A private letter to Paul O’Dette made public.

Published by Legacy of Matanya Ophee on

By Matanya Ophee

Note: I decided to publish this document at this time, 8 years after it was sent on its way, in order to give readers who are not familiar with the background of the apparent on-going conflict between myself and Dr. Arthur J. Ness regarding various subjects, a clear view of the context for this unfortunate state of events. Some historical background: 

My professional relationship with Arthur Ness began when John Ward asked me to accept him as a co-editor for my publication of the Königsberg Manuscript. I had no prior experience in publishing lute related material, hence completely trusted John Ward’s estimation that this would be enhance the quality of the published book, and would simplify John Ward’s own work on this project. I was told that Arthur Ness was a graduate student of Ward’s many years before and that they had good experience working together on other projects. The book was finally published in 1989 and instantly received almost universal acceptance by the lute community. The List of Subscribers, published inside the book itself, reads like a Who’s Who in the lute world.

A year later, at the 1990 Boston Early Music festival, both Ward and Ness approached me with a project of publishing a series called Monuments of the Lutenist Art, to which the acronym MoLA was soon given. The idea was to use the success of the Königsberg publication as a vehicle for the publication of other lute books. Chief among the works envisioned then was a second edition of the Lute Works of Francesco Da Milano, first published by the Harvard University Press in 1970 with Arthur Ness as the nominal author, the Lute Works of John Johnson, Marco dall’Aquila, Pierino and a few others. We agreed in principle to begin this project, and it was advertised widely in a special mailing we did in 1992, and in various other forums. The text for this advertisement, written by Arthur Ness, clearly spelled out the issues that were agreed to.

Out of respect to our senior statesman of the lute, John Milton Ward, we decided to first publish the Johnson book, and the others to follow in short order. When the production of the Johnson book came almost to its close, a serious difference of opinion between myself and Arthur Ness arose regarding the guitar fascicle. It seemed that our differences were much too far apart to be able to bridge them, with the end result that Arthur Ness resigned from his responsibilities as General Editor of the MoLA series. At this point, I received a phone call from Paul O’Dette. He was going to Boston in a few days and he would see if he can patch up the differences between Arthur and me and see if we can save this important project from going down the drain. He asked me to write to him in detail and tell him my side of the story and he will do what he can. This is the letter I wrote to him then (the text in red are commentaries I am making today, and were not part of the original letter): 

Editions Orphée, Inc.,
407 N. Grant Ave., Suite 400
Columbus, OH, 43215-2157
Phone: 614 224-4303
Fax: 614 224-1009
CompuServe: 73270,2310

(this address details are no longer valid. They are given here as a reference only).

January 19, 1994

Dear Paul,

I appreciate your concern for the welfare of the MoLA project. I am not sure what it was Arthur told you about our conflict, but it appears that he told you a lot. Discussing differences of opinion with one’s publisher with others, while one is under a valid contract to that publisher, is, to say the least, a deplorable exhibition of poor taste, and a thoroughly unprofessional decorum. Once he resigned and all his contracts with us were legally terminated, Arthur would have the freedom to criticize me personally, Editions Orphée and John M. Ward to his heart’s content. [On January 19, 1994, the contract between Editions Orphée and Arthur Ness was still in full force] Certainly there will be journal editors out there, Julia Craig-McFeely [At the time I wrote this letter, Ms. Craig-McFeely was only known to me through what Arthur Ness told me about her and her review of the Königsberg manuscript. I was not pleased with her remarks in that review regarding the technical aspects of the production, but we did meet over coffee in Cambridge, England, a few years later and discussed this most amicably]. for example, who will be delighted to give him all the space he wants for knocking the MoLA project down and humiliating his teacher and mentor John M. Ward. But as long as he is the General Editor of the MoLA, and as long as he is contractually obligated to us, speaking to others about me and John as he did in recent weeks is a non-starter. This would have never been even remotely conceivable if his publisher was Sylvie Minkoff or Bruce Phillips. I see no reason to be treated differently.

It appears that Arthur is under the impression that I have committed a great crime in refusing to accept his transcription of the Johnson book for guitar, the way it was presented to me. Hence, he communicated about this with you, and with Tim Crawford, Peter Danner and Pat O’Brien. He may have also communicated with others for all I know. In a sense, he had arbitrarily appointed judges and had given them a one sided testimony. I think it is time to tell you my side of the story.

