On Fri 16 Sep 2016 at 15:52:06 (-0400), Kieren MacMillan wrote:
> Hi Karlin,
> > what exactly causes the attraction to combined voices and
> > the disaffection for separated voices? I'm not sure, but I'll try to answer.
> I think that answer is pretty good, and probably partly true. Related would 
> be the argument that combined voices allow each part to more quickly grasp 
> the relationship (both similarities and dissimilarities) between their own 
> part and the adjacent one on the same staff.

A counterexample might be that organists can distinguish the bass line
more easily (in the absence of a third staff). I can't ever recall
relying on the relationship with the altos (once upon a time) or
tenors to sing my part (though I am an interval singer rather than a
chord singer, if that makes a difference).

> However, Iā€™m guessing that the most critical reason was far more practical, 
> and driven by space limitations.
> TL;DR summary: Less vertical space is required per page of music with 
> combined voices than with split voicing.
> Details: Combined voices (as you pointed out) have stems that go up from 
> notes near the bottom of the staff, and down from notes near the top of the 
> staff. Hence ā€” and this is the important point ā€” the range of the inner 
> voices (i.e., alto in the upper staff, and tenor in the lower staff) does not 
> force the stems to intrude into the inter-staff space (as they would in split 
> That seems the most likely reason to my mind ā€” though I have no proof that 
> the reasoning is thus (though the truth of the spacing claim is easy enough 
> to demonstrate).

Turning the leaves of American hymnbooks, I can't see many where space
is saved just by combining voices. In order to do so, you must have a
tune where the rhythm matches in the two pairs of voices, and the
exterior parts (S,B) must never stray further from the centre line than
the respective interior part (A,T): as soon as the latter happens, the
stem somersaults and you've lost any advantage.

Both those conditions apply across the whole hymn, because it's quite
normal to maintain the same system height/staff separation throughout
(unless there's a refrain section of course).

I suppose Americans can save ink on printing beams, but that's probably
cancelled out by the more frequent English use of white-note notation.


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