Steven Reading’s prepared remarks for MOLA 2014 conference

by Philip Rothman on May 10, 2014 · 3 comments

in Opinion

scores-reformed-150Here are Steven Reading’s prepared remarks for the opening plenary of the 2014 conference of the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA): The Art of Reprinting and Re-Engraving — A Dialogue. Steve is co-founder of Scores Reformed, a company that creates newly set editions of existing music. A follow-up interview with Steve and his business partner Annie Miller will be forthcoming on this blog in the week ahead. — Philip

Introductory remarks

The first thing to say is that Scores Reformed are not re-printers, but re-setters. I’m sure you all know the difference, but if not, here goes:

Re-printers take existing copy, and hopefully tidy it up where necessary, then, as far as I know, photocopy and send out to clients. As far as we are concerned, what this can, and oftentimes does lead to, is a continuation of errors that have, in some cases, been in existence ever since the first print.

A case in point is a reprint of an early 19th century opera that I saw a few years ago that was ordered by a major European Opera House. (I happened to be in the library after it had been delivered, and the librarian showed me what had been sent.)

It was a complete reprint of the original, on slightly better paper, but included missing key and time signatures and clefs on all staves except the first of each number. It also had clarinets and trumpets in outlandish keys. He told me that he had had to employ extra staff for a whole month to make the parts playable, and, more to the point, acceptable to his players.

As re-setters we would, given enough time, have reset the whole thing, and given the transposing instruments the option of having their parts in more modern notation — keys — Just a click (!) and it’s done. Of course, re-setting an entire work takes a lot of time. However we like to think we can tum around a score (not a whole opera or oratorio!) in about a month.

This begs a very large question: How do we select the works that we reset?

What works do we re-set?

Well, Annie, my business partner and I have been professional musicians for more years than we like to admit, and have a pretty good idea of what copy is awful, and what is not — I’m certain you all have your pet hates! When we started Scores Reformed, we set to work on the obvious works, which we thought would be operatic arias – as in ‘Opera Gala Night’ arias. To date we have reset approximately 60 of them. The originals were sometimes just extracted from the opera, or on very small A5 booklet format, which, along with the penciled corrections, bad sticky taping to mend tears, etc., made them sometimes almost impossible to read. We have reset them so that they are now — to quote one satisfied client, ‘a joy to play from.’

When we decided we had enough of those in our catalog, we started on the orchestral repertoire. This is more problematic, as much of the parts of these PD works are playable, if not particularly good, and, of course they take much longer to do. When we started out, we worked on scores that we thought needed resetting — ones that we remembered from our days as performers.

In fact the first work I was asked to do was The Rite of Spring. I decided to do it, even though the work is very much in copyright in Europe, as a test. It took me about three weeks to do it, and broke Sibelius three times in the process!

I did offer it to the copyright holder to peruse, as it’s probably one of a very few, if not the only electronic copy of the work in existence. They were impressed, but are happy with what they already have. I also was asked to reset Webern’s Passacaglia, Op. 1 by a major European orchestra. Again, I offered it to the copyright holder, but was told that, as they have asked a European university’s music department to make a ‘critical edition’ of the work and didn’t know what program they would use to do the work, I’d probably used the ‘wrong’ one, so they didn’t want it. Well, Webern comes out of copyright in Europe in 2016 so…

Where to get the material

Obtaining source material is always a problem. Where to get it? Which edition to use? We are very lucky to have a good network of contacts who give us access to their archives. These are: The Bodelian Library, Oxford, The British Library, the BBC Music Library and the libraries of the Royal College and The Royal Academy of Music in London, and also some private archives.

We have also realized that the most convenient way of sourcing material was through the IMSLP website. We all know the sometimes dubious quality of the downloadable scores that the site provides, but sometimes there are real gems to be found. Last year we embarked on a project to reset the works of Rachmaninoff and Respighi — so many notes! — and IMSLP proved invaluable. We tend, for the initial setting, to go for the original score — just to get the notes in — and then use newer editions and the MOLA errata list, where available, to make the scores as close to performance custom as possible.

Copyright

One thing that IMSLP is very good at is cautioning on copyright issues. If a work is in copyright in your territory, you can’t download it. Copyright laws vary in complexity from country to country. In the US, as a rule of thumb, we reckon on 95 years post-mortem. There are exceptions to this rule but by and large, I stick to that timeframe.

In Europe (France is a partial exception) and many other countries it’s 70 years post-mortem, with very few exceptions, while in other parts of the world it’s 50 years. The 70-year rule makes things a lot easier for us, as there is only one rule! I look forward to the time when copyright laws are unified throughout the world.

There are, of course anomalies, but we don’t even try to work those out!

A major consideration for all librarians and re-setters is the territorial provenance of the re-set work. For instance, Prokofiev is still in copyright in the UK, but is out of copyright in South Africa, and all those lands where the duration is 50 years p.m. We were approached to re-set some Prokofiev by an orchestra in the southern hemisphere, where he is out of copyright, and were advised that we would be breaking UK laws if we did the work, as it would have originated in a state where the law is 70 years. So we didn’t do it.

When it comes to critical editions, we have been advised by a copyright expert that in the UK, if there is no substantial difference to a work (adding articulation marks, etc. is not considered major) then, in most states of Europe, copyright cannot be claimed on those editions, except in Germany, and possibly Austria, where they do consider those things copyrightable. I believe the textbook on international copyright is one of the largest legal books there is – no wonder!