The MoLA project came about like this: I have spent four years tracking down the Königsberg Manuscript because John asked me to. When I finally found it and secured the publishing agreement, it was John’s idea to invite Arthur to collaborate on this. It was also John’s idea to start the MoLA project and invite Arthur to be a Co-Editor of the series. It was also John’s idea to start MoLA with a second edition of the Francesco, something I was reluctant to accept at the time, since Chiesa’s edition was, and still [is] currently available. But I do have a great deal of respect to John Ward and I accepted his judgment in all these matters. This was in March of 1990, at the Early Music Show in Boston.

The MoLA project was announced, right from the very beginning, as having a guitar transcription fascicle “Fingered and Edited by Matanya Ophee and others.” The original text for this blurb was written then, in a letter dated May 1992 accompanied by a diskette of the same text, by Dr. Arthur J. Ness. In other words, it was understood from the very beginning that the guitar fascicles of the entire MoLA series were to be my responsibility. It was also understood by all that my expertise in the matter of editing guitar music is accepted and respected by all concerned. Originally, I also thought of doing the guitar versions for other volumes in the series. But I realized that I need to share the load here, and that’s why I asked Alan Rinehart to do the Weiss, and Richard Falkenstein to do the Pierino, with the full agreement of the General Editors of the MoLA, John Ward and Arthur Ness.

Arthur also asked to do the engraving work for the project. Besides my own work, I already had several people working for me as SCORE engravers and I could have used anyone of them. But Arthur indicated that he needed the extra income and besides, as a Co-Editor of the series, he will be in a better position to prevent serious mistakes if he engraved it himself. I agreed. He got himself a computer, and I sold him the SCORE package at cost. As the Russian proverb goes, No Good Deed Shall Ever Go Unpunished.

Back in November 1992, Arthur made some preliminary conversions of the keyboard to guitar notation. He sent me some samples and asked for my opinion. On receipt, I sent him several messages regarding what my requirements are. Over the years, I have established an Editions Orphée “house style” which served me very well. It has been copied by others, and I did have the honor of receiving for it the Paul Revere Award for Graphic Excellence for 1992. (For the 3rd volume of Pujol.) I know what I am doing, I know what’s acceptable in the guitar world, and to a large extent, I am the person who helped guitarists reach a consensus of opinion how guitar music should look like. I am not sure I actually mentioned to Arthur the concept of my “house style,” but I gave him precise parameters on how I want the guitar music to look like. I have been doing this with engravers for some 15 years now, [and] with few exceptions, I always received precisely what I wanted.

One of the principal elements in this style is the requirement that whatever the source, guitar music printed today should be re-notated to reflect a clear separation of the voices. I have had numerous arguments on this subject with early 19th century purists such as Erik Stenstadvold, Simon Wynberg, Brian Jeffery and others, who accused me of spoon-feeding the player with an interpretive notation that may or may not have had anything to do with the original composer. My rationale was that after a concentrated study of guitar pitch notation, starting with its first occurrence in 1758 to our day, I reached the conclusion that in the past, notation was more the province of the publisher’s and engraver’s than the composer’s. Often enough, this is still the case today. People did violinistic notation for guitar not because it was better but because it was cheaper to produce. More lines per page, less pages, less paper and metal plates to expend. Paper and metal engraving plates were expensive commodities. My object as an editor, as Walter Emery once put it, is not to produce what the composer wrote, but what he meant to write, as best as I can understand it. Now, if anybody takes exception to what I did, I always tell them where the source is, and they can go and check for themselves. In many of my editions, I actually reproduced a facsimile of the original so people can immediately see what has been done. I am telling you all of this to emphasize that philosophically, I am all for an interpretive transcription of lute tablature. It doesn’t matter to me if the source is Elizabethan tablature, a ca. 1808 autograph manuscript by François de Fossa, an 1817 print by Andrei Sychra, or a 1993 composition by Roberto Sierra. The notation for the guitar must be such that reflects the actual sound produced, without being overly pedantic and tedious. It must be easy to read. In essence, my point of view is in full accord with those lute scholars who, like John Ward and Arthur Ness, believe in their right to express an interpretive, editorial understanding of the original source. We saw eye to eye right from the beginning and that was the basis for our cooperation.

