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Re: Lute tablature

From: Laura Conrad
Subject: Re: Lute tablature
Date: 23 May 2003 10:23:52 -0400
User-agent: Gnus/5.0808 (Gnus v5.8.8) XEmacs/21.4 (Common Lisp)

>>>>> "David" == David Raleigh Arnold <address@hidden> writes:

    David> The lines and letters in the tab give most of the
    David> fingering,

All the fingering, except for any damping that happens.

    >> However, I don't know that anyone has ever transcribed
    >> Dowland lute songs with this kind of notation.  And if I were going
    >> to do a transcription of the lute tab into standard notation, I would
    >> want to do one that would be useful to keyboard players.

    David> How could seeing how it should sound fail to be useful to
    David> anyone?

I'm sure it's useful in some sense, but not in the sense of making it
easier to read the part while playing with an ensemble.  

An orchestral score is more "useful" for seeing how a symphony should
sound than the first violin part, but I don't know any violinists who
play from the score when they're playing in an orchestra.

    David> Since the stems on the notation are more useful than the
    David> stems on the tab, it is insane to have both, especially if
    David> they express different time values.  Very simple issue.

No, it's exactly when they express different time values that you want
the stems on the tab, because you do need that information, and you
often don't need all the extra information on the notation stems.

    David> I'm sure Rune or Mats could substitute letters for numbers
    David> in a few minutes.  If Dowland could have done it
    David> automatically and pretty the way you can, he would have
    David> provided the notation, don't doubt it for a second. 

I don't know what makes you think Dowland couldn't have written
notation as easily as he wrote tab.  He wrote lots of (very
good-looking) notation for singers and viol players, and he could have
written it for lute players if he and the lute players he knew had
wanted it.

I'm not arguing against lute players playing from keyboard
transcriptions if that's what they want to do; I'm just saying that
for the purposes of my edition, which provides singers and other
instrumentalists what Dowland's users had, providing what Dowland
provided for lute players (and presumably used himself) is a _good
thing_, and is something that lilypond should do.  An added bonus from
my point of view is that if I write a python program that translates
abctab2ps input into lilypond tab, I have the start of a keyboard
transcription more easily than doing the translation myself.

To provide an example, look at the file

This is a transcription of the two voice parts Dowland wrote, the tab
Dowland provided, and a keyboard transcription of the tab. It was done
by someone who plays both lute and keyboard professionally.  As far as
I can tell, it's exactly the kind of transcription you're advocating,
except that it includes Dowland's stems in the lute tab. It runs to 5
pages, which is starting to be like playing from the orchestral score.
You can see that the keyboard transcription contains very different
information from the lute tablature.

In this particular transcription, the editor leaves the lute twiddle
on "fall" in the first measure out of the keyboard part completely, so
the lute player would be left completely guessing where to play the
second string 'a' and third string 'd' just before "from" if there
weren't stems in the lute tab.  

But even with a more literal transcription like Noah Greenberg's in
"An Elizabethan Song Book", also 5 pages, without either the lute tab
or the vocal bass line, I doubt that a lute player who was actually
looking at the tab (as opposed to one playing entirely from
transcription) would want to use the stems in the piano part on two
staves rather than having his or her own.

Laura (mailto:address@hidden , )
(617) 661-8097  fax: (801) 365-6574 
233 Broadway, Cambridge, MA 02139
(If I haven't invited you to my party on June 7, I'm sure it was an oversight.)

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