I have decided to feature, in the next week or two, various composers who have created their own co-ops, shall we say, as well as small choral music publishers who have broken, in some way, with the business model that the longer established publishers have been using. I will try to start summarizing what that old model is/was and, if you read Connor's words from the link, or mine here, you will get an idea of what is going on. For many of you this isn't news, but for many it is.
Part One: the old model of choral music publishing (we'll stick to choral for now, not that other music types are much different) has been around a long time. But many aspects have changed drastically, yet composer/publisher contracts and agreements have barely changed at all. I will first note the biggest change that has occurred since about 1990, the invention of music engraving software (Finale, Sibelius plus others) which is now the method of choice for about 99% of composers and publishers.
In the good old days composers just composed (and maybe conducted). They took pencil or pen to manuscript paper and had at it. After scribbling a double bar at the end of a new piece their work was now done (let's assume we are talking about someone who has a reputation as a professional composer, perhaps in the 19th or 20th century, and we'll also exclude 1960's through 1980's avant-guarde composers who made their own printable scores using the ozalid process). From here the publisher took over the laborious task of creating a highly professional-looking score which musicians could easily read. The publisher would have to proof the scribbles of the composer (and I mean scribbles!) and then set about creating a layout, with EVERY ELEMENT then punched into a zinc metal plate, BACKWARDS for every page! Ponder that for a moment. Whether a simple little Schumann song, or a Dvorak string quartet, or Stravinsky's Rite of Spring- everything was HAND PUNCHED by extremely diligent craftsmen onto metal plates, which then were sent to the printing presses. Think of the enormous variety of elements within a musical score- each note, beam, slur marking, each hairpin dynamic, each fermata, etched into a metal plate by hand! I think the younger you are, the more you may be unaware of how printing music used to be accomplished before computer engraving software such as Finale or Sibelius. What we have with Finale now would seem like absolute wizardry to people from the past. Here are two absolutely fascinating videos by the publishing house of G. Henle in Germany where you can see the process in action. The videos mention the time needed to create one page of fairly straightforward music- one video states three hours, and I believe the hour says 6-8 hours. Can you imagine how long it would take to produce heavily orchestrated conductor's score pages for something like the previously mentioned Rite of Spring?
Sidenote: where did the word score come from in regard to music publication and printing? Answer: from the process of scoring the metal with a five-pronged tool to create staves.
Before this first blog in the series become too long, I'm going to direct you to more videos. These next videos are more recent processes which involve ink and paper, and lithography. And at my next posting I will pick up the thread as we examine publishing past and present, and the changed/changing workload relationship between composers and publishers.
Ha- check out the rub-on (press-type) letters and symbols!
Here is a process which begins by utilizing an oversize score for ease of detail work which is then reduced by the camera.