During the month of November 1992, Arthur and I exchanged electronically something like half a megabyte of text on the subject of how to notate the guitar fascicle of Johnson, and as far as I was concerned the matter has been resolved already then to my satisfaction. Arthur conveyed to me that he fully understood what I wanted from him and had no specific objections for doing it my way. I retain copies of this entire correspondence. What I required was this:

1. The transcription of Johnson was made by John Ward. He took the trouble to hire a lutenist (Douglas Freundlich) to insure that the KB transcription is playable on the lute and does not contain any theoretical polyphony which may look good on paper and be playable on the KB, but not on the instrument for which it was intended—the lute.

2. The guitar fascicle of the same book, cannot, under any circumstances, be a separate or a different transcription. At no time did either John Ward or I agree to appoint Arthur Ness as a co-author of the Johnson book and give him responsibility for making his own guitar transcription. The information contained in the guitar fascicle must be identical to that contained in the KB and both versions have one transcriber—John M. Ward.

The only difference between the two versions, besides the transposition a minor third lower and the use of a single staff, was to be the recalculation of note values, usually half the value of the KB, and normally only in the galliards. (In the Pavans, the note values were retained, but each bar was divided in two with a corresponding change in the time signature.) I am the one who proposed this idea, and it was accepted at the time by both editors—by John Ward with some reservations, and by Arthur Ness with enthusiasm. [And for a very good reason: Arthur’s 1970 transcription of the Francesco, employs even a more drastic reduction of note values.] The rationale here was that this is going to be a practical edition for guitarists, people who may not be aware of current attitudes towards this question. I hasten to qualify this: some guitarists are perfectly capable of reading music in 3/2, 6/4 and other compound meters. The great majority though, particularly the many students who would, hopefully, use this edition as their introduction to Elizabethan lute music, are more at home with 3/4, 6/8 and 4/4. It is a tough call to make between the need to educate the public and the need to sell enough copies to make this thing at least pay for itself. I did not see any need to duplicate the KB transcription, in which all the theoretical questions have been addressed by the author, and opted for making the guitar fascicle more saleable, rather than more “correct” in regard to note values. Arthur, who applied the same logic to his entire Francesco book, agreed with me then.

3. I made perfectly clear that under no circumstances should the guitar version contain any elements whatsoever which are not playable on the guitar. What’s good for the KB and the lute, should also be good for the guitar, particularly when the topography of the fingerboard of both (guitar tuned 3rd in F#) is the same and the only difference is the string length. Now, I accept that a player may induce a listener to believe that an internal voice is continuing to sound when in fact it does not, as you told me you often do in performance. I do not accept that an editor should presume to spoon-feed the performer with pre-masticated information on where and when to do that. Any performance directly from the tablature is an interpretive realization of the voice-leading. Some people are better at it than others and they become Paul O’Dettes and Hopkinson Smiths. Others are not as good at it and they may well find the editor’s choice of interpretation a useful device. Back in 1972 Jack Duarte, together with Diana Poulton came up with an interesting device in their transcriptions of the Varietie. The idea was to notate theoretical polyphony which cannot actually be performed, by writing it in full, but distinguishing the performable notation from the unperformable with specially designed slurs. The result was total clutter and unreadability. I may be wrong, but as far as I know, no one edition of lute music for guitar published since then had ever accepted the system.

The problem with notating theoretically correct but physically impractical or impossible voice-leading is that in today’s market, such editions are not saleable. Period. The level of critical review in the guitar world is such that one cannot allow such editions to be printed, and hope to survive in this market.

4. I also specified that horizontal displacement of voices in a chord should be done only when absolutely necessary. For examples: when one voice used a stemless note (a whole) and the other use stems, or when one voice uses flags or beams and the other do not. I see no point in having a four voice chord made up entirely of quarter notes (or halves or whatever) separated horizontally. Separating the several notes of the chord horizontally does not give the player any additional information about converting the symbology into finger movements and thus create the sound which is not already contained in the notation.

Daniel Benko’s transcriptions are famous for this silly self-indulgence, in itself a poor attempt to emulate the style of Pujol, where you see a six-note e minor chord where all the notes have a value of quarter, and each note has a separate stem. It is so much easier to read when all the notes of the chord share the same stem. Even when the notes of the chord are of different values, or even dotted, sharing the same stem enormously simplify the reading. Dieter Kirsch’s transcription of the Santino uses this approach, and to my knowledge, it has been accepted. At least, Peter Päffgen, the publisher thereof, tells me that so far, not a single critical opinion of the edition has been recorded anywhere, particularly in regard to its notation methodology. Arthur’s claim that Kirsch’s edition was “discredited” is based on what? Discredited by whom? where?

