Favorite links for this week

19 09 2008

It’s been a busy week, (lots of homework) so I haven’t had much time to surf. Here are 2 though.

The Atlas of Early PrintingA visualization of fifteenth-century printing presses in Europe. Too bad I didn’t find this one while I was studying text and technology.

Ripple Tank Simulation Fun little Java Applet. Appeals to the geek in me.





Music Printing – A History

9 09 2008

full text with photos is available at http://educ.ubc.ca/courses/etec540/May08/fraenkelc/Research.html

Printing is both a science and an art. The science of printing can be learned through application and enquiry, but the art of printing must be learned by examining tradition, understanding esthetics, practicing, and also removing any preconceived notions of how the art has been practiced in the past. In printing notated music, what began as an art form with pages painstakingly copied and embellished by hand, has become much more mundane, with the focus on simply re-creating the proper markings and symbols.

The three step procedure of producing multiple copies of a musical score include: the composer writing down the original notation, the preparation of a master copy, and finally the printing. The majority of this writing will deal with the preparation of the master copy.

In the mid 15th century, music had just made the switch from the old Greek system of music writing and was also moving away from the use of neumes, the square or diamond shapes which were a direct result of the stub-tipped quill pen. While the transition was being made to the new staff and notation system, and the art of printing was just coming about, neumes were re-created using woodblocks.  These musical neumes “involved only one voice or voices in unison and notes of uniform duration. ” (Pogue, 1987) This new system of music notation, which is still in use today, is very efficient. The symbols, the spacing and the position all carry meaning. In addition, polyphonic music was becoming common. It had more than one voice and was much more complex, with many separate parts which presented a great challenge for early printers.

When Johnnes Guttenberg and Johann Fust succeeded in printing books from movable type in the middle of the fifteenth century, books were printed to imitate as nearly as possible the manuscript books that had been copied painstakingly by scribes. At this time manuscripts were found only in the libraries of wealthy scholars and ecclesiastics, and all music was still copied by hand. In the first books which contained music, the musical staff and notes were copied in by hand. Eventually, when music needed to be inserted into a printed book, the staff lines were often printed, leaving the notes to be inserted afterward by hand. The irregularity of the hand written notes with the letterpress was considered disagreeable, however, so punches or types of notes were made and pressed onto the page of lines. This technique was known as pattern printing.

There are three methods which have been used historically to print music up until the use of the computer.

1.Letterpress – pressing paper on a raised surface which has been inked

2.Intaglio or Gravure – by indenting a flat surface with the required markings, inking the surface, wiping it off and then pressing the paper to the surface

3.Lithography – a greasy image is fixed on a flat plate to which an oil soluble ink adheres.

Xylography, an early form of letterpress involved the use of carved wooden blocks. This method was the first process used to print Gregorian chant. In xylography, the area to be printed is left higher than the surrounding wood, and must be a mirror image.  This style of printing required a very high level of artistry. The woodblock technique was later modified by Andrea Antico, an Italian engraver who left a shallow trench in a wood cut to insert the metal type for the text below each staff. This was a very costly and labor intensive process, and due to these factors, woodcuts were used primarily to add a single voicing to a manuscript or psalter.

The first successful printing of multiple voicings, which are known as polyphonic music, using movable type was not achieved until 1501 when Ottaviano dei Petrucci published a group of French chansons and other works for three or four voices called Harmonice Musices Odhecaton. Petrucci was an innovator in the printing of music, being the first to produce music using movable type. Petrucci used a three step process, he printed the staves, then the text, and then the musical notes and signs. The time involved in preparing the letterpress as well as the expense of the types themselves made his method very expensive. He was aided in his venture by obtaining the protection of the Venetian Republic as well as the Pope, who at the time had the funds and were willing to pay.

1520 two printers, John Rastell and Pierre Attaingnant each developed a new system that cut the cost of printing music by about half. They cast a type which had the musical note and a fragment of staff lines on th Around e same piece of metal. They called this “mosaic type.”  When the pieces of type were laid out side by side, the breaks in the staff lines were not obvious. Attaingnant and others continued to use this system throughout Europe in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. While movable type was a great advancement in the art of printing music, it was also very tedious. One bar of eighth notes in 3/4 time will often contain at least 72 characters in a polyphonic setting. (Gamble, 1923) Setting up musical type involves “a jig-saw of small pieces of type, most of them fragile, all expensive, and liable to disintegration if the compositor stumbles while carrying them.” (Foss, 1923) Once the types were set, a cast was made from which the print was pressed. Using movable type in this way still only printed single voicings.

In order to be able to print polyphonic music, the process of engraving was used. In engraving, a sheet of copper was incised by a highly skilled master craftsman. Engraving was first seen around 1450, but didn’t become common until around 1700. In 1724, John Walsh used a mixture of tin and lead (pewter) to create engravings. His method was considered to be innovative and somewhat scandalous, as he also introduced the use of metal punches to engrave the notes. It is written in the London Journal in 1724, by a rival engraver, John Cluer about a printing of Handel’s Julius Ceasar, “beware of incorrect pirated editions done on large pewter plates.” (Cummings, 1884) It would seem from this advertisement, that Cluer knew of the practice of using pewter, so it remains in question whether Walsh could be identified as the inventor of the use of pewter plates for engraving. Later, plates were also made from zinc, which was also plentiful and inexpensive.

The next subsequent innovation in music printing, was not an innovation of process, but one of methodology. In 1694, John Playford introduced the concept of tied notes. In the old system of note printing each individual note was printed with its stem and tail. Playford introduced the method of connecting the notes with a common tail. By the early 1700’s this practice was common throughout Europe.

The art of lithography was discovered in 1726 by Alois Senefelder. He started by engraving on copper and zinc, but the idea came to him to try to use limestone while he was mixing his inks on a limestone slab. At first a greasy ink was applied directly to the stone, and the remainder of the slab was kept moist with a mixture of gum and water. Then a roller which contained more greasy ink on it was passed over the top of the stone. The wet parts of the stone repelled the greasy ink, and the new ink adhered to the old. Paper was then pressed on the stone, and prints were made. The first application of the lithographic process was in the printing of music. Carl Maria von Weber, who was a friend of Senefelder, joined him in his venture to print music, and his Opus no. 2 was the first complete work printed by lithography in 1799. Lithography is still in use today with minor modifications.

The modifications to the printing process include the use of photography to put the image on the plate, and the adaptation of lithography to modern, high speed rotary printers by placing the image on a zinc rather than a limestone base.  While direct printing of an engraver’s plate containing music is possible, most commonly the plate is used to make a direct image for photographic copying through lithography. This method has an advantage, because photolithography can be used to reproduce any image, and also makes reducing or enlarging the original image possible.

The ability to print music had a similar effect as the ability to print books on society. Information was spread more efficiently and with greater speed through the use of printing. In addition, composers could now write music for amateur musicians and professional performers had more selection. The printing of music also allowed for more teaching opportunities for professional musicians, as the amateurs now had access to music which did not exist previously. This coincided with the rise of the middle class in Europe in the 1820’s to 1850’s, the availability and affordability of the pianoforte, the Romantic era’s shorter musical forms (lied, nocturne, etc…) and afforded the publication of instrumental “method” books.