Voicing categories

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vaarky
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Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 19 May 2010 04:36

I wanted to open some discussion taking place about voicing more broadly.

How should the voicing categories apply to pieces that start with some number of voices, say 4, and divide for some period, so that all notes cannot be covered with less than 8 voices? This comes up regularly in the context of Renaissance pieces that have gimels; the piece is largely parts, for example, but one of the parts splits for a while so it requires 6 voices. Another variation is where a piece is largely 5 voices e.g. SATTB, then has a middle section that requires SSAA.

My view is that in the searchable voicing categories, it's more important to specify the minimum number and distribution of voices. It defeats the search function if categories are not used to specify the minimum voicing, because you search for 4-part music and could end up with anything above 4 parts. Other areas, such as the Description field, can indicate that it's mostly SATTB and only briefly is SAATTB. The edition notes for a particular edition can be used to indicate the voicing if it varies based on what key the piece is transposed to.

Finding out in the text description that the voicing is condensed for part of the piece makes far more sense than the converse, whereby someone has to read the description of each score that comes up in a search result before they can rule out pieces that their choir can't sing because they only have enough tenors to do single-tenor pieces.

How do others feel?

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 10 Jun 2010 23:25

Tap, tap, tap... is this thing on?

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by CHGiffen » 11 Jun 2010 16:27

It's on! - but it takes some time to formulate a thoughtful, considered response. The more I think about it, though, I am becoming more sympathetic to your viewpoint. But there do seem to be problems, as well as other viewpoints, making it difficult to decide just what to do.

I suppose one of the largest hurdles to be dealt with is ... tradition ... that and the fact that contributors/editors (and sometimes composers themselves) are the ones that supply a voicing that, in terms of the "minimum number of voices" (MNV) required to sing a work. For example:

(1) The last-act Finale from "The Gondoliers" ("Dance a cachuca, fandango, bolero") by Sullivan is described in the E.C. Schirmer edition as "for four-part chorus of mixed voices" - but, in fact, each of the SATB parts divides at some point into two parts. Should this work be voiced as SSAATTBB? or SATB? or (since there are never more than 6 different parts being sung at once) something else (maybe SSATTB or SSATBB)?

(2) Mendelssohn's "Elijah" is given the blanket voicings SATB and SSAATTBB at ChoralWiki and just SATB in at least one commercially available edition ... in both cases, these seem to ignore the voicing for the lovely SSA terzetto "Lift thine eyes". Indeed, should larger works with different voicings have their movements separately voiced? (I think so.)

(3) In Renaissance works for which the "full" or "tutti" voicing is different (usually smaller in number of voices) from the solo sections (including gymels) how should the voicing be done? - separate voicings for full and soli, or voicing for the minimum number of performers necessary to sing the work (full and soli lumped together) since, in early music performance practice, it might be argued that such works were sung with relatively few voices? In a work such as the Tallis "Gaude gloriosa" the tutti voicing is 6-part SATTBB, but there are S, A, and B divisions (gymels), yet at no time are there more than 6 parts singing at once - so the work can be performed with as few as six singers (especially if one of the basses or tenors also doubles as a countertenor - which happens); moreover, we cannot be sure that the gymels were intended to be sung one on a part (I've sung the work in performance where the S and A gymels were sung two to a part, 8 singers total, plus two on the accompanying bass part, and the B gymel was sung one to a part, 2 total).

(4) There are numerous works in which doublings (usually at the octave) are written but not specified in the voicing, eg. notes below the bass clef in a bass part which are doubled at the octave, presumably for basses/baritones which cannot sing that low - but the composer's intent is not clear. A similar treatment might be having a bass subdivision at the fifth for a cadence, where the fifth might be (justifiably?) omitted in some cases. One sees inverted versions of this situation in soprano (occasionally tenor) parts where the part subdivides with very high notes (above the treble clef), usually at a cadence, with a probable(?) intent that the high note(s) are optional or possibly(?) that the lower notes should only be taken if there are no singers able to sing the higher ones ... again a very murky situation in terms of voicing and MNV.

