Home Leo Ornstein Scores Discography Audio


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About the Notation
Special Notes Concerning Certain Pieces

About the Notation

Many of Ornstein's earliest compositions are traditional in nature and employ classic notation. However, some of the early dissonant works were notated by him without key signature but rather with each note being designated as either natural, sharp, or flat as in the following example:

In many later works, Ornstein uses a convention in which there is no key signature and accidentals, instead of carrying through the measure in the traditional manner, affect only the individual notes they immediately precede. Thus only sharps and flats are marked, and although naturals do occasionally occur, they are unnecessary and redundant.

In this convention

is equivalent to

Since this scheme violates traditional use of accidentals, an explanatory warning is included on the first page of every work notated in this manner.

Note however, that not all works lacking a key signature follow the above convention. Thus, in the absence of the initial warning,

is equivalent to

It is important to determine which notation scheme is in use for each piece. A few pieces, which are mostly atonal but contain a section in a reasonably well-defined key, employ more than one scheme. In such cases the notational scheme in use in each section is clearly indicated.

Overall, Ornstein was not punctilious about notation. Writing hurriedly, he was concerned principally with "getting the spots in the right place" i.e. specifying the right notes. He sometimes failed to indicate markings such as tempos or other performance cues, and he was little interested in "proper" spelling. He had no patience with such details and consequently some of his music is spelled in a highly unorthodox fashion. Perhaps scholars will someday make corrections, but the scores contained here adhere to his spelling.  (There is one exception: Tarantelle - S155 was originally written using accidentals throughout. As the piece is largely in the key of C# minor it was converted - with his concurrence - to that key).

In some of his works, segments of music more or less in a traditional key are intermixed with music that is either atonal or only fleetingly in a particular key. It's not impossible that he occasionally lapsed from the usual "accidental carry" mode into the "no carry" mode or vice-versa, leaving the reader to untangle what he meant. Ornstein was not a patient proof-reader, and this, together with his indifference to spelling, leads to occasional ambiguities in his scores.


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