Recently, Arthur expressed the notion that what I am doing is a “modified Kirsch.” That is utter non-sense. If anything, what Kirsch is doing, is a modified Ophee. The Santino edition was never used by me as a model and the only reason I ever mentioned it is because it is a recent edition which reflects current attitudes towards this question. It is disingenuous of Arthur to express any reservations today towards Dieter Kirsch. Last year, I approached him with an idea of producing a mandora manuscript which the Glinka Museum proposed to me and it was Arthur who suggested Dieter as a qualified editor and transcriber of this volume.

I have exchanged views on this problem with many of the leading authorities on the subject in the guitar world, and I am sure my view represents current thinking on the subject. No one pays attention to Pujol-Benko’s methodology and there is a good reason why these books are no longer in print. Perhaps I need to mention here that it was Arthur himself who drew my attention to this issue, when he asked me, back in November 1992, if his horizontal displacement is “not too fussy.” I told him then that it was and that he should not do it. He agreed and then went ahead and did it anyway.

To a certain extent guitar notation, as notation for any polyphonic instrument as the piano or the harp, is conjectural. Guitar notation is somewhat like tablature. For example, in a typical early 19th century guitar arpeggio in p.i.m.a.m.i. texture, it is possible to precisely notate the duration of the bass and the soprano, but notation of the middle voices must be accepted as a generality which only tells the player where to place his fingers, but not for how long. Try and notate precisely the durations of all the notes in the first Etude of Villa-Lobos! [Eventually, I made up an imaginary farce on this subject, and published it in GALI under the assumed named of Jan T. Parazi. The pseudonym used is an imitation of a children’s riddle in Hebrew. Say Jan T. Parazi several times in a row…]

Guitarists have been struggling with this issue since 1770, when Baillon published the first example of polyphonic notation “a l’instar de la harpe o du piano” indicating a clear separation of voices. The issue has never been decided in any final manner, and even today, you can still see modern composers write guitar music as if it was a violin, something Arthur will hasten to label as Schrade-type notation. The issue for me is simple: there is no horizontal displacement in the KB, (except in the case of the interval of a second,) because you have two staves to work with. The guitar should not be any different. However, when this is squeezed unto one staff, certain adjustments have to be made so the durations are clear. When you have a whole note as one of the voices, of course you have to displace it, if it collides with a stemmed note, so no one thinks it has a stem and therefore it is only a half. Similarly, if one of the notes has a flag or a beam, it has to be displaced so no one thinks the flag or the beam belongs to other notes in the chord. But if there are only stemmed notes, of whatever duration, there is no need to do any displacements, since all the notes will have to be struck on the same beat. Some will be held for a quarter, and some will be held for a half, but there is no confusion. It is a trade off between the clarity of the polyphony and a clarity of the rhythm. One is as important as the other, but since we have already a KB version, and the guitar fascicle is clearly labeled as a “practical edition for guitarists” I see no reason to compromise clarity of rhythm in favor of an academic clarity of the polyphony. Should we be doing a book with only a guitar transcription, with no KB to go with it, one might wish to re-examine this policy. However, judging from Dieter Kirsch’s experience with the Santino, I see little or no problem with this.[1]It should be clear from this that Arthur’s accusation that I am using a Schrade-type notation is without merit whatsoever. The polyphony and note durations have already been set by John Ward in … Continue reading

Someplace along the line, Arthur either decided that my requirements are not his concern, or simply forgot about them. Had he disagreed with me at any time, we could have discussed the issue and resolve our differences amicably. I never heard from him anything about this issue until he finally submitted the last engravings. The final submission of material for the Johnson was agreed by all concerned to be July 15th 1993. Based on this, I launched the subscription drive and announced a publication date of September 15th [1993!].

I finally did receive the material in November 1993, with a specific request from Arthur to look over the guitar notation and say what I think about it. I did precisely that, and all hell broke loose.

