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Subject: Re: Transpositions
From: Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]>
Reply-To:Bob Kosovsky <[log in to unmask]>
Date:Tue, 21 Mar 2017 08:34:21 -0400
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> I am speaking as one who has worked in opera houses. Opera orchestras
> do not transpose on the fly and have not done so for many years. It
> has nothing to do with individual players.

I seem to recall Philip Gossett saying something about transposing in his
book "Divas and Scholars" to the effect that an orchestra transposing at
sight is a canard.  It was never done on the fly because even a half-step
up or down would involve too many changes.  It may be easy for the timpani
part, but once you have strings doing passagework, it becomes a challenge.
 To the audience it may "seem" as if some things are done at sight.  Those
in the pit know that it's a hell of a lot of work.  Gossett based his
conclusion on the existence of numerous alternative scores showing
transpositions.

As a post-script, I once had the privilege to visit the Paramount
(the film studio) music library.  Among many things I saw numerous boxes
for a particular film.  Knowing that a 2-hour film wouldn't need so much
music, I asked why there were so many boxes.  They said that for the solo
song, they weren't sure who was going to sing it -- so they had it printed
*in every key* so that they'd be prepared for whoever got the part.


Bob Kosovsky, Ph.D. -- Curator, Rare Books and Manuscripts,
Music Division, The New York Public Library for the Performing Arts
blog:  http://www.nypl.org/blog/author/44   Twitter: @kos2
   Listowner: OPERA-L ; SMT-ANNOUNCE ; SoundForge-users
--- My opinions do not necessarily represent those of my institutions ---

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