-------- Forwarded Message --------
Subject:     Re: Beaming, partcombine and pickups
Date:     Thu, 15 Sep 2016 23:24:12 -0500
From:     David Wright <lily...@lionunicorn.co.uk>

...I'm not sure it's wise of me to ask what the attraction is of the 
American convention of part-combining...

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Well, this has been a recurring topic lately. Perhaps an explanation is 
in order. Probably a big part of the motivation for combined parts is 
simply audience expectations. When a certain convention is the only way 
someone has known for a large and early fraction of their life, that 
convention is probably the way they will prefer. And, we can't go back 
150 years or so and change how American hymnals got printed. Until I 
started using LilyPond, I had no idea that two voices on the same staff 
for SATB or TTBB harmony would get separate stems unless communicating 
differences between them in timing or duration or... 
whatever-it's-called when the lower voice goes to a pitch above the 
upper voice.

But back to your question, what exactly causes the attraction to 
combined voices and the disaffection for separated voices? I'm not sure, 
but I'll try to answer. With combined parts, notes on the lower half of 
the staff will tend to have upstems. And, notes on the upper half will 
tend to have downstems. Those accustomed to that arrangement are not 
used to seeing downstems on lower notes or upstems on higher notes. With 
stems only on one side, combined-voice readers are accustomed to reading 
along the "edge" of the row of notes. With stems on both sides, readers 
have to focus on the "middle" of the row instead. Exaggerating a little 
here, the extra stems can feel... uncomfortable. Perhaps like the bird 
repellent spikes sometimes seen on buildings or monuments.

Again, exaggeration there. It's probably not that big of deal, really. 
People COULD get used to having stems on both sides. But LilyPond has a 
software community that writes essays about efforts to capture the 
look-and-feel of favorite sheet music. LilyPond's stylistic focus is not 
American hymnals, of course. It just happens to be the favorite tool for 
the job. And along with discussions and requests regarding Arabic 
Makams, decay-squiggles in contemporary guitar music, French lute 
tablatures, and diatonic accordions, surely there is room for 
American-style part combining? Currently it appears the answer is yes, 
thanks to the upgraded \partcombine command in LilyPond 2.19 that allows 
specifying what intervals to combine or separate.
Karlin High
Missouri, USA

PS - Another American tradition is shaped notes, as in the Lilypond 
\aikenHeads command. I think those want combining even more; the 
attached PNG has an example.

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