over the past 25+ years I have spent hundreds, dare I say, thousands of hours typesetting, editing and tweaking typesetting of Orthodox liturgical music. Why? Why do Anne (my partner at Seraphim Six Productions) and I spend so much time fussing over our editions? Why do we go back again, year after year, tweaking things to get it just right? The answer is actually very simple, over the years, with our choir at St Lawrence, we have discovered that how the page looks and fixing the little things in text setting make a difference in how easily it is rehearsed and how it is ultimately rendered in the services.

How many of you, dear readers, are still looking at music on the kliros that has been copied so many times that the ledger lines, text or notes are hard to read? How many of you are reading music where the text is in all CAPS, in a fixed width font, rendering it difficult to sing without sounding like a machine gun and difficult to comprehend the text and phrasing? How many of you are reading music that was hastily handwritten or transcribed? How many of you are inputting music into a computer notation program without giving any thought to how it actually looks on the page or without thinking about the readability and usability of the page?

What Anne and I have discovered, through trial and error, is that music that has been properly edited and notated enables beautiful singing and allows it to be more fluid and accurate, especially at first sight. This holds true even when the music is well-known to the choir. Rehearsals will become more efficient, with less explanation – simply because there is more information on the page and readily available to all the singers with less need for the conductor to explain everything.

Some of the elements that make a difference:
  •   Font and font size
  •   Linear style to keep the eye moving forward through the text and musical phrase
  •   Use of notational conventions to aid understanding of rhythm, accent and flow of text
  •  Music spacing that doesn’t distract from rhythmic flow or deceive the singer as regards pulse  and textual flow
  •  Consistent and accurate use of sentence case, capitalization, hyphenation, and punctuation to  allow easier comprehension of the text by the singer
  •  Clear titling, labeling and attributions 
OK, so I know this is my first blog post in ages, years … but in subsequent posts THIS SUMMER I will address the specifics of the bullet items above.