In general, it is presumably the case that performance (however adequate or scholarly or suited to the occasion) usually trumps the written score ... we already see that in transpositions of works. For example, it is not at all infrequent to see low basses take a final tonic down an octave - nor for a piece to be given a rousing fortissimo ending with sopranos or tenors taking a higher note in a final chord than is written in the score ... all (I assume) for effect. And there are even editions of works (eg. the Allegri "Miserere mei") which spell out performance practices that have little to do with the original Allegri music) ... but here, at least, one can specify the voicings, although does one specify the tutti (chorus) and semichorus (solo) voicings separately or lump them together in the MNV spirit (the two groups might be physically separated in performance/liturgical use)?

Another problem is one of what I'll call (for want of a better term) "musical intent" (stemming from the genre and intended performance setting of the work). Would/should (1) above ever be sung by an octet or (minimally) a sextet? I don't know ... maybe in a production with a shoe-string budget?

Is there a way for voicing and number of voices to be "all things to all people" - or do we have to make some sort of compromises? Short of having (perhaps hidden) voicing categories for MNV separate from voicing categories based on usual performance expectations, I doubt we can satisfy a significant majority of users. Any changes we make will also require some advance notice and probably entail a significant transition time whereby qualified volunteers work their way through the CPDL collection.

I have other thoughts about varied performance practice and evolution (along the lines of the evolution of the Allegri) - at least one of which stems from the Samuel Barber "Adagio" legacy ... as the second movement of his String Quartet, Op. 11, then as an orchestral arrangement for strings, then as a choral work "Agnus Dei" (which is an 8-part work). I'll probably have more to say down the road a bit. :)

Additionally, although I think any decisions to be made and actions taken should be administrative, I think we might benefit from having this discussion being conducted in a wider forum.

Chuck

Edit: I just looked through music for an upcoming concert with a local community chorus and findl (all listed voicings occur in the score), in addition the "The Gondoliers" chorus cited above:

* A "Rogers and Hammerstein on Broadway" medley lists itself as for "SATB voices and piano with optional instrumental accompaniment" - but, aside from solos within the work, the has (in places) subdivided Alto and Bass parts as well as one place (with the basses already divided, an optional divisi high note for tenors). Should such a piece be voiced as 6vv SAATBB, or even 7vv SAATTBB?

* Randall Thompson's "The Last Words of David" (E.C. Schirmer) lists itself at the beginning of the score as "for four-part chorus of mixed voices" - although the basses and sopranos subdivide near the end (and basses once at an earlier cadence). Is this piece then for 6vv SSATBB?

* "River in Judea" by Jack Feldman, arr. John Leavitt, says S.A.T.B. on the title page but has SATTB, SATBB, SAATBB, and SSATTBB moments (the last at the very end). Should the work be voiced 7vv SSATTBB (the maximum parts at anyone time) or 8vv SSAATTBB (since the altos also divide briefly elsewhere)?

* "Danny Boy", arr. Mark Hayes, is "Level Five SATB with Piano" and actually has a flute part, and has 3-part men's as well as 3-part women's subdivisions (hard to tell whether SSA or SAA and TTB or TBB). So is this work a 6vv piece with something like SSATBB voicing (or other configuration)?

Just some more grist for the mill. :?
Last edited by CHGiffen on 11 Jun 2010 21:49, edited 3 times in total.
Reason: a few additions here and there
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Re: Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 11 Jun 2010 19:04

Thanks for posting your views. I agree a broader forum would be good, and am comfortable with moving this topic to wherever folks think is best. Since you're the other person who posted, please move it if you're comfortable with your content being in a broader forum.

How do you (and others) feel about converting the current voicing to Minimum Voicing, and then creating a new (optional) category called something else which can be used to indicate if in essence a piece is considered 4-part even though it actually has 8 independent moving voices at a particular time? Some inaccuracies will exist for a time, but that will clear up over time as we diambiguate two different voicing functions.

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by CHGiffen » 11 Jun 2010 21:22

I just moved this topic here from the Admin and Moderator forum in agreement with Vaarky, so that we might have a broader discussion of how voicing descriptions and categories should be handled. Please feel free to join in the discussion.

