Creating new versions of Appalachian Spring using Sibelius and Norfolk

Meta

It’s been quite busy around here recently, with various music prep, engraving, arranging and printing projects making every day exciting and fresh.

So I hope readers won’t mind if I share a bit of news about one of those projects. Over the past several years I have been working with The Aaron Copland Fund for Music and Boosey & Hawkes to create new engravings of Aaron Copland’s works. The ongoing project has a dual purpose: to improve upon, and correct errors in, the existing editions of the works; and to make new performance options available. You can read about the new edition of Copland’s Third Symphony, which we produced last year.

Next up in the queue is Appalachian Spring. In 1944, Copland composed the original “Ballet for Martha” for 13 instruments, still performed to this day by the Martha Graham Company.

Copland created an orchestral suite from the ballet in 1945. It was an immediate success, familiar to even casual orchestral listeners and widely performed. Not as well known, however, is the roughly 10 minutes of music which Copland omitted from the ballet.

Interest in making this music available for orchestra dates back to well within Copland’s lifetime. In 1954, Philadelphia Orchestra music director Eugene Ormandy requested that Copland orchestrate the missing music, which he did.

Copland (and his publisher), was practical, however. Rather than making a separate edition to match the ballet, he created six inserts to be performed as additions to the suite. It could be that undertaking the creation of a whole new edition was too costly and time consuming for what seemed like a rare request; after all, this was well before the days of computer notation programs.

The first page of "Insert No. 6" for the extended suite of Copland's Appalachian Spring, now to be included in the complete ballet for orchestra
The first page of “Insert No. 6” for the extended suite of Copland’s Appalachian Spring, now to be included in the complete ballet for orchestra

The result was an “extended suite” with handwritten inserts for the score and parts that was, in effect, another composition that didn’t quite match the ballet, despite several misleading references to it as the “Complete Ballet” in recordings and concert performances. Music from the ballet was still missing, and much of the music which had been orchestrated was either in a different place or key from its original position in the ballet. To paraphrase a popular saying, it had a good beat but you couldn’t dance to it — the choreography would not have matched the music.

With interest increasing in a performing a true complete orchestral version of the ballet, the decision was made to make one available. This meant orchestrating music which Copland had never done so himself. To accomplish this task, and to review the other orchestration inserts to ensure they worked appropriately, the Fund turned to composer and conductor David Newman. I’ve been working with Dave and with Martha Graham music director Aaron Sherber, along with the Copland Fund’s board and staff, to create a fully orchestrated version of Appalachian Spring, to be made available next year.

The natural first step in the process, therefore, was to create a new engraving of the familiar orchestral suite, to lay the groundwork for the complete ballet to come. That process is nearly done, with a provisional set of score and parts printed. In a serendipitous turn, the Philadelphia Orchestra has graciously agreed to “road test” those new materials on their upcoming November 2015 concerts. Not only are the Philadelphians a natural fit because of the Ormandy connection, but the errata list for Appalachian Spring that has circulated for many years was largely the work of that orchestra’s library staff. It will be nice to finally retire that list!

The new engraving of the familiar orchestral suite to Appalachian Spring
The new engraving of the familiar orchestral suite to Appalachian Spring

I’ve been using Sibelius 7 and Sibelius 7.5 for all of the Copland engraving projects so far. Appalachian Spring was engraved in Sibelius 7.5, and it’s the first of the series to use the Norfolk font suite — the Sibelius-compatible derivative of Daniel Spreadbury’s Bravura font, designed for use in Steinberg’s in-development scoring program. I made Norfolk available for free, partly because it was required under the terms of the Open Font License, but also because I had a feeling that if it became widely available it would serve as a nice standard alternative to Sibelius’s default music fonts.

So far, it’s played out better than I could have hoped; more than 1,000 people have downloaded Norfolk from the NYC Music Services web site. Work hasn’t stopped on the fonts; an update will be forthcoming soon, thanks to help from the user community, and I expect that future updates to Sibelius will make it easier to set up the fonts for use than it is already.

Once the suite is officially finished, the complete ballet will be next up for production, with the new edition of that to become available in 2016, including the newly orchestrated music and the truly complete ballet for orchestra. I look forward to following up with an update then.

Comments

  1. Kenneth Gaw

    This sounds like a really interesting project.The font looks excellent.

    1. Philip Rothman

      Thanks, Kenneth!

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *