The next few paragraphs will contain some personal reflections on the current geopolitical situation. If you do not feel like reading them, or feel disturbed by anything written in there, please, just skip to the next section where I resume the musical talk. Thank you for your patience and understanding.
The war that should have not been
Another month has passed, and this reckless war is still raging on. More and more lives are being sacrificed on the human pride and hubris’s altars. A 69-year-old politician sent—voluntarily, ill-advised, or both—hundreds of thousands of young men across the border. They were told the civil war that had plagued those lands for the last 8 years would have been over in a few days. It was not meant to be. On the other side, a 44-year-old actor made politician, with an approval rate of 8-12% in the parliament and of less than 40% among his people (source, in particular from 2:50), decided to resist at all cost—possibly knowing this was his only chance to stay in power—, sending them into a fratricide war of untold proportions. On yet another side, a 79-year-old politician is constantly throwing gasoline on fire every time he opens his mouth, as if he would personally like for the whole world to plunge in a total war caused by a relatively small, yet delicate, border dispute. Finally, on the Old World side, the lack of a diplomatically strong (and calm) leader is causing a flipper of idiotic decisions, one worse than the other.
A cold-blooded, impartial thinking tells us that the weapon industry is among the most lucrative businesses on the planet. Thus, for both the US, UK, and in part of other EU countries, the continuation of this war is a godsend. They will either make truckloads of money or create dependence from their arm industries into the recipient country, although, in doing so, they will actively be contributing to the deaths of tens of thousands of young men. It is bitterly funny to hear from the 79-year-old one that this war should continue to weaken the opponent and prevent it to invade any further, when his country invaded every other one it could think of in the last 70 years.
One country is wrong to invade instead of talking, the second is wrong to keep fighting a battle it cannot win even if it sacrificed all its young ones, the West is wrong in feeding the fight instead of forcing the talks. This is all wrong.
Once more, let’s try to look at things from above, without listening to the media, let’s use our heads. Countries have always fought over territories, since the dawn of humanity, so this war is no different from any fought before. Those two regions are rich in raw materials, but their people would have liked to be independent and yet were not allowed to vote in the relevant referendum.
Invasion was not the right thing, war is never the right answer, but what does history teach us? Nobody wanted World War I, and yet politicians and leaders could not find a common ground, no matter how they strived, they just couldn’t. Let’s look at our lives: this is precisely what happens when two people cannot solve a dispute diplomatically, or when they are not satisfied with the outcome of a legal battle. Scale this situation up a hundredfold and put it into the hands of endlessly powerful people, and you get exactly this: an incredibly tense situation where no one wants to take a step back. Nobody wanted World War II, and yet politicians let tension rise to unbearable levels until the only solution (from their perspective) was war. Necessary correction: it was not!
I am sincerely afraid because what the West propaganda is doing is almost trying to force World War III, when we all know it can still be avoided. This would require a few steps:
- Immediate ceasefire from both sides, and immediate halt of weapons trade
- A referendum organised by a neutral country and organisation asking only the people of the three delicate regions what they would like to do, making sure no propaganda could alter their judgment.
- Have the UN Peace Force (or any global neutral body) make the result of this referendum be respected by all countries, no exception allowed.
Is this utopia? Most probably: the invaded country’s economy would crumble without the iron and carbon mines in the East, and the invader has now gone too far to just get back and accept this was not how they envisioned it (if that was the case). Still, I hope for an injection of sanity in politicians and leaders all around the world so that peace may eventually be the only winner. It will not have escaped your attention that I compared many times the age of the people involved. This was intentional, as I truly feel that it is about time young ones stopped listening to old ones only because they are supposed to be wise and because they are in charge.
I sincerely hope my next newsletter will see peace return to occupy its rightful place. Now, back to the main topic of this newsletter: music!
What have I been up to?
