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Typography, Conventions

Last updated: 2019-11-26


Outline


General Typography

Language

As I have used American English throughout my previous (professional) life, my blog is (meant to be) in American English rather than British English, with some exceptions, see below. Note that English is not my mother tongue (that would be Swiss German!).

Font

My font selection started off as that which goes with the WordPress theme (Roboto). Following my personal taste, I later changed that to Ubuntu. This lasted a few years, but then I wanted / needed to address the problem that with the Ubuntu there was way too much space around ♭ and ♯, which made key signatures such as E♭ major or F♯ minor look very odd. So, in November 2019, I changed the font to Segoe UI, together with general adjustments in font size and weight (I’m continuing to make minor adjustments). Font size and weight are a compromise between readability and compactness, i.e., the need to keep my (usually long) postings at a reasonable size on display.

Non-English Words / Expressions

These are typically written in Italics, e.g.: AllegroAndantepizzicatovibrato. Capitalization in tempo annotations typically follows that in the score: Allegro ma non troppo

Durations

Where I mention durations, these are usually given in MM’SS” notation (possibly HHhMM’SS”) rather than HH:MM:SS, i.e., 3’15” and 1h15’30” in lieu of 3:15 and 1:15:30.

Dates

Wherever possible, I’m following the ISO 8601 standard, i.e., yyyy-mm-dd, i.e., 2019-11-13. This should avoid month/date confusion between US and Europe.

Printability

Currently, my site is not optimized  for printing (or creating PDFs). In general, printing results will depend on the Web browser, and on the scaling of a page. If the result is not satisfactory, try a different Web browser, different scaling, or create a PDF first, and print from a PDF viewer, such as Adobe Reader.

Hint: When printing for my own needs, I found that it is best not to scale the output (even though this will typically cause image galleries to be clipped). Note that in print output, browsers such as Chrome may do funny things with floating menus, unless the page is scrolled to the top prior to printing.


Musical Terminology & Typography

Tonality

Compared to German language, describing / naming tonalities in English is somewhat clumsy (sorry!). In German, I would use A-dur (A major), a-moll (A minor), As-dur (A flat major), es-moll (E flat minor), Fis-dur (F sharp major), fis-moll (F sharp minor). In German, lower key notes indicate minor tonalities, upper key is used for major tonality—that’s visually “assisting” the minor/major differentiation (the proper language standard actually calls for “Dur” and “Moll“, rather than “dur” and “moll“).

For several years, I used my personal convention for tone pitch names in English, in that I used lower case (a, b, c, d, e, f, g) for minor tonalities, in analogy to German. That causes a minor problem with a minor (pun intended). Therefore, I have now jumped my shadow by switching to what Wikipedia is using, i.e., all basic pitch names are upper case (A major, A minor, B major, B minor, C major, etc.).

Accidentals

Initially, I went with “sharp” and “flat” in tonality / pitch naming. This is easy on the input on a standard keyboard, but has the (minor) problem that line breaks may occur within the pitch name (A / flat minor, C sharp / major), making the text harder to read. In German, the problem does not exist, as there is no blank space (As-moll, Cis-dur). So, I have decided to jump another show of mine, by using musical symbols for the accidentals, i.e., in lieu of sharp I’m now using ♯ (note: that’s not “#”!), and in lieu of flat I’m using ♭. Examples:

  • A major, A minor (A-dur, a-moll)
  • B♭ major, B♭ minor (B flat major, B flat minor / B-dur, b-moll)
  • B major, B minor (H-dur, h-moll)
  • A♭ major, E♭ minor (A flat major, E flat minor / As-dur, es-moll)
  • F♯ major, F♯ minor (F sharp major, F sharp minor / Fis-dur, fis-moll)

Note Values

Somewhat inconsequently (as I’m in general using American English rather than British English, see above), I’m using a mix of British and American terminology: whole note — half note — crotchet (for quarter note) — quaver (for eighth note) — semiquaver (for sixteenth note) — demisemiquaver (for thirty-second note) —  hemidemisemiquaver (for sixty-fourth note).

Time Signatures

Out of convenience, I’m using all-numeric, “horizontal” time signature naming, i.e., 4/4, 6/8, 3/4, etc.; I’m using 4/4 in lieu of C, and in particular, 2/2 in lieu of . For clarification, I sometimes add “alla breve“, i.e., “2/2, alla breve” or “2/2 = alla breve“, or “2/2 (alla breve)”.

References to Composer’s Work Catalogs

Opus Numbers

First and foremost, when referring to the composer’s own work numbers, I’m using “op.###”, e.g., op.127, op.59/3, whereby I’m using a slash “/” to address items in opus numbers with multiple works, rather than, e.g., “op.59, No.3” or the like. In German, dictionaries want “Op.”—I’m sticking with lower case, as to me, this is a Latin expression. Note that I avoid a blank space between “op.” and the number.

Other Work Catalogs

As for “third party work catalogs”:

  • Initially, in the case of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, I used the German convention for the Koechel catalog (Koechel-Verzeichnis, KV, e.g.: KV ###). I have now switched to the Anglo-Saxon version, K.### (no blank space)—e.g., K.595
  • For Johann Sebastian Bach, the German catalog acronym “BWV” (Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis) prevails. So, for example, I’m using BWV 1006 (note the blank space)
  • As in the cases above, I’m using a blank space after catalog names appearing as acronyms, such as “BWV“, but no blank space for abbreviations. Examples:
    • Examples for acronyms:
      • Johann Sebastian Bach: BWV ###, e.g., BWV 1006
      • George Frideric Handel: HWV ###, e.g., HWV 17
    • Examples for abbreviations:
      • Franz Schubert: D.###, e.g., D.127 (Deutsch catalog)
      • Domenico Scarlatti: K.###, e.g., K.104, for the most frequently used Kirkpatrick catalog, sometimes also L.###, e.g., L.108 (Longo catalog)
      • Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart: K.### , e.g., K.595 (Koechel catalog)

Star Ratings

With music, especially concerts, that I review, I apply a rating scheme with values (theoretically) between 1 and 5 stars. The basic concept is taken from my digital music platform, Apple’s iTunes (now Apple Music), where 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, or 5 stars can be assigned. I’m actually using half-star steps, for more differentiation. The general idea is as follows:

  • ★★★★★ — Stellar, “once-in-a-century” performance or listening experience (or at least close to that)
  • ★★★★½
  • ★★★★ — Excellent performance
  • ★★★½
  • ★★★ — Good, standard/average, or moderate performance
  • ★★½
  • ★★ — Clearly substandard performance (I have major objections, etc.)
  • ★½
  • ★ — A listening experience that I definitely don’t want to repeat or an appalling performance / really odd interpretation.

I’m only breaking down the “star rating” to pieces and movements where I see differentiation, i.e., I try to avoid “sprinkling star ratings everywhere” (as I may have done in the past). There may be a single rating per composition, occasionally even a single one for an entire recital, concert, or recording.

If my concert ratings appear to center around a 4-star rating, that is not because I’m too generous with my ratings (I hope). Rather, I try to avoid concerts where I see the danger of a substandard rating. Bad reviews can annoy the artists and do nothing for the reader (other than maybe warning him of potential disappointments in future concerts or music purchases).


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