Chuck
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Re: Voicing categories

Post by bobnotts » 12 Jun 2010 09:53

Well I'm not really sure of the best way forward but I think we shouldn't overcomplicate this issue. Creating a whole new set of voicing categories for "minimum voicing" would be a big job and it could confuse new users and even some long time contributors. For me, the benefits would have to be quite substantial for it to be justified.

Let me describe the process I go through when I create a new score page or correct a voicing categoy:
1. Take a brief look through the entire score. How is it set out? Separate lines for each part or short score? Is there a separate line for eg. "Soprano I" and "Soprano II"?
2. Look for divisions within the parts. If some divisions are so small that the could be covered by other parts or left out entirely, they should not be mentioned in the voicing. For example, although not immediately apparent, in O Lord, look down from Heaven by Battishill, all parts are split for more than an insubstantial period, except the basses. At the time, I thought that the bass division at the bottom of page 2 in my edition was not sufficiently substantial to warrant a voicing of SSAATTBB. If necessary, at that point, the tenor could take the first bass line, cutting their semibreve short and revert back to their part where appropriate.
In the same way, if there are one or two small divisions at the end of a normal length anthem, as is common, I would not bother to include those in the voicing - the majority of the voices in the work are undivided.

To be honest, I think your needs as a very small (one per part) ensemble are somewhat unusual, Vaarky. For most people browsing CPDL, I suspect it will be for a choir of at least two per part and usually a lot more. However, it may be that I'm completely wrong and we could get some users chiming in here saying that such a re-categorisation would be very useful to them. I welcome their input.

Rob
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Re: Voicing categories

Post by Richard Mix » 12 Jun 2010 10:38

I would guess there are as many one-per-part users as not of some of our favorite repertoire, like Ockeghem or the Eton choirbooks. A problem I see with minimum number searches is that it's just not as rewarding for an octet to sing pieces with the odd divisi, while it can be worthwhile for a smaller group to thin out a single chord. It might in fact be useful to have a separate Category:SATBdivsi.

The way voicing is set up now there are two fields, "number" and "voicing", though I'm not sure how one searches for the first, which would seem to be redundant. If it is searchable, then surely more fields can be added.

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 12 Jun 2010 19:03

Maybe the situation is different in other countries where more boys and men engage in choral singing, or maybe it's a function of the type of singing an individual does.

In my experience of the US, the following types of groups regularly have a need to ensure that there is no split in one or more voice parts, due either to complete lack of bodies (esp. if they have only one tenor or one bass), or because the additional singers on some or all voice parts are not capable of reliably singing notes alone in tune that are different from other voices singing their part.

* church choirs: even with a paid SATB quartet, I know churches that cannot tackle splitting the parts on Palestrina difficulty repertoire, even for women's voices where they have more bodies

* school choirs esp. from grades 7 to college since they are more likely to get repertoire on CPDL than people teaching earlier grades

* community adult choirs esp. those that audition members by seeing if they can sing a scale after it's played on the piano

* small ensembles (performing or otherwise) whose membership is limited to begin with (e.g. 5 people total) or who have to plan repertoire for dates of irregular attendance

Merely by counting groups I know personally, I can off-hand count the following separate on-going ensembles that don't even really overlap:
* Renaissance group I organize regularly
* group I sing with one night a week
* group I'm filling in for another night a week in summer
* group I used to sing with in NYC
* church I was paid soloist for briefly in NYC
* at least 4 SF area churches I know of, including several that have a paid soloist or paid quartet
* nearly every group I've sung with from elemenary school to college has had this type of shortage, and I remember splits being a limiting factor in high school
* several informal quartets or quintets I know that are offshoots of members of a particular chorus wanting to sing more or one-on-a-part or try different music
* all of the 5 or 6 other church choirs I've asked about in other states in the US

Nearly all of these types of ensembles that I know of now already use CPDL, though not the forums (and thus they wouldn't be participating in this discussion). Of the ones that don't use CPDL, the remaining ones may just not know about it yet.

