Written by The Weekend Vote
Published: December 19, 2014 at 5:26 PM [UTC]
These days one can obtain sheet music in a variety of ways: buying it in person at a music store, shipping it from a music store, downloading it for printout, or even keeping it in digital form to be read on one's tablet with something like Musicreader.
The public-domain Internet library IMSLP is a great resource that gives us immediate access to music, without having to go to the store or wait for it in the mail. But sometimes what starts as a stopgap measure (we'll just print this out so you can get started) turns into: nine weeks later, we're still using computer copies -- torn and ragged by now -- to learn a piece. And all the valuable information like bowings, fingerings, other suggestions, have been written into the disintegrating copy-part.
You can see my view here: I do think it's important to get "real music" for the pieces you study. And for copyrighted pieces, you'd better at least pay for that download! That said, my library certainly has photocopies in it. In many years of orchestra-playing, I have saved a lot of the practice parts that were sent to me, so that I have them for reference. I've used digital music only a handful of times, mostly for reading orchestra charts that were sent to me for practice and were too numerous to print out.
Certainly, trends are changing. I am curious about people's sheet music collections. While I may still like my music printed professionally on creamy, thick sheets of paper, technology has improved greatly for digital storage and use, so many people might be collecting music in a digital form. Also, if you are strapped for money, it's cheaper to print out the music (though I might argue a false economy, here, if that printed music falls apart and you lose your valuable markings).
What are your thoughts on sheet music? Do you collect it? How do you store it? Do you insist on quality copies? What is your ratio of "real" copies to printed copies to digital copies? In what direction are you personally going, with this issue? Please cast your vote for what best fits, and add your comments below.
That said, if a particular solo is one for which I have extensively prepared in the past, or will be performing in the future, I will buy the printed part to replace tattered old copies. I will also re-mark my fingerings, bowings, etc. into the new part.
With the availability of orchestral parts freely available online, I have observed a trend in at least one symphony that asks all musicians to download their part and print it themselves as a way to save the organization the cost of providing music to musicians. Personally, I despise the practice. Concerts are often performed with poor quality printed material, and musicians struggle to actually read it.
A significant amount of my sheet music has been copied by hand, and the rest is more or less evenly divided between professionally printed and digital downloads (thank you, IMSLP!).
I'll download out-of-copyright orchestral or chamber music parts without a second thought, and when I can't FIND a printed edition of something, I'll download.
Music in copyright, I don't copy without first purchasing (I nearly always photocopy for my own study things I already own--because that way I'll always have a clean copy for new ideas/intepretations).
Sometimes I'll look at something posted on IMSLP that is not out-of-copyright to see if I want to buy it (same as if I were in a store, browsing the shelves, or in a library) but I don't download such.
Since our culture holds ideas to be property, I have to respect that (even though, in many cases, I think it's unfortunate the way the law is interpreted).
In addition, a couple of shelves of used string sheet music from antiquarians in Europe and the US, plus estate sales (it's always interesting to see other people's editing). To top it off, a couple of shelves of piano music, and a couple of shelves of fake books and Dover scores.
My music bookcases are mostly Ikea Billy plus a couple of custom made solid wood ones, all with 13" shelf height. A friend who used to own a sheet music store estimated my collection at over 30k dollars - not just an obsession, more a beautiful "sickness"...
My string and piano music is all categorized by instrumentation: methods/techniques, etudes/caprices, solo works, recital pieces with piano, sonatas, concertante works, ensembles, non-classical (light, pop/rock/jazz/fiddling/tango, holiday music, etc.), and within instrumentation by composer (methods by title). Collections of various composers are at the end of each section.
My favored string editions are, in order of preference: Bärenreiter, Henle, Wiener Urtext, IMC, Schirmer, then the rest. The music most frequently used in performance and teaching gets covered in clear Con-Tact, for durability and longevity.
I couldn't care less what anybody thinks or says, I have been marking my editions with 0.7 thin Pilot G-2 red gel pen, for readability. I despise blunt/thick, scratch/super-sharp, or fading/smudged pencil marks. For mistakes, White-Out – the system forces me to experiment more and consider options more carefully before deciding, with the second option fingering marked below the music.
I also have music I have purchased and that I will choose to use one page for a student and we use that for lessons - if the student is going to perform it, then we look to purchasing it - or if a large collection, the student can perform with mine.
I also have my orchestra practice copies.
I have a book which I photocopied because it is out of print and I got permission from the author. And I have some very old original copies that are now out of print - and yes I love photocopying them.
I have also arranged some bluegrass and folk music and printed it off - copied it for the band and will probably rearrange it again.
I have and obtain and gather and use and cherish printed music, old-school, quality-in-so-many-ways, yes, please, thank you.
I have observed the demise of nearly all the sheet music stores I've ever known and loved to browse.
I may be wrong, but I think that the only one left in NYC--arguably THE cultural capital of the USA--is the store of the Julliard School... Franks is gone. Who else? If our source of readable printed music is unique and depends on (in)direct subsidy from educational and institutional $$, what does that say about culture, and its survival and persistence?
I argue that "mainstream" "classical" music is neither of the quoted terms above, and is actually an endangered species, an endangered cultural practice the same as any other these days, and deserves every grant and support and appreciation and patronage and vote and attendance and participation--and sheet music purchase--the same as any other.
If we don't cherish it, who will?
I love quality music on quality paper in thoughtful turnable layout, readable, usable, keepable, share-able, teach-able, transmit-able, enduring for the community and the future.
All of those features are increasingly rare in digital output.
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