Negative-width frames

• Jan 16, 2016 - 00:03
S5 - Suggestion

Under certain circumstances, it is useful for a user to be able to create a horizontal frame with a negative width. (An example would be when an incipit showing the original clefs and time signatures of late-Renaissance vocal music is needed before the modern version of the score begins.)

However there are a number of issues in this process. Please see the following thread for details:

The issue is to enable horizontal frames to be selected by the usual 'click-on...' procedure even when they are numerically narrower than 0.0 sp. The work-around proposed in the above-mentioned thread is functional, but it is more complex than most users would be able to figure out without help.


Just thinking aloud, I wonder if a better solution would be to disable negative frames and provide a more direct solution to whatever use cases appear to need them?

I would be curious to see the use cases. I think I understand the one discussed here - as a workaround for the fact that we don't have a way to suppress the instrument names after a frame. I'd rather see that solved directly. Perhaps similarly for other use cases, but we'd need to understand the use cases to say.

@ Marc Sabatella--

To answer your first comment, for the specific case that prompted this discussion, I would actually prefer having a dedicated incipit function (something I know you've discussed a time or two) to fussing around and experimenting for an hour or so to kludge one up using work-arounds.

But I do not believe the ability to create negative-width frames should be disabled, as there are too many possible use cases that we will only discover when the need presents itself. As long as such negative-width frames do not create 'bugs' far more critical than the inability to reselect them without recourse to the Object Debugger, I think that minor bug should be fixed and the ability to create such frames should be retained as a useful graphic control.

I just ran a quick experiement, BTW, and discovered that it is possible to create negative-height vertical frames in the same manner--by dragging the edit handle upwards--but those frames remain re-selectable in the normal manner after exiting edit-mode for the first time. So there's a dichotomy in the code for those two similar elements, and perhaps that might make it easier to find and fix the problem of re-selecting horizontal negative-width frames.

I am not opposed to seeing a dedicate incipit function, but I fear that no two people will agree on exactly how it should look and work. So I do prefer having a nice generally-useful set of tools that can be used to create different types of effects. So far, based on the only use case presented thus far, a way to suppress instrument names for a given measure (since measures are persistent, while "systems" are not) might be the best way to go.

I am also not opposed to making negative frames selectable. But in this case at least, their use seems to be an awkward and hard to discover kludge to solve a problem that should be easier to solve another way. And I'd rather encourage people to do things the right way than to settle for making the awkward and hard to discover kludges very slightly less awkward. Which is to say, I think it more important to solve the real problem first, and then oh by the way also while we're at it also make the awkward kludge alternative slightly less awkward.

I agree that no two people will see an 'incipit' function the same way, especially as that term is used to describe a variety of musical graphics. For me, doing these motets right now, it would be convenient if I could click ADD>Incipit>Insert System/Staff Incipit and have it pop into being. But if you can provide enough graphic tools to allow a user to create and place such a thing manually, that's fine, too.

As for negative horizontal frames in general, I think it would be better to fix the anomoly than to assume the only use for such an element would be a kludged-up incipit. We simply can't know what all the use cases might be because graphics, like music, is an art, and there is NO telling what a graphic designer (or composer) might require the typographer to produce. For instance: As a designer, I can imagine cover art for an edition which includes overlapping staves in a number of different colours; being able to superimpose those staves upon each other by using negative frames could be the easiest way to do it.

Thanks for the additional use case, that does help make the original seem less kludgy.

Still, it seems we might not be communicating as clearly as we could, so let me try another tactic:

If I offer to implement a feature whereby you could simply specify that instrument names should not appear for a given measure and thus eliminate the need for negative frames when creating this particular style of incipit, are you saying "no thanks, I would prefer to continue to use negative frames"?

No, not at all. If the visible space between the incipit and the beginning of the main system is the size I want to see it be--this is a design decision, of course--I would be quite happy to leave the H-frame in the positive number range. The only time I would drag a frame into negative width would be if the final visible result required me to do so.

Unfortunately, I can't tell you in advance what actual visible space I would want to see between an incipit and the main system. Depending on the scaling I use for final page make-up, the number of staves in the systems, the note 'density,' and a bunch of other factors, that white space could need to be larger or smaller. And remember that typographers often need to 'cheat' things to make the whole look right even when it breaks the style rules, and adjusting a variable white-space such as that between an incipit and the beginning of the score is a good place to start.

Typography involves much more than just printing letters (or notes) on a page. For instance, in making up book pages, we need to take into account such things as widows and orphans--which cannot, in good typography, appear on the last line of a paragraph nor especially on the first line of a page. In book typography it is common to have to reduce or increase the design-specified number of lines on a set of facing pages to make sure the next page does not start with an orphan. Sometimes an entire chapter needs to be re-cast to do this sort of thing without a reader noticing. (It is ironic that the best designs are ones the reader never notices!)

In music typography, we need to ensure that the line- and page-breaks do not make things unduly difficult for the performers, so things like 'courtesy' accidentals must be added when breaking virtuosic runs in modulated passages. In addition, sixteenth-note runs should not be squeezed to fit in a line for a more economical overall page-make-up when the result is notation so dense the performer has trouble reading it at the speed it should be played. When one is up against a make-up that could add or subtract an entire signature (a minimum of 4 pages; sometimes as many as 16 or 32), this can be a difficult decision, but a quality edition is one that makes life better for the end-user, not one that costs less to print.