There are about 600 ensembles listed in the SF Bay Area guide to area choirs, which does not list all ensembles and does not include most church choirs at all. The New York guide lists about 480 and is also not complete. Some of the larger groups sing traditional stuff out of Barenreiter scores, some specialize in a particular style not represented on CPDL (e.g. Hebrew rounds for women's voices), but the vast majority sing music that they could obtain on CPDL if they so choose, and many already do choose to do so. Other groups have enough solid singers to split voices. But there is a large, large chunk that can't split voices.

The following type of query from other parts of the US is not uncommon on Choralist, a mailing list focusing on choir organizers (many of the list members do know about CPDL):
I am looking for music for a possible Mother's Day concert (for next year). There are countless Magnificats and Ave Marias to choose from, but it would be great to have something more unusual / secular / modern alongside the traditional choral repertoire. Mother Earth maybe? Something with a thought-provoking text? Any suggestions? The choir is amateur SATB, singing in four parts, so we couldn't (I'm afraid) use music for women's choir or children's voices, or advanced/divisi "chamber choir" difficulty.
I'll reply in a separate message to Rob's concerns about complexity if adding Minimum Voicing, but wanted to address the size for the need for music that doesn't split certain parts and why I think the ability to search on this as a criterion is very important beyond my little corner of the galaxy.

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 13 Jun 2010 01:37

Rob wrote:
Well I'm not really sure of the best way forward but I think we shouldn't overcomplicate this issue. Creating a whole new set of voicing categories for "minimum voicing" would be a big job and it could confuse new users and even some long time contributors. For me, the benefits would have to be quite substantial for it to be justified
.

To clarify, I mean simply taking what is now Voicing, and remaming it Minimum Voicing. Then, volunteers as they spot exceptions can correct the exceptions. If a piece is currently classified as 5 voices, but they see it calls for 6 independent voices, then they would change the Minimum Voicing to 6 and add a new (optional field) for Primary Voicing or Essential Voicing or whatever we want to call it. People would continue to use Minimum Voicing the same way they have always used voicing, only people contributing scores would have an option to indicate if a piece is essentially 5-part despite a divisi calling for 8 independent moving parts for a while.

I see Minimum Voicing covering the separate bodies of standard voice parts needed to cover all the lines in a piece other than "de minimis" divisi such as the ending chord where a note can be left out because it's covered by another voice part, or where a part can swap to cover another line because their line is not singing (and where that line does not require virtuosic singing in terms of range). For example, if a 5-part piece (SSATB) breaks into TTBB in the middle part, that would call for a minimum voicing of SSATTBB unless (e.g.) one of the tenor parts can be covered in the octave written in the edition by the alto (but not if a soprano would be require to sing to low E below middle C). There would still be some squishiness about ranges, but it would provide more granular and more valuable information than is now available.

The addscore input can be updated to request minimum voicing, and also give an optional field if the contributor wants to indicate that the essential voicing is less than the minimum voicing.

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by DrewE » 14 Jun 2010 02:37

This is quite an interesting discussion here, and I'm not really sure I know where I stand yet. Nevertheless, here are a few thoughts that come to mind.

First--and perhaps this is a misconception from my rather limited or narrow experience--itsn't it generally the case that divisi are somewhat optional, in the sense that one or the other of the subparts could be omitted if circumstances required it without completely altering the overall sound of the piece? Some of the chords may be thinner, of course, but divided parts shouldn't cover different fully independent lines. This generally has been my experience, at least; and so there seems to me to be a rather significant difference between, say, an SATB voicing with divisi and a SSATBB voicing (or whatever); to me, the latter implies that there are generally six separately constructed parts, rather than four with the occasional splitting.

I might be more inclined to add a category or similar (or possibly expand the voicing category options) for divisi, rather than trying to split out the "minimum required voicing to cover everything" vs the "overall voicing of the piece". That way, we could show SATB with minor divisi, or TB with extensive tenor divisi, or whatever.

On the other hand, I can certainly see where knowing how many people are required to "properly" sing a piece is very useful information, also.

