style question: cross-staff beaming; tuples or not in 12/8

• Dec 13, 2021 - 20:57

Some questions of style:
The following systems show the same four bars with stylistic differences.
(They are out of context, so please pay no attention to any lack of musical flow.)
In measure 1: does the cross-staff beaming help or hurt? These types of measures crop up fairly regularly in the piece.
In measures 2-4: does using the long triplets help or hurt?
System 1 is 'by the book' for 12/8 and shows every beat.
System 2 highlights the slow triplet nature of beats 3 and 4.
System 3 eliminates the tuples entirely, but somehow looks more wrong to me.
I went through Gould and found no mention of this case. The naked half/quarter and quarter/half look wrong to me even though I do not violate the mid-measure beat.
A similar issue: in one case (not pictured) I use a 4-tuple of quarters over the same timespan, even though four dotted eighths would be just as correct. Oddly I have no dilemma about using the 4-tuple there. I am sure I have needed six quarters over 12 and have done so in the past.



In reply to by underquark

I appreciate your comment and preference, but I disagree that it is definintely not a triplet.
See my earlier example of duplets that could be written as dotted eighths.
Duplets are even preferred here. So, to me, the fact that you could write it without a tuplet does not make the tuplet inherently wrong.
Maybe I am wrong but I was viewing it as 3 quarters in the usual space of two dotted quarters,
so it is more 'marking the unusual subdivision' than anything else(?).
I'm not sure if I'm being clear there.

In compound meter, it's not just the third beat you need to show - it's every beat. That's why the quarter/half combination is not used. I get where you are coming from with the triplet, but no, it just confuses things by making it less clear how it aligns with the eighth note pulse.

The cross-staff notation is OK by me but it isn't the same thing as what it's replacing. The other version clearly has the bass note sustain, the cross-staff does not. Use the notation that suits your actual intent.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

I kind of figured, but can you cite any reference to showing every beat as a rule?
- One more thing to check in Gould's book.

Regarding the feel difference: what is not shown in my examples is the whole piece has near-constant sustain pedal, so in this case the sound is in fact the same.

In reply to by mkjnovak

Even with the damper pedal down, there would still be a difference in intent between the two versions, in term of the relative dynamic you've play the notes with. The original version would have the first and third notes played slightly louder to bring out the melody line you are carefully showing; the middle note would be de-emphasized as it's clearly more of just an accompaniment.

As for references to beaming rules, Gould is pretty good with such things but maybe overly complex here. But I didn't really learn these rules from a book - I learned them from my teachers as a student, my editors when working for a publisher, and by studying existing scores. There is a fair amount of subjectivity in here, but just examine any other piece in compound meter and you see the beats clearly delineated quite consistently.

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