Thursday, January 3, 2008

A Gripe

My copy of Ligeti's Zwei Etuden has just arrived in the mail. The pieces are pretty cool - the first one, "Harmonies", calls for you to detach the organ from the blower motor and hooking it up to another source of wind, such as a vacuum cleaner. The reduced wind pressure creates strange, ghostly sounds at a very soft dynamic level. This is not the point of this post.

Here is the point of this post: The music is printed on paper of approximately 12' by 18'. This is dumb. This measurement puts the Ligeti just under double the size of all the other sheet music I own. It doesn't even fit in a normal-sized bag; you have to fold it.

Why do publishers do this? It certainly couldn't be to facilitate page turns, because no-one would ever perform these pieces without a page turner. (The first etude is continuous chord clusters using all ten fingers, the second is endless running eighth notes played as fast as possible with both hands.) Furthermore, you only see twentieth-century pieces printed this way; you would never buy an edition of Bach if the sheet music was the size of a coffee table.

I suspect that this all has to do with a desire to have the scores for avant-garde compositions look visibly modern, either to impress potential purchasers or to ward off people who only like tonal music with nice chords. I don't care; the music is simply an inconvenient size and I don't know how I'll ever store it. I feel like I should frame it.

Gripe over. Ooh, look at the back cover - I didn't know Gavin Bryars wrote organ music!

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