Finally, it seems that the usual context for the piece would play some role. Divisi in a chamber piece generally sung one person to a part is obviously of much greater interest than that in a piece for a large choir, where sufficient singers to cover is generally assured (or at least assumed).

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by vaarky » 14 Jun 2010 04:13

Drew wrote:
First--and perhaps this is a misconception from my rather limited or narrow experience--itsn't it generally the case that divisi are somewhat optional, in the sense that one or the other of the subparts could be omitted if circumstances required it without completely altering the overall sound of the piece? Some of the chords may be thinner, of course, but divided parts shouldn't cover different fully independent lines. This generally has been my experience, at least; and so there seems to me to be a rather significant difference between, say, an SATB voicing with divisi and a SSATBB voicing (or whatever); to me, the latter implies that there are generally six separately constructed parts, rather than four with the occasional splitting.
How are you using divisi? If they have independent moving parts such as in a gimel in polyphonic music, then you generally can't omit it. Or are you using divisi only to mean a note or two where it splits and those notes are duplicated? I think the terminology doesn't matter as much as whether there is a moving line or other key contributing notes that are not duplicated by another voice part. I can't tell is we're just using different terminology to refer to the same situations.

Intg thought about SATB w/T divisi--pondering...

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by CHGiffen » 14 Jun 2010 15:57

A few points:

Divisi here may be clouding the issue somewhat. It was traditionally used only as an informational instruction that a part (ie. the music on a staff) divides into more than one voice - thereby implying that normally more than one voice will be singing the music on that staff (divided or not). I say "informational instruction" because, of course, it is redundant: the divided parts will generally be quite evident in the score without the instruction. On the other hand, the divisi appellation has been co-opted to describe an entire work. Thus, it would seem that a score with the description "SATB divisi" will describe one in which all four (SATB) parts divide at some point (which may or may not be for the entire piece) ... and this generally means (for CPDL at least) that the score will be voiced as "8vv SSAATTBB". The consequence is that "8vv SSATTBB" (at CPDL) does not necessarily imply 8-part composition throughout the piece, although it presumably does reflect a minimum number of voices necessary to sing such a work.

This raises some issues/questions, the first being: What does the presence of division somewhere inside a score imply about how a work is to be performed? I would hazard a guess that, in the vast majority of examples, the presence of a divided part within a choral work implies that one-on-a-part singing or even minimum-number-of-voices singing is (or was) not the intention of the composer; furthermore, I would suppose that most groups/conductors would approach such a piece in the same way by performing it with a few (or, more likely, several) voices per part. The presence of divided parts, such as gymels, in early music has significant implication for our present day understanding of original performance practice - namely that such works were almost surely performed with several (two, probably more) voices to a part, and, at least for present-day historically informed renditions, such works should be performed this way also (several singers to a part, not one to a part).

This leads to the next question: Should the primary (or single) voicing specification for a work be reflective of contemporary performance practice, composer or era practice/intent, "let's see just how few singers it takes to get through this piece", "I've got a smallish choir that isn't very adept", ... , or what? I don't have the answer(s). But I do think that some of this is impacted by the difficulty of pieces which, to me at least, is a matter separate from voicing. I'm also not sure just how appropriate it is for CPDL to provide a comprehensive way of providing a direct way of locating all choral works that could be sung, say, by 7 singers with SSSATBB ranges, one to a part, who seem driven to sing their way through the gamut of all such pieces in a non-performance context. Multiply this by the number of such possible combinations and you have - not fine granularity - but what would seem to be chaos in terms of implementation and overhead. What happened to musical scholarship? Is our focus so narrow and are our personal time, interests, and resources so limited that we cannot do some exploration and searching for ourselves? On the other hand, many, if not most, of us are amateurs in this arena, crying out for some sort of help. And in implementing such fine granularity at CPDL, who is going to do the work and scholarship required? We are not a group of volunteers, mostly non-professional.

