Wednesday, June 15, 2011

Some Advice

Here's a small bit of unsolicited advice for my composing colleagues: Don't use the default layouts, but take an extra minute to make your computer-engraved scores look good.

I was just sent a large-ish collection of piano scores by a colleague. I like what I've played through in the scores, but the (default Finale) layout is so bad that I refuse to play any more. The staves are too large, there is no space between systems (so that the bass of an upper system is hard to sort out from the treble of the system below), the title and composer's name are squeezed into the upper margin, the copyright notice practically buried in the bass of the bottom system, and all the text is in the default Times New Roman font (and everyone knows that nothing shows you could care less than using a default Times New Roman.)

As someone who is seriously near-sighted and astygmatic, what I want most is NOT the largest staff size possible, but the clearest image. Give a little extra space; you can afford the extra paper. Yes, there's a definite macho caché — and the dense-notating complexists have a definite macho streak, but that's for another item to discuss — to having a lot of marks on the page, but the page doesn't have to be more black ink than white space. Give enough room to your title and name above and copyright notice below, even if this means having one system fewer on the first page. (And, by the way, unless it's a piece with a composer and a lyricist to sort out, all you need in the right hand is your name, not a "by John Smith" as in grade school. We're grown-ups, now, and we know the convention that the composer's name goes up there on the right so that preposition is unnecessary.) And, let me repeat, choose a nice text font that says I care at least enough about my music to take the 15 seconds time and change the damn Times New Roman to something distinctive.

Legal notice: This advice is solely my own, kiddoes, and your own mileage may vary. And one caveat: When I was a composing youngster myself, there were contests in which the secret requirement was sending in (stinky, fading, yellowing) ozalid copies. Xerox copies were automatically discarded as "unprofessional." Only a small number of inductees were aware of these secret requirements. There were rumors, of course, but what the hell did "Ozalid" mean to some kid from the desert and even if he did know about it, how could he practically get an Ozalid made on a paper boy's income? There may well be some jerks running competitions or admissions committees nowadays who accept only scores with Times New Roman fonts or printed on saddle-stitched portrait-format 9"x11" paper or with embroidered lilies on Corinthian leather coverstock. I cannot accept liability for any failed submissions to such competitions and admissions committees due to such secret requirements.



3 comments:

Archivist/Cultural Liaison said...

I hope no one is reading your blog in Times New Roman either~!

DJ Megha said...

Interesting Article. Thanks for sharing it.

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