A valuable benefit of presenting at the recent annual conference of the Major Orchestra Librarians’ Association (MOLA) was the opportunity to visit with colleagues that I hadn’t seen in a long while. The nature of our field being what it is, there were some colleagues that I’ve known for quite sometime via electronic communication, but have never met in person.
One such colleague is Steven Reading, a copyist, engraver, arranger and horn player in Guildford, England, outside of London. Along with his business partner, copyist, engraver, and flutist Ann Miller, Steve co-founded Scores Reformed in 2009. Scores Reformed produces newly engraved scores of existing works in the repertoire that have suffered from the quality of their engraving or printing. As they say on their site, “You know the sort of thing — pages stuck together with sticky tape, torn pages, cigarette burns and untold coffee stains, and paper worn so thin by having to erase corrections before the music was sent back to the publishers that it’s impossible to read.”
Clearly performers agreed on the need for such a product, as the Scores Reformed catalog now boasts works by more than 75 composers with clients that include the top orchestras and opera houses on both sides of the Atlantic.
Steve was a panelist in the conference’s opening plenary, which featured a lively discussion about the art of re-printing and re-engraving music amongst the panelists and the audience of librarians and publishers. Steve was kind enough to permit me to publish his prepared remarks from the session, which you can find here. They are well worth a read, as he talks about Scores Reformed’s history and its editing process, along with interesting details such as binding and paper choices.
Later, in the exhibition room, I found a quiet moment during the breakout time to catch up further with Steve and Annie. Read on for our Q & A.
PR: What was the inspiration for doing this kind of work?
AM: Frustration, I think! We’ve been professional players for 80 years between us, and having parts that were put in front of us year after year made it terrifying — seeing parts put in front of you for the first time if you’ve not played them before, and being hardly able to read them. So that got us going.
PR: What was the first piece that you worked on?
SR: The first pieces were operatic arias. Annie had been contacted by a friend who was conducting a recording session. The arias came from the publisher. The fees were astronomical, and when the music arrived, it was appallingly bad. So we were asked to provide the clean copy for the sessions. As all the music was in the public domain, we did it, and that was our start.
PR: So you realized there might be a need for this in the field?
SR: There is a world of stuff out there that needs doing. We thought, why not?
AM: We were contacted by someone that was going to be recording Giovanni Bottesini’s Messa da Requiem. The parts were only on hire — that was the only way that they were available.
SR: The publisher wanted 3% mechanical rights, and the record label balked. So the publisher refused to allow the parts to be made available. The conductor, who was fronting the money for the project, was very worried. He came to us and we turned the full requiem around in about four weeks.
The engraving and editing process
PR: Could you talk more about how that process works?
SR: I do the notesetting, mainly. As the notes are going in, there’s an aural and a visual proof against the copy, and we often find a lot of mistakes in the original source.
PR: So you play back the score?
SR: I do. I go page by page, up to about ten pages at a time. It’s helpful, but of course you won’t hear a wrong note if it’s a third off. It’s another tool. Once that’s done, it will go to proofreading. We’ve just started a new system in which we have a minimum of two proofreaders; sometimes more. We split up the project, so if you have a symphony, then one proofreader will work on the first two movements, and the other will do the last two movements. The corrected score then goes to Annie.
AM: It used to be delivered via PDF, but now I prefer to receive a hard copy of the proof.
SR: Yes, we have to have that in our archive in case we need to refer to it later. Annie will make the corrections, and then we send it out again in reverse to those two proofreaders — the proofreader who worked on the first two movements will now work on the last two movements, and vice versa. It’s a fresh pair of eyes. When that’s done, it goes back to Annie, and she makes the corrections.
AM: And then I make the parts. I print those out, and we start our proofreading process anew.
SR: While she’s doing the parts, I’m doing the condensing, because we always do our scores instrument by instrument. So if there are three flutes, there are three flute staves. It gets very, very big with very tiny staff lines.
PR: That’s interesting — you do a “parts score” first?
SR: That’s right. If you do it the way that we do it, instead of the reverse, you can be more certain that you’re getting everything in, as far as I’m concerned. When it comes to corrections, if you have an à due, you can easily miss that if you’re separating the parts out afterwards. So I love the process of condensing from a parts score. You have a wonderfully large score to start, and then when you condense it, you can have Flutes 1 & 2 on a staff, or all three, however they line up. You start out with a score, and it’s black, and you make it very small, and then you start copying up — I always do it page by page. Say you have horns. The way I do that in Sibelius is to convert the music to voice 2, then copy voice 2 only up into the first part, having then already put it up into Horns 1 & 2. As you’re going along you can knock out the ones that are redundant. The music eventually becomes clear; it’s like the sunlight coming out!
PR: It starts to look like music.
SR: It starts to look like music, indeed!
AM: I think also the advantage of doing it that way around is that there are errors that can creep in if you were splitting parts out. You could have all kinds of things that should have been copied down, etc. So if you’re working in the way that we work, it makes my part extraction that much easier because I’m only looking as a single player at that part. I don’t have to think about, oh is that two voices that should only be one. So it does make it a much easier way of working, from a parts score.
PR: But even when you’re doing that, you’re copying from a full score, yes?
AM: Yes, we input from a full score.
PR: So if there is an à due, for instance, you’ll copy that into both parts, and in your proofing process, you look at that against the source?
AM: Yes, that’s right.