Consider the case of the Tallis "Gaude gloriosa De Mater": This is a 6-part piece voiced SATTBarB, at least in the tutti sections but has S, A, B gymel subdivisions, so that perhaps one might voice it as a 9-part piece voiced SSAATTBarBB. Yet, at no point does the texture contain anything more than 6-part writing (confined to the tutti sections) with most of the soli sections confined to 3- or 4-part writing (except the S & A gymels which are written in a 5-part SSAAB texture). With some very adept and wide-range singers, I suppose that 6 singers might just barely be able to sing through this piece, although I suspect that (given the ranges of parts) 8 singers (SSAATTBB)
would be a more realistic minimum number of singers to be able to read through this work. But this misses the point about appropriateness, at least from original or contemporary (historically informed or not) performance practice: How are 8 or 9 singers going to perform this piece without significant imbalance among the parts in the 6-part tutti sections? One might have only 6 singers sing the tutti sections which would no longer be "tutti" - but this would seem rather ridiculous at the several major cadences (including the end) with only 6 singers singing grandly while 2 or 3 are silent. Personally, I would not consider performing this work with fewer than 12 singers ... the quite audible imbalance between 1 singer in some parts versus 2 singers in other parts is significant, not just in terms of volume but also in terms of timbre/texture. It is this way with many, many other works, especially from the Renaissance. I still am not sure how this piece should be voiced (in a single voicing scheme), but the voicing I chose to specify for my CPDL edition is 6vv SATTBB, with a comment in the description about the subdivided gymels. If I were urged or required to voice it in terms of actual parts (including subdivided/soli sections), I would probably voice it as 9vv SSAATTBBB. But my gut feeling is to leave it with the 6-part voicing, at least until some further conclusion is reached about voicing (or multiple voicing schemes) at CPDL. Examples such as this, however, do provide fodder for proponents of providing something other than just one way of specifying voicing (for performance use).

Yet another issue/question: How should or does musical era and genre affect the way music should be voiced? My example above is typical of Renaissance voicing concerns (and performance practice), but Baroque, Classical, Romantic, and Modern era ways of composing and subdividing parts are different. We encounter pieces that are not a cappella but have some sort of accompaniment, until in the last hundred years or more works might be accompanied by instruments capable of making, say, a simple SATB designation (divided or not) meaningless in terms of some sort of minimum number of voices needed to perform (not just read through) a work. For example, in the Randall Thompson "Last Words of David" that I cited in an earlier post, the work has a major accompaniment (usually by piano, as the work is rarely performed with the full orchestra or concert band accompaniment available), and the minor (less than 6 measures) division of the soprano and bass parts hardly justify voicing it as 6vv SSATBB instead of the nominal 4vv SATB. I guess that some might still insist on SSATBB, but would this work ever be sung by 6 singers? No, certainly not in performance, if ever.

As you might be able to see, I'm drawn in several directions on these issues, but I find myself leaning here and there to certain things more than others. My current feeling, after reading about "divisi" issues and considering the overhead to create and manage effectively multiple voicing schemes, is that we probably need one well-defined principal voicing scheme, perhaps augmented by something that takes into account other considerations. At first I had suggested the possibility of (hidden) MNV categories, although I now wonder whether we can make a precise sense out of "minimum number of voices" (I'm suddenly finding myself steered away from targeting voicing to small groups of singers that want to sing through works in a nonperfomance setting).

My current thought is that we might consider a separate (probably hidden) "Divisi" (for want of a better term) in which are placed works which have at least one part that divides at some point (but not for the entire piece). Thus, the Thompson might be placed in both Category:SATB and Category:Divisi, and the Tallis might be placed in Category:SATTBB and Category:Divisi. Then DPL (dynamic page listing) or a refined (revised) multicategory search might be of assistance in locating such pieces. Thus, for example, small or amateur choir could then look for, SATB, pieces that are not categorized as Divisi.

These are some of my thoughts at present.

