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College of Arts Humanities and Social Sciences, Lamont School of Music, Musicology and Ethnomusicology


Music, Performance, Comparative study of editions, Notation


As more and more sources in musical scores become available nowadays, made possible by the discovery and editing of composers’ manuscripts and the publication of and multiple critical editions, performers often find the need to consult multiple editions of the same piece and the original sources (if available) to come up with one’s own performance edition. This process has become essential in my own music making experience as a performer, because it lays down a foundation for making appropriate interpretive decisions and gaining a more thorough understanding of the music for analytical and performance purposes. I refer to the process as a comparative study, which usually involves a comparison between facsimiles of manuscripts and published editions. Comparative study is helpful in gaining a fuller perspective of how a piece might have been revised by the composer or editor over time, thus being notationally different from manuscript to contemporary editions. It allows performers to differentiate editorial notations from composers’ original notations, which are sometimes revised or left out for practical or musical reasons. Comparative study also offers performers a chance to see the editor’s critical judgements and interpretive decisions of the piece and often the reasoning behind their critical editing provides additional information and useful background knowledge about the piece. In my own experience, comparative study always brings new revelation on composers’ musical intentions, which leads me to discover alternative creative interpretations and performance approaches. Comparative study in a way is performers assuming an editorial role, except that it deals not so much with the practical issues of notation, adding footnotes, or publication, ect., but focuses on arriving at a personal critical edition for performance use. Guidelines and approaches as well as challenges and solutions involved in music editing serve as a model for the process of comparative study. Thus, resorting to the process of music editing becomes relevant and helpful as a starting point for performers to establish their own critical editions.

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