April has been an incredibly busy month for me as, thankfully, some commissions from composers and publishers alike came back. The composer I have been the personal copyist of for the last 11 years, William Blank, has reached out to complete a round of corrections on some of his works after a very successful recording. If you follow my Facebook page, you may have seen some of the promotional posts I have been putting out, and more are on their way as time allows. Mr. Blank is on his last year of teaching contemporary music composition and ensemble performance at the HEMU of Lausanne, Switzerland, and has thus been very busy preparing the ground for his successor. In the pipelines there is a cleaning of his piano concerto “Reflecting Blacks”, which was the last piece prepared by my predecessor, and some big projects Mr. Blank has not yet shared with me!
The Vienna publisher Paladino Media for whom I have been engraving scores since 2014 has recently been rebranded to HNE Rights (Happy New Ears) and is currently undergoing a set of big and important internal changes. Meanwhile, I got the task of engraving a new set of duos for two cellos by Czech composer Johannes Stiastny (1764–1826). This is a massive work that is keeping me quite busy, with almost 60 pages of score, and about 30 pages for each part. One thing that I have found in composers who also played the instrument, such as Stiastny, or Romberg, is that they made both instruments play for most of the time, resulting in close to impossible page turns. Looking at the first edition one can find how the engraver of the time didn’t care at all how crammed and impossibly messy the score looked, just that it could be played from two pages, maximum three. Thankfully, with the advent of technology such as tablets, and great reading apps, such as forScore, we can focus on the score being beautiful and well-designed, instead of looking for good page-turns that, sometimes, are just not there.
All these assignments have meant one thing: I had much less time to dedicate to my editions, tutorials, templates, etc. … This is not to say I have not been progressing, just that I have the big flaw of favouring gigantic projects instead of more manageable ones.
Sibelius template for clarinet fingerings: current status
The Sibelius template for clarinet fingerings, which you can find here, has been progressing steadily. I have to confess, not much interest has been shown for this template, possibly for a few different reasons. Very few engravers work on contemporary music; of those very few do not use pre-made graphics or fonts for wind fingerings; very few of those remaining have not yet engineered a solution of their own. Still, I am doing this to make order into my symbols in Sibelius, so even if no one will ever purchase this template, it will still have been worthy of my time. After publishing two posts on several Facebook groups, one for the initial release and one for the update containing bass clarinet fingerings, I have decided to stop promoting it until it is over. Promotion takes a lot of time away from the creation process, and I am not seeing a real increase in sales in products that I promote compared to those I do not. Currently, I am taking care of multiphonics fingerings, that is, those finger placement combinations that allow the clarinet to produce more than a single pitch at a time, and to control them successfully. It is such a fascinating topic, especially for a string player as myself. I will share more news about this as I have them, but you can expect this to be over in the next month or two. Once this is done, I will create a free version of it, which will include all basic fingerings. Here is a sneak peek of what I have been doing:
Dotzauer Project: edition incoming
The next entry in the Dotzauer Project is just around the corner, just it is so massive that I could not finish it by the end of April. Actually, it was finished, but then I wanted it to be perfect, to provide you with the best product I could, and thus, I was unable to release it. Last month I released the Twelve Pieces Op. 58, which you can find here, while this project contained twenty-four pieces, so it was exactly double the work! Moreover, it was impossible for me to find the first edition by Dotzauer himself, so I had to rely on two editions that are slightly more modern (1910, fifty years after the composer’s death). Instead of mixing them together in a potpourri that would have helped no one, I decided to create a score from the most trustful of the two, and two separate sets of parts, one from each of the sources. As you may imagine, this is taking a lot of time, as I am also trying to perform them when I am at school with my cello, to see if anything escaped my attention.
I can guarantee that you will be most pleased by this new edition, just please have some more patience, I promise you will be the first to know. Meanwhile, please enjoy this preview:
From the picture above, you can see how a fingering is set in italics and enclosed in parentheses. This is because the edition I have been using for this contained a lot of pencil marks, possibly by some owners of that copy. I considered at least interesting to add them in a different typeface, to make the edition more appealing.
Please stay tuned on all my channels for more news on this!
