Transcribing from facsimile

It’s Tuesday, which means I have to get ready for the Cantabile
Band rehearsal, and I just finished guessing where to add time in
the parts for the facsimile I’m transcribing.

I had planned a nice post about my marathon train ride through
Germany, but it’s going to take until well past lunch to write,
and I have other things to take care of.

So that one goes on the spindle, and I’ll just tell you how
much I marvel that they ever got any part books right before there
were computers to take the notes from the parts and combine them
into a score for them.

It’s also surprising that the sixteenth century singers didn’t
care more that there were all those mistakes. In the case of the
Weelkes, I think they weren’t really reading the music the way we
do at all — they just learned it to get the basic tune and then
put the parts together they way they had to go. They knew the
style, and so they didn’t need every ending note to be exactly the
right length to know where to start the next phrase.

You’ll be able to see what I’m talking about when I put the
piece I just transcribed up (maybe tomorrow), but there’s an A
section where the parts are supposed to all cadence together, and
a B section where they all end together. In both cases, once I’d
entered the notes as they were in the facsimile, one part was
short — in the A section the cantus was a half note short, and in
the B section the bassus was a quarter note short.

In both cases, if you knew the style and were really singing by
ear, it wouldn’t have thrown you — of course the Cantus goes back
and starts the A section the second time the way it did the first
time, and starts the B section the way it’s written, even if the
Cantus final note should be a half note longer. In the B
section, the Bassus part was clearly doing the obvious cadence,
even though it was written a quarter note short.

So I doubt that Weelke’s singers had any problem with his
mistakes, but the Cantabile Band would have if I hadn’t fixed them.


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