If books, like hotels, had a star-rating system then this book would be off the top of the scale! Among the technical reference books it s colossus. It s a book for composers, arrangers, copyists, typesetters, and anyone who interacts in any way with music notation. If you want to know how to write it clearly and unambiguously, this book will tell you. With this book by your side any chance of inaccurate, lazy or impractical notation becomes quite impossible. But it s not only a useful book, it s also a fascinating one, and it s going to become my bedside reading for many months to come. I couldn t begin to list the areas that it covers: there are far too many of them. As a clarinettist I headed straight for the woodwind techniques section and learned lots on multiphonics, harmonics and how to note unusual modern performance practice ideas. Each area is accompanied by appropriate and generous musical examples from the widest of repertoires there are evidently over 1,500 examples. Simon Rattle, in his munificient introduction, rightly calls this a reference for musicians for decades to come. He also describes the book as part of the living texture of music itself rather than a book of dry rules. He s right. --Music Teacher Magazine, April 2011
I pray that [this book] becomes a kind of Holy Writ for notation in this coming century. Certainly nobody could have done it better, and it will be a reference for musicians for decades to come. Not my words, but those of Simon Rattle on Elaine Gould's new book, Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation. This "wonderful monster volume" - Rattle again - is indeed more than the sum of its parts. Gould's book is the result of decades of experience as senior new music editor at Faber Music, where she has worked closely with composers like Jonathan Harvey, Oliver Knussen, Colin Matthews, and Thomas Ades, and what she has to say in Behind Bars transcends the book's first appearance as a manual of notational best practice. Under the surface of its guide to producing the best and clearest scores - the arcana of making sure you're not asking your harpist for too many pedal changes, that you change clefs in the right place in your orchestral parts, and how best to indicate the plethora of extended instrumental techniques in so much contemporary music - this book expounds an alchemical formula for musical communication. Gould's book shows composers how to ensure that the magical transfer of musical ideas from their imaginations to their scores, from their performers to their audiences, is as seamless as possible. Behind Bars is a practical revelation of the poetics of musical communication. It's especially necessary in the early 21st century. You might think that after centuries of evermore sophisticated copying, printing, and digitising of music notation that all the problems had been solved. Not a bit of it. The rash of computer scores produced with programmes like Sibelius in the last couple of decades are a mixed blessing. Software like Sibelius allows composers to create full scores and individual parts for the musicians at the click of a button, yet it's too easy to overlook the kind of problems that Gould talks about - where a badly placed page-turn in your string parts can mean the difference between a good performance and a catastrophic one. Gould quotes Mahler's frustration with the copyist who mauled the material of his Eighth Symphony before its first performance in Munich in 1910; looking at his exemplary manuscript of the Fifth Symphony that the Morgan Library has just made available for free online, you can see that Mahler abided by Gould's principles of clarity and consistency. But I wonder what Gould would say to Beethoven, if she were faced with pages like this, from the manuscript of the Ninth Symphony, whose facsimile was recently published by Barenreiter? It's not just a contemporary phenomenon: composers have always pushed at the limits of musical and notational comprehensibility." --The Guardian (Tom Service), 12 January 2011
"Say 'musical composition' and you identify a process: but 'a musical composition' is very much a product, a commodity: and never more so than when it takes the form of materials from which performers sing or play, and academics build their theories about music history and aesthetics. Philosophers might continue to agonise about the extent to which a printed score represents the composition. Performers are much more likely to agonise about whether the materials put before them make sense and, if you ask professional musicians where they would like to see composers whose materials create tough challenges for them, 'behind bars' would be one of the politer suggestions forthcoming. Composers best able to avoid the lash of performers' hostility are those lucky enough to work with a well-established publishing operation, and that means an editor like Faber Music's Elaine Gould. --Gramophone Magazine (Arnold Whittall), February 2011
About the Author
Elaine Gould has been Senior New Music Editor at Faber Music since 1987, in which capacity she has edited the complex and varied scores of such composers as Oliver Knussen, Jonathan Harvey, George Benjamin, Colin Matthews and Thomas Ades. Before this she was a free-lance copyist, specialising in copying contemporary music for several leading British music publishers. She is among the most highly respected music editors currently working in the field.