Marcello and Bréval: updates planned
Last month I have released the Six Sonatas for cello and basso by Benedetto Marcello in their Urtext form. While this allows for the greatest flexibility when deciding how to perform it, one must admit that it is not performance-ready. I have therefore been working on providing fingering and bowing suggestions with the collaboration of my teacher, Marcio Carneiro, assistant of André Navarra in Detmold, Germany. This is obviously taking some time because once they are out in the wild I cannot just go back every week to adjust a fingering or a bowing, it would not be fair for those who have already printed it. I hope for this to be ready in the second half of this year, and it will be a free upgrade for everyone who has already purchased it.
Among the top best-selling products in my catalogue are Jean-Baptiste Bréval’s three collections of sonatas for cello and basso (in order of difficulty: op. 40, op. 28, and op. 12). These were created together with Ukrainian US-based cellist Yuriy Leonovich, who provided fingering and bowing suggestions for the first version of these editions. Since their release, I have been constantly using them with my students, and adjusting the annotation as required. I will soon be starting to update op. 40 to the new design of my editions, alongside providing a new set of fingering and bowing suggestions for you to choose from. I hope to have them ready for the end of 2022, and they will be a free upgrade to anyone who already purchased them or will in the meantime.
Stravinsky’s Firebird template: updated
Last year was the 50 anniversary of the death of Igor Stravinsky and, for the occasion, William Blank realised an arrangement of the Firebird Suite from 1919 for his Lemanic Modern Ensemble, which I had the honour of engraving. Shortly afterwards, I released a template to allow composers to arrange this on their own. It obviously didn’t include any note, as in the EU this work is still under copyright.
A composer, though, reached out to ask whether I could provide the notes since, in Canada and in the US, this is a public domain. Being Gumroad’s based in the US, I checked with their copyright office to see if this was actually something I could do, and proceeded. The engraving is certainly not top level as it was just used as a container for the notes, but you will find everything that’s needed to realise a professional arrangement. I divided it into several versions, as some only need the final Infernal Dance, for example. You can find it here, but please be careful with the disclaimer: you are allowed to purchase and use this only if you are a resident of a country where this work is a public domain.
My catalogue is always available here, and it will be up-to-date with the latest additions by the time you receive this newsletter.
In this month, I have also resumed work on growing my skillset. A customer from the USA, with whom I have been working on an incredible book on counterpoint for the best part of the last two years, has teased me that I would need to gather some animation skills. That’s why I have been hard at work to learn how to use the main animation apps available. I have completed Apple Teacher’s path on Keynote for Mac, such an impressive software, and started my learning path within Adobe Animate.
I have also been continuing my “Graphic Designer” learning path on LinkedIn Learning, where I only have two courses left to complete it.
Most importantly, I have resumed the study of programming, something I missed just too much, and that has helped me become much more efficient and organised in my daily activities. You may say, no wonder I have not been able to complete any edition this month, if I have been doing so many other things. Touché, but in my partial defence I can say that, given the number of assignments I have been having, I could dedicate about 30 minutes per day to learning, and in that time I would have been so tired that nothing good would have come out of it.
I hope to be able to announce at least the new Dotzauer edition in the next newsletter, and possibly something more. I still wish to get to 12 editions by the end of the year, and I will fight with all myself to achieve that goal!
On April 21st, 2022, a dear friend of mine has lost his battle with cancer. He was Robert Puff, musician, composer, engraver extraordinaire, and possibly the most important mentor I have ever had in the field. He wrote hundreds of tutorials on Sibelius, Finale, and Dorico on his Of Note blog, and he will be sorely missed. You can read more about him and how much he shaped the music engraving community in this tribute. My condolences go to his family and dear ones.
And that’s it for this month! If you follow me, and received this in your e-mail inbox, you will find below a list of all my products with a 5% discount code already applied. If you don’t, please subscribe here, and you will get your personal codes in a few days.
As always, thank you for reading through this lengthy update, and let me know your thoughts, your suggestions, and critiques, as I read and react to all of them.
I wish you all the best