Wednesday, June 25, 2014

Thinking outside the page turn

I was inspired to reveal some of my secrets involving unorthodox page turning by a recent blog I read in which it was suggested that one simply leave out some notes in the left hand in order to turn a page. This is a simple way to do it, although I am rarely given to simple answers when a more complicated one will produce better results (even when hardly anyone will notice). Also not one to leave out any notes whenever possible, I have often resorted to some fairly drastic measures in order to keep the musical flow smooth and unhindered; over time I have built up a fairly large repertoire of page turning schemes, involving at times a good deal of creativity.

First, we scan the work at hand for place where the player can safely manipulate the score without having to leave out notes. These may not coincide with the ends of pages at all, and may be anywhere on the page: near the top, the middle, the end, and so forth. This is made possible by a revolutionary technique, which we may refer to as that "one weird trick" which music publishers don't want you to know about (it is not, however, illegal).

Photocopying one or more pages of a piece you have already purchased. That way, you do not have to make the page turns where the publisher has put them; you can decide their placement yourself. These additional pages will in all probably be unbound which allows for more than a simple turn, but will also allow you to slide, add, remove, or flip that page out of the way when needed. Thus armed with these additional options, you may scan the entire piece for friendly places (such as passages for only one hand) in which a page turn might be made easily. If there are only two places among the seven pages where the composer has allowed you to play with one hand, divide the entire piece into three units so that the page turn may be made at those places. You may then 1) add a page or pages that were previously not on the music rack, such as on the bench next to you, on the horizontal part of the music stand or on top of the instrument, 2) take one or more pages away to reveal others positioned beneath them, 3) having taped several pages together, send them all to the floor with one heroic tumbling action, to reveal others, so long as the breeze created by your vehement action hasn't dislodged them too, 4) play one of the pages from memory, or from someplace other than the music rack, such as positioning it behind you and playing it by looking in a rear view mirror. This last I have never actually tried. Let me know how it goes.

I am also a proponent of memorizing a few measures (or lines) for those places where the publisher is obviously laughing at you by placing a dense forest of notes from the beginning of the last line of the page to the end of the first line of the next page.

We'll begin with something simple: the removal method. This week's postlude contains 8 pages. Four pages tall (and not in that annoying "organ" format in which the pages are so wide that it takes five Medieval "page-boys" to turn them)--four pages in standard format will fit on my music rack. This makes it easy to have the entire piece in front of me, in two parts. I have arranged the pages so that the first four, loose and single, are each facing me directly so that I can play them all left to right without doing anything, and the last four are likewise in order behind them. It is only necessary to remove each of the first four pages as it is finished, or sometime before the page behind it will have to be played. Many times I can do that myself, although this week I may have a page "turner" do it. Sometimes a single friendly passage for one hand alone will allow me to remove multiple pages using this method. The charm of this style of page turning is that if there is at least one passage for a single hand anywhere in the first four pages I can remove several at once; there need not be more than one or two such places in the music in which one hand is free, since it is not necessary to turn each page separately. This also means that a page turner does not need to be timely about removing the pages; just as long as the first page has been removed some time after I have played it and before I get to page five and the second page is gone before I get to page six everything will be fine.

Now for the slide method: Another way to assemble pages is to have them in two columns: an inbox and an outbox. As you begin playing a page in the right hand column, have the page turner slide the page across to the left hand column slowly so that you can follow its progress as it is moved, and then will have the ease of playing the following page when you are ready. The advantages of this are that if the pages are loose you do not have to worry about a violent turn upsetting your pages; your page turner does not have to be quick about it either, so if you have a slow page turner (mine always are) you will not need them to get you to the next page on time. This is particularly useful if you are virtually sight-reading for a concert (which happens to me regularly) and are worried that a tardy page turn will leave you with no idea what to play while it dawns on your page turner that all your hissing and spluttering is a gentle reminder that you are already two and a half lines into the next page.

If you have to do this yourself, of course, this is one solid way to deal with a situation in which it is quite simple to "turn" the page while you are playing a passage in the middle of the page, and next to impossible by the time you have gotten to the end.

To sum up: page "turning" really consists of four basic types:

Often a satisfyingly difficult problem can be gotten over by a combination of just two of these. To wit:

Last week's go at Bach's "St. Anne" fugue involved a plan where I played the first two pages (the first section), and then, while starting the second section with my left hand alone, slid that page to the left while I was playing it with my free right hand (which requires some dexterity) to expose the page following. I had made an extra copy of that page so there was nothing on the back side of that page. Having positioned the page which followed to that page's right, I could then play all of the three following pages without any further adjustment, until I got to the beginning of the third section where Bach again gives us a few measures with a single voice. At that point I turned the page I was currently playing, having memorized the last line of it, and was able to play that page and the two following it until the conclusion of the entire fugue, all by making two quick moves when the music allowed it.

Since there are places for four pages on my music rack, the opening placement of the pages looked like this:


After sliding page 3 to the left, which had page 4 behind it:


And finally, having turned page 4 over so that page 5, which was on its back, was visible, and also page 6, which was behind it:


It isn't easy to get through an entire Bach fugue without having to leave out any notes and being able to turn all the pages by yourself. But the results were worth it. Plus, if you have any strange corner of your brain that likes logic problems, this is a good way to give it exercise. And once you get started in the area of page-turnology there are really infinite solutions. And you will be a big hit at parties. Just check with the host about when they want everyone to leave.

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