DATE: Monday, September 28, 2009
FROM: William White
TO: Mrs. M. J. S– and Her Merrie Band of Bowers
RE: Sibelius Second Symphony: Notes on the Markings

Dear Mrs. S– and Assorted Toilers of the Performing Ensembles Division,

Thank you so much for marking the string parts for my recital.  You will find that I have used many of the bowings already in the parts, and I hope this makes your jobs all that much easier.

As far as I can tell, there will be more erasing for you to do than marking.  Generally, I would like for the parts to be as clean as possible, within the bounds of reason.

Here are a few guidelines and helpful suggestions:

  • Please observe the instances where I have marked a bracket to indicate a subito dynamic level.
  • Please do mark my beat patterns (such as “in 3” or “in 4”), also circling them.
  • In certain cases, you may notice that I have erased one of my own bowings and written in a new one.  This is because I have come up with a better idea.
  • At the end of the fourth movement, please be sure to erase any mention in the parts of tremolo.  If a player has marked the beginning of this passage “measured” or “misurato”, by all means keep it.
  • You may come across such “colorful” notations as “Cotton Candy” or “Killer Bees” in the already marked parts.  These and other such marginalia are patently the scribblings of a depraved imagination.  Erase them with haste! Such hogwash is the antithesis of music and needn’t sully the minds of our fine student musicians.
  • Please do not erase any markings such as “Watch”, “Count”, or artistic renderings of tiny spectacles.  These are miniature gems, pearls of wisdom handed down to us from the past.  In fact, if you are feeling frisky, I would encourage you to sprinkle such helpful annotations at random in the parts.
  • I notice that the master copies have numbered measures and the other parts do not, despite the fact that they are obviously printings of the same plates.  If the additional parts are not numbered, I would very much appreciate it if you could number them.  This shouldn’t be an untenably large task, since you can merely copy the numbers at the beginning of each line of music from the masters.  In the case of the ‘Cello master, I have numbered the part myself.
  • Finally, allow me a short rumination on the philosophy of marking parts: I feel that parts should be marked only to change, enhance, or render more specific what is already on the page; never merely to emphasize it.  As such, if you find a part that is overly laden with circlings of dynamics, I would bid you please tidy them up.  After all, what does a circled dynamic indicate?  That this particular dynamic should be followed while the rest are ignored?  Perish the thought.  We must encourage our players to follow the printed instructions on the page, interpreting them with taste and care for the musical context.  I myself have been known to passive-aggressively erase such markings by my stand partners, immediately after they finish writing them, much to their consternation and annoyance.  Let’s try to avoid such situations by presenting the parts free of useless clutter.  Once again, I thank you.

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