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Behind Bars: the Definitive Guide to Music Notation Hardcover – 20 Jan 2011

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 704 pages
  • Publisher: Faber Music Ltd; 1st edition (20 Jan. 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0571514561
  • ISBN-13: 978-0571514564
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 15.9 x 23.5 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (10 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 256,950 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

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Review

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.

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful By bryla on 23 Oct. 2011
Format: Hardcover
I bought this book after had searhed Amazon for quite some time and having read Kurt Stone's and Gardner Read's books on notation and pocketbooks on engraving and copying. This book being from 2011 and 704 pages is the most thorough and most up-to-date at the writing of this review. Gould discusses the older publishings on the matter and offers the new standards from general music notation to specific engraving questions. Since the topic of notation has been dealt with in many books, Gould's sections on notation is not filled with new information, but beinng included in this book, it makes for the engravers bible, since you really wouldn't need anything else.
The force of the book is the part about 'Preparing Materials', 'Score Layout' and 'Part Preparation', since it is hard to find answers on this through score-study.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Peter Rees on 20 May 2012
Format: Hardcover
'Behind Bars' is an exhaustive and in-depth guide to the principles of music notation and valuable not only to the composer and manuscript editor but also to the performer wishing to clarify points of interpretation and anomalies either in an individual solo part or printed score. The layout is systematic and rigorous with many useful examples from a wide range of repertoires, embracing a wealth of knowledge concerning current thinking on instrumentation and orchestration. Elaine has many years of experience as one of the senior editors at Faber and this is amply demonstrated in what is surely an important reference tool and music manual for the 21st Century. A worthwhile buy!

Peter Rees
Cranwells Park
Bath, UK
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Gareth Clemson on 22 April 2014
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I chanced on Behind Bars in a local bookshop but was put off by the price. Yet the desire to acquire it lingered. An excellent price from Amazon made the purchase possible. The aim of the book is to standardise music notation.Truly a composer's bible. Like all good reference books, it is clearly set out out with cross references included in the text rather than the need to use the index. As a string player, I've so far dipped into the section on writing for strings. I particularly like the direct and clear language; the writer shows an awareness of music seen from the performer's point of view. Examples of graphic contemporary notation are included. This a good thing but I wonder if 'domestic' (as opposed to Publisher) users have music programmes sophisticated enough to include these. Cons? Are there any? Perhaps delving in when time can be better spent doing something else!
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Craig Farr on 23 Jun. 2012
Format: Hardcover
This truly feels like the definitive guided that it claims to be. Thorough, extensive and highly detailed. As a composer everything I need to know seems to be covered.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Jorge Conde on 3 July 2013
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This is really a complete reference to music notation. I would recommend it to anyone interested in correct, up-to-date musical notation.

Sometimes it get hard to follow because it contains many cross-references, but on the overall is quite readable (considering the issue). Anyway, a book to have next to you whenever editing scores.
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