From the Orchestra Library


Send REAL Parts, please!!

Posted in Organizational Effectiveness,Preparing Parts by kschnack on August 9, 2009

Okay, listen up, people who are in charge of sending guest artists’ charts (particularly pops) and self-published composers.  Yes, I know technology is very Handy Dandy for zinging electronic files around the world at the last minute, and I understand the temptation to avoid printing out parts and scores (in the proper size and on decent paper) and binding them (correctly) and physically sending a package to either a domestic or international location, or both.  It’s a pain.  Yes.  I know.

But it is NOT THE LIBRARIAN’S JOB of the orchestra to which you are supposed to be providing parts to do this.  It is YOUR job.  Yes.  It is.

It’s not that we can’t or won’t print out pdf parts; we do plenty of them, and make very nice parts indeed.  It’s perfectly fine for small projects, or even large ones if that’s what we’ve agreed to and planned for under the terms of your contract or commission.  We have many pieces throughout a season for which we have to produce parts and for which it is our job to do so.  But if you are being paid to compose a work, and the fee includes proofing, copying and preparation of parts and scores, then please honor your end of the deal.  And if you are the performer on a pops program and want to use your own arrangements, it is your responsibility to hire someone on your end to create and organize the materials in folders by instrument and send them ready to go on the stands.  Don’t tell me (at the last minute, after you’ve promised to send the parts by a certain day) that “we decided it would be easier for you if we sent pdf files, they are very simple, it shouldn’t be a problem, it’s what we do with all the orchestras, and it’s never been an issue with anyone before.”  Do NOT tell me that!

As you can plainly see, it is an issue.

We have an excellent Operations Department, and very clear commissioning agreements. I know that these things are spelled out in advance.  Somehow, though, in the flurry of activity that inevitably happens towards the end of a deadline period, some composers and performers find they’ve run out of time and so decide to fall back on the most expedient medium – for themselves.  And we’re so desperate to receive the parts by that time we have no other choice but to make them ourselves.

Look, there’s plenty of discussion amongst my librarian colleagues about where to draw this line, and some libraries are set up with wonderful equipment, enough people, and a budget to be the de facto publisher for whatever comes down the pike.  Some actually prefer it that way, so they can make the parts exactly the way they want. Because we, of all people, know how to make really good parts.  But it should never be assumed that the performance librarian will automatically produce entire sets of parts and scores for your piece or arrangements unless you’ve worked that out in advance.  For a fee.

And here’s why:  there isn’t always time for us to be the printers, publishers, AND librarians.  We have more than we can do just as librarians.

Going into part production unexpectedly throws a wrench into the entire work flow of the library and interrupts everything else we need to be doing.  There’s the time and labor.  Manipulating files to print. Paper.  Binding.  Toner.  Computer software and hardware capability.  Wear and tear on our equipment.  And on us.  All of this costs money.

Just imagine how much paper is wasted every time a particular artist performs with a different orchestra, sends pdf files of the charts, and another set gets made and marked. Then what happens?  The orchestra will never use those parts again unless the same artist comes back, and even then the program will probably be different. Not to mention all that time spent by both librarians and players to put in new markings, when a set from a previous performance could go on the stands, already prepared.  It’s just ridiculous.  And could have been avoided simply by doing the work far enough in advance.

I realize the days are gone when composers just composed, copyists only copied, publishers published, and librarians did the library work for their performances.  Yes, technology has blurred the boundaries of not only what is possible, but also what is expected for all of us in the music preparation part of the industry.  And everyone wants to be the beneficiary of cost-savings that technology can provide.  So, it’s become a tactic for some to shove the work onto the next party because it’s easier and cheaper.

But I do not buy that this is “just the way it is now.”  No, it’s not.  Orchestras still have to play from paper for the most part, they will for the foreseeable future, and that paper has to be in the proper, legible format, professionally prepared, and then marked.  Somebody has to do all that stuff before the markings are put in.  The expectation should not be that somebody is the orchestra’s librarian.

There are many composers and performers out there who create and send excellent parts – most, actually try to do this the proper way so the orchestra won’t have problems with their music.  They are professional and respectful and they care enough to send the very best, as they know it reflects upon them as artists.  I appreciate and respect them as well for their professionalism and efforts to provide what the orchestra needs from them.

But the ones that are just trying to get around doing what they are supposed to do………not so much.

I guess I should spare you from reading any more ranting about REAL PARTS, so will sign off now.  But brace yourselves.  There will be a future post on CRAPPY PARTS! You can count on it.

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One Response to 'Send REAL Parts, please!!'

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  1. stiv2slava said,

    This choir member says, “Amen!”


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