We recently re-set two works that had had copyright marks on them, as they were considered to be first prints of hitherto ‘lost’ works. If a work has been performed in the composer’s lifetime then the post-mortem rule applies. Each of these works had been performed just once, so we were OK, much to the annoyance of the original publisher. They were PD!

Our methodology

Once the music is reset and aurally and visually proofed by the setter (usually me) it goes off to several other proofers who work on separate part/sections of the score. When they have finished they go to Annie who inputs the corrections. Then they go back to the original proofers, who look at the sections they didn’t do the first time. Then back to Annie. She corrects, and sends it to me for further ‘eyes’. When satisfied, Annie makes the parts — and finds more ‘bugs’ and I make the conductors score — more bugs. We don’t boast our editions are perfect — which ones are? — but we do try! And ultimately your input helps.

As I have already said, we always work with the copyright laws of the lands to which we sell works in our catalogue and will never knowingly contravene any national copyright laws. We also have access to an expert in copyright laws an issues who advises us on all matters concerning it.

Editing and note correction

During the process of resetting, we come across many instances of wrong notes, wrong rhythms, inconsistent phrasing, wrong clefs, etc. I am constantly on the phone with Annie to talk about these things, and sometimes we are forced to make our own editorial decisions. Sometimes these go down well, sometimes not. Where wrong or missing notes are concerned, it is relatively easy to decide what is correct and what isn’t. Phrasing is more of a problem, as it can be very idiosyncratic to the particular composer, so we have to take a view and work with that. We have also discovered some instances of missing or misplaced instrument lines (sometimes with the help of MOLA errata lists), which we have corrected.

We make use of all available technology to discover just what the composer intended (or what others have decided he/she intended) when instrument indicators are missing from scores. YouTube is usually invaluable in this regard, although, when we are resetting some more relatively obscure works, even on that platform there are holes in the repertoire! We have recently reset a work that has one line of solo instrument going on for five or six pages, with no indication as to what should be playing. It could be a solo violin, or alternatively, a carillon. We made the decision it was a solo violin as there was no YouTube recording to check with. I just hope we got that one right!

Technology

We use (for the moment) Sibelius. We’re aware that, with the sacking of the entire UK development team and their subsequent hiring by Steinberg, Sibelius will soon be supplanted. When that happens we will be there in the forefront testing and using the new app. Sibelius is a great program (I’ll not mention the competition for fear of having my visa rescinded!), but even in the version that we use (7.1) it is showing its technological age. We can’t wait to get our hands on the new program.

Printing and binding

Printing is done using large photocopying machines that can handle up to A3 (17-inch) paper. We always print on B4 (9.8×14 inches approx.) and using ivory-colored 100 gsm paper.When we started out, we used white paper, but were soon told by colleagues that this was absolutely not good in concert setting, as there could be too much glare off the paper from the overhead and/or stand lights. The ivory paper seems to have gone down well, and we will continue to print in this way. We would prefer to be able to print our scores on B3 paper, which would then be folded, but there is either:

  1. No machine available; or
  2. If there is, it’s exorbitantly expensive. Even the external specialist printing firms that we have approached have difficulty in finding these machines.

We bind our parts initially using the VPC binding system. This gives the document the ‘feathered edge’ that is great for quick page turning.

The outer covers/pages of the parts are taped at the moment using a plasticized cloth tape that we get from a specialist company in Liverpool. This gives the part binding strength. The inner pages are then taped and stapled into the outer cover. We find that binding is our greatest and most expensive problem. If any of you have any ideas on how to improve it, we’d be delighted to hear them.

Scores are bound using a square hole punch of 2:1 ratio and wire bound. We do have the facility to punch 3:1 round holes, but find the scores are then more difficult to open quietly and smoothly. Covers are made from 220gsm ivory card.

MOLA errata lists

These lists are, of course, invaluable to us. We always go through them very carefully and check our editions against them, sometimes disagreeing with the conclusions of some of our colleagues!

It is always a surprise to us that some of the most popular works in the repertoire have, sometimes, errata lists extending to over 50 pages! We hope that our editions will have far fewer. I think it is time to recognize the herculean work done by you, the unsung heroes of the music library, in compiling these lists.

Conclusion

I hope that gives you an idea of our business and how we work.

Annie and I started Scores Reformed as a way of trying to make the musician’s (and librarians’) professional life less stressful. I hope you agree it’s a worthwhile project, and we look forward to your suggestions, thoughts, and comments, with hopefully not too many brickbats!

Steven Reading can be reached via the contact information posted on the Scores Reformed web site.

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{ 3 comments… read them below or add one }

don stewart May 10, 2014 at 2:36 PM

SCORE is in use worldwide. Some of us believe it produces a result superior to Sibelius. Winscore is a near-finished version. We musicians need a successful effort to combine Sib.& Score

Neil Sands May 12, 2014 at 5:26 AM

Shame that they weren’t interested in your new improved Rite Of Spring. There are several errors in the published score that even I know about, just in the first handful of pages, including both rhythms that don’t add up and wrong notes! I remember a very learned discussion on the old sibeliusmusic.com chatpage about what Stravinsky could have intended in bar such-and-such which didn’t quite add up. Did he want the triplets played more freely, for example? No – it’s a mistake. Should be fixed so that discussions like that don’t have to happen. Anyway, more power to your elbow Steve & Annie.

Justin Tokke May 12, 2014 at 1:34 PM

I greatly appreciate the noble cause these people are taking on! Many editions need to be re-done. However, I wish that their engraving was more up to par with the standards of the old editions. I looked at their samples on the website and they’re really not that good compared to many of the published scores out there which are professionally engraved.

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