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~Re: Lute tablature

From: William R Brohinsky
Subject: ~Re: Lute tablature
Date: Fri, 23 May 2003 18:47:26 -0400

This is a very good question, because it illustrates the fallacy of the
idea that a notation transcription of a tablature is required,
necessary, and even sensible.

All three of your lily-notated interpretations are possible from the
tablature example. While this may seem frustrating to a guitar player,
who is used to notation that makes it very clear which voice 'contains'
which notes, it the charm of lute tablature.

Your example lacks context, but if it were part of a fantasia where it
was a division on a previously stated melody, it would be clear that
that melody was to be brought out as one voice, while the remaining
notes formed a counter to it, _to some interpreters_.  If there was a
ground or bass that had been prominently presented previously (which
could be found in the 'lower' part) then that might be targeted to be
brought out _by some interpreters_. On the other hand, other
interpreters might recognize that the previously presented melody or
bass was there as an ornamented division, with the other notes forming a
counter to _that_. It would be the job of the lutenist to make this
work, and he would be considered more of a genius if he could do so. 

It is a decidedly modern thing to presume that there is one and only one
correct interpretation of a piece of music. (And even then, we have
remarkably different performances of classical and modern works by
performers of equally great reknown.) In fact, a period lutenist might
well play that passage with many additional notes, or fewer, or a
decidely different emphasis, making it into something that the
originator, himself, would not recognize.

Now, however, I have a counter question, if I may. Listen to the first
four measures of Tchaikowsky's 6th symphony, Finale (Mvt. IV). The
perceived melody tends to go 
(\key d \major fis4 e8 d8 cis8. b16 | cis2~ cis8 r8 |
fis4 e8 d8 cis8. b16 | d8 cis8~ cis4~ cis8 r8 |}

However, what Tchaikowski wrote in the two violin parts is quite
Violin I:
{\key d \major b4 e8 gis,8 cis8. eis,16 | cis'2~ cis8 r8 | } etc.
Violin II:
{\key d \major fis4 ais,8 d8 eis,8. b16 | e,2 ~ e8 r8 | }

(I'm doing this in a hurry, and have probably botched the octaves. Check
the copy of the score on )

Here is just the opposite case: a modern-notation score, wherein the
parts are switching between what our brains turn in to melody and
counter melody, changing on each note. The listener (to a good
orchestra, where the conductor hasn't acted purposely to bring out the
oddity of the individual parts) perceives two linear parts. In fact,
conductors, in their pre-performance palavers, will often have the two
parts played separately, then together, and even after being given a
clue, our ears are clueless!

This shows up that it is far less important for the notation to show
correct voice leading, because the ear tends to mix it all up anyway. We
don't have anyone alive who was in dowland's time, or vivaldi's or
bach's or mozart's... we do have interpreters. And they're not agreed on
whether it is better to make different parts sound different, or alike.
I have heard much music from the period, played on period instruments,
where the approach to the music is interpretively diametrically
opposed...and both were beautiful and enjoyable!


Amelie Zapf wrote:
> Hi fellow listers,
> following all the heated discussion about the pros and cons of tablature,
> something left me wondering: Can you please clarify to a guitar-playing
> non-lutenist how tablature distinguishes:
>         < { g8 e a f g e f d | e c d b c2  }
>           \context Voice = other { c,4 c c a | g g c2 } >
> from the (differently sounding, without a doubt):
>         < { g4 a g f | e d c2 }
>           \context Voice = other { c,8 e c f c e a d | g c g b c2 } >
> when both would lead to the following in French tab for 6-course renaissance
> lute in G (I'm not doing stems here, they don't matter for this example):
>         ______________________________
>         _f___h___f___d___|_c___a_____|
>         ___h___i___h___f_|___d___c_d_|
>         _h___h___h___e___|_c___c_____|
>         _________________|___________|
>         _________________|___________|
> which, according to the guidelines posted here by raybro would sound more like
> a third variety:
>         < { g4 a g f | e d c2 }
>           \context Voice = other { r8 e4 f e d8~ | d c4 b8 c2 }
>           \context Voice = third { c,4 c c a | g g c2 } >
> How do you indicate the two aforementioned ways of execution in the tab?
> True, this example is contrived and neither elegant nor beautiful, but it
> serves to illustrate my problem.
> Curious,
> Amy
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> Lilypond-user mailing list
> address@hidden

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