Chuck
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Re: Voicing categories

Post by Richard Mix » 15 Jun 2010 23:42

Maybe there's a concensus forming about some divisi being optional; in Britten's St. Cecilia they are ossia to the original SSATB soli version, now only available on rental. Another SSATB piece I love is Allen Shearer's Beauty is a Shell from the Sea: the few ten note chords at the end have never stopped me from recomposing that passage (the composer declined the job!). So I dont know how confidently we can say what will be done "in performance"; it isnt that long ago that an eight singer Matthew's Passion sounded like a perposterous idea.
So can we have voicings like SS(SS)AA(AA)TT(TT)BB(BB)? Or more generally SSATB(div)?

A few points I dont think have been made yet:

1. Bruckner's Ecce sacerdos is classified SSAATTBB, but would be better served (imo) if the threefold women's split could be reflected: maybe SMA instead of SSA/SAA (if the trombones are available some of the men's divisi are moot, but that's another story).

2. We currently have both number and voicing, but if I go to Multi-cat search and look for medieval works with 3 parts I get the error message "Please specify a Voicing or unselect Number of voices". In this context TTB TBB SSA ATT &c are not very informative (not to forget 3 equal) for the amount of extra leg (well, finger) work. Can this be fixed?

3. This brings up the issue of pitch and transposition. In my fantasy voicing system Tallis' If Ye Love Me would look like this: 1(fa)-9, 5-13, 8-16, 8-16 instead of: TTBB or AATB or...

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by DrewE » 16 Jun 2010 02:43

vaarky wrote:Drew wrote:
First--and perhaps this is a misconception from my rather limited or narrow experience--itsn't it generally the case that divisi are somewhat optional, in the sense that one or the other of the subparts could be omitted if circumstances required it without completely altering the overall sound of the piece? Some of the chords may be thinner, of course, but divided parts shouldn't cover different fully independent lines. This generally has been my experience, at least; and so there seems to me to be a rather significant difference between, say, an SATB voicing with divisi and a SSATBB voicing (or whatever); to me, the latter implies that there are generally six separately constructed parts, rather than four with the occasional splitting.
How are you using divisi? If they have independent moving parts such as in a gimel in polyphonic music, then you generally can't omit it. Or are you using divisi only to mean a note or two where it splits and those notes are duplicated? I think the terminology doesn't matter as much as whether there is a moving line or other key contributing notes that are not duplicated by another voice part. I can't tell is we're just using different terminology to refer to the same situations.

Intg thought about SATB w/T divisi--pondering...
Probably all that's going on is me exposing my limited experience. :? I'm primarily familiar with a comparatively simple pieces, mostly in the context of a smallish church choir or similar group, where things tend more towards homophony than all-out polyphony. One simple and well-known example of the sort of divisi that I'm thinking of is at the end of the carol "O Holy Night" (Cantique de Noël) where, if my memory serves me, the high soprano note is sometimes written with an optional lower note for the singers who don't have the range (and, presumably, also to fill out the chord somewhat).

As CHGiffen observed, divisi itself implies only a division of the singers (or instrumenatalists) who have a part into separate lines, and doesn't specifically imply how closely related the lines are or whether they are covered by other parts. With the choral music I've sung and the concert band music I've played, the divided sections have generally been short and superficial. (Technically, the notation refers to the notes on a staff, so I guess the most common use I've seen is where two fully separate parts that have been notated on the same staff—presumably to save paper—transition from a strain where they happened to sound in unison to one where they diverge. Such situations are obviously uninteresting for the discussion here.)

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Re: Voicing categories

Post by carlos » 16 Jun 2010 04:42

Richard Mix wrote:2. We currently have both number and voicing, but if I go to Multi-cat search and look for medieval works with 3 parts I get the error message "Please specify a Voicing or unselect Number of voices". In this context TTB TBB SSA ATT &c are not very informative (not to forget 3 equal) for the amount of extra leg (well, finger) work. Can this be fixed?
Yes, coincidentally I was doing some tests last month with a new implementation of the Multi-Cat Search that offers what you suggest (searching for Number of voices only). The only problem is that it depends heavily on the Voicing template, and currently most of the older works pages don't use it yet. We'd need to run a bot to implement this template in all these pages prior to changing the behavior of the M-C Search. And the way that the Voicing template will be used depends ultimately on the result of this discussion :)

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