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JOHN CAREY COMPOSITIONS SERVICES 



Typesetting
If you would like to have your music engraved, simply send me a message via my Contact page, preferably with the manuscript in question attached. I will review it and then devise a fee based on several factors, including but not limited to:
 
  1.  Length of work;
 
  1.  Instrumentation;
 
  1.  Detail and complexity of notation;
 
  1.  Necessity to create nonstandard graphics /symbols / formatting;
 
  1.  Neatness and legibility of manuscript;
 
  1.  Necessity to transcribe by ear in the case that a manuscript does not exist
 
The project is priced per page, ranging from $10-$30 depending on the factors listed above. Once the price is determined, I will send you a message containing a contract in .pdf format, and the decided upon price (including an explanation as to how the price was determined). Should you wish to proceed, simply send me a copy of the signed contract.
 
When I have finished typesetting the music, I will send you a .pdf file including various excerpts from the score. The email will also include an invoice. Now we can discuss any changes that you deem to be necessary (though these changes may incur additional charges depending on how significant they are).
 
At this point you may send the agreed-upon payment, and I will proceed to send you a .pdf of the engraved score once said payment has arrived.
 
If you wish to see a few examples of my work, you may download a sample package here.
Every composer is well-acquainted with the intricate (and often tedious) art of producing a score from an original manuscript. Even those who compose directly into a digital medium have to endure a massive amount of labor to produce an acceptable version to give to performers -- and never-the-less, the result is often still riddled with notation errors.
 
A music copyist (or “engraver”) takes the crude draft of the work and reproduces it so that it is ready for publication. A few goals of a professional engraver are to produce a score that is as clear as possible for performers to read, find manageable sections for page turns, and keep the formatting of the music as consistent as possible. There is actually an immense amount of planning and thought required to make all of this happen, and even then, a great engraver’s work is only half done.
 
Back before the advent of digital notation software, there were a variety of methods for creating printed music, but the one from which the term “engraving” is derived was appropriately labeled: the copyist literally engraved the notated music onto a metal plate by hand. Those who worked in this incredible field were often true artists in their own right, for they had to painstakingly labor over each page to produce scores that were perfectly formatted and visually elegant.
 
One of my major beliefs about the under-appreciated craft of music engraving is that, especially now with the incredible advancements in technology available to musicians, making the score look beautiful is an absolutely essential aspect of a copyist’s work. Strange as it may seem, despite the fact that the quality of music should be judged aurally, a refined, elegant score makes an immediate and surprisingly crucial impression on potential performers; it emphasizes the artistry of the music and makes a work seem more intriguing. Conversely, a relatively plain or visually unattractive score is more likely to be overlooked.
 
To demonstrate my point, I will include pages from two scores, the first illustrating what I consider to be an example of good engraving, and the second demonstrating a poorly typeset score.
BACK
 
My Thoughts on Contemporary Music Engraving
 
 
 
Here is the first page of Kaikhosru Sorabji’s Sonata No. 1. You may view the manuscript here for comparison. Sorabji’s music is particularly difficult to typeset due to its extreme complexity, but despite the huge volume of notes, this engraver managed to not only produce a legible score, but also one that is visually striking and even artistic. This score illustrates another facet of great engraving -- the ability to capture the character of the music itself through the notation. Dramatically slanted beams, wild swooping slurs, and a stylish yet economical sense of space help compliment the nature of the music, which is exotic, vividly ornamental, and intensely passionate. The initial effect from just a quick glance at this page is that this music must be incredibly compelling.
 
Now let us take a look at what I would consider to be comparatively poor engraving:
This is the first page of the piano reduction of Sergei Prokofiev’s 2nd Violin Concerto. It distresses me to say that if my first encounter with this piece had been a glance at this score, I would have very little interest in hearing the music itself. First of all, the engraver clearly put no effort into making the score look even the slightest bit interesting. Unlike the majestic drama that the Sorabji excerpt evokes, this score has no personality -- it’s lifeless to the point of seeming mechanical. Furthermore, the inconsistent spacing and formatting in general gives it a rather cluttered appearance.
 
As you can see, the ability (or lack thereof) of the engraver to present the score attractively can have a much greater effect on the subconscious thoughts of potential performers than one might think. What musician has never found a new score, took one look through it, and suddenly developed the intense desire to learn it, even without having ever heard the piece prior? That is the subtle power of successful typesetting, and today’s composers do not deserve to have their works lose validity in the eyes of performers due to to their inability to replicate the look of professional engravings, just because they are not yet represented by a major publisher.
 
Thankfully, this does not have to be the case.
 
It is not terribly common, but quite a few self-employed copyists can be found on the Internet, offering a much easier alternative to composers who have not yet had their “big break”. However, despite the fact that the majority of these individuals have a thorough knowledge and understanding of proper notation rules/practices, the aesthetic quality of their scores almost always leaves a lot to be desired.
 
Having made this discovery some years back, I became very frustrated. I felt that most of the older sheet music editions I owned were presented so beautifully, and I came to the conclusion that music notation software, despite its relative convenience and speed of output, simply could not produce a score comparable in quality to those engraved traditionally, a realization that I admit was rather distressing.
 
However, I was not content to settle for the comparatively low quality of almost every score I had encountered that had been created with Finale, Sibelius, or any other notation software. So I challenged myself to engrave pages of scores that I admired, in an attempt to produce replications that were as identical to the source as possible -- and joyfully I discovered that, with some practice, it was possible!
(Original publication)
 
Clearly there are still some slight limitations that prevent the possibility of a completely identical reproduction -- notation software uses fonts to produce the notes and symbols, and no font is going to be exactly the same as another, let alone a traditional engraver’s dies. But at least now I had discovered that one certainly could create scores with nearly as much beauty as I desired.
 
Since this revelation, I have spent much time repeating the above exercise with a variety of different scores. Through this process, I have developed a marked facility for copying music and producing striking scores.
 
I decided to offer my services as a copyist professionally because I believe I am more dedicated to the end result than most other self-employed engravers I have come across. Perhaps it is merely a product of my generally obsessive nature, but I find myself painstakingly modifying every single dot, line, and symbol until everything looks completely natural and polished. Or perhaps it is because I am a composer myself, and want the quality of my printed scores to somehow reflect the amount of effort and emotion I poured in the works themselves. The way I see it, music worthy of being heard is also worthy having a score that represents it accurately, which to me is a score that communicates the beauty, intensity, and artistry of the composer’s vision. The engravers of the past understood this, because they had to essentially sculpt a work of art to create the sheet music we so often take for granted. Sadly, when it became possible to create in a few minutes what would have taken one of these individuals an entire day, the act of engraving has, on the whole, lost the essence of imagination.
(My replication, produced in finale)
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