One thing became apparent: the guitar notation was done by Arthur on the basis of his original KB input, before this was corrected for unplayability by Douglas Freundlich. In other words, if there were unplayable spots in the guitar, it wasn’t Arthur fault and there was no problem. All that [was] needed to be done is compare the last version of the KB to the guitar and make sure that they agree. I could not then, and I do not understand now, why Arthur had taken such an exception to a simple request such as this, particularly when I did not ask him to do it—I was going to do it myself.

When I started going through the entire book with a magnifying glass (Like this: guitar notation on the screen, KB printout on the left and tablature printout on the right, reading all three of them bar by bar, directly on the guitar.) I found some really alarming things committed by Arthur in the process for which he had no authority nor permission from either myself or the author.

He had taken upon himself to do an entirely different transcription for the guitar than the one made by John Ward. He not only converted the KB notation, he also went back to the original sources and checked everything. This was highly commendable and if he did find some errors in John’s transcription, I am sure he communicated his find to John. However, for whatever reasons of his own Arthur Ness committed here a serious breach of professional etiquette by betraying the trust of John Ward as his co-editor, and by executing an engraving for which I paid him good money, and which is not what he was contracted to do. As the engraver of the guitar version, he was not expected nor permitted to:

1. change the original voice leading as envisioned by John to something which he thought was more correct.

2. Change John’s note values (relatively speaking) to durations, particularly in the treble and middle voices, which are, to put it mildly, wishful thinking and cannot be executed on the guitar unless you had six fingers that are a foot long each. This is not an exaggeration. See examples.

3. Insert on occasion musical text which God only knows where it came from, since it is different entirely than the KB and/or the tablature, without so much as mention to either John or me that he had done so, and what was the basis or the source for his editorial change. One passage in the Marigold Pavan was something I could easily check, as I happen to have on hand a copy of the Königsberg Manuscript from which it came . . .

4. Arbitrarily decide NOT to do guitar versions of the bandora pieces, with the exception of the Almaine in which he combined the lute and bandora versions into one piece which never existed before.

5. For whatever reason, did not execute a tablature version for the Long Pavan.  [That statement was not correct. At the time, I simply could not find that engraving in any of the diskettes submitted by Arthur. I eventually did find it and it went into the book.

On November 17th, we all met together in John’s house in Cambridge and went over all of this. At the end of the day, it seemed to me, we all reached a consensus of opinion. Arthur fully agreed with me then, in the presence of John Ward and Doug Freundlich, that indeed we cannot allow any unplayable passages to remain, and that indeed he was “over fussy” in separating the voices horizontally. He even promised me to look over the guitar, and let me have a list of places where his “Fussiness factor” should be corrected. It was fully agreed then that the guitar fascicle would be published as “Transcribed by John M. Ward, Scored for guitar by Arthur J. Ness, fingered and edited by Matanya Ophee.” In fact, it was Arthur who suggested this formula.

It was then that John discovered the missing bandora-for-guitar transcriptions and asked me what can be done about it. Since Arthur was complaining of some health problems, I volunteered to do these conversions myself.

So I did that. Not knowing anything about the bandora or its tuning, I looked up Ian Harwood’s article in the New Grove. According to this, a six course bandora would be tuned something like a guitar with sixth in G scordatura.

If one is to follow the logic of lute = guitar with 3rd in F#, here it would be bandora = guitar with 6th in G. No sane guitarist would use such a scordatura. This would require raising the pitch of the 6th string by a minor third. It will either break before that, or at least impose enormous load on the bridge and the soundboard. Replacing the string with a light weight string is a viable option, but since the book contains only four short pieces, it is unlikely anyone would bother with the result that the bandora pieces would be entirely ignored. The perfect example of that folly is Ruggero Chiesa’s transcriptions of Brescianello’s colascione music where a similar tuning occurs. In some of the pieces, he does in fact call for a 6th in G scordatura. I have never seen any of these pieces recorded or performed by guitarists. Another silly self-indulgent mumbo-jumbo is Benko’s transcriptions of Kapsberger’s chitarrone pieces. You never told me what you personally think of Benko’s work, but I can’t believe you would take it seriously.

The thing to do, then, was to apply here this logic: the tuning of the source should be emulated, if possible, but the important thing is to make sure the music is reproduced on the target instrument as faithfully as possible, without a wholesale chopping off of the bass line, in whatever key it works best.

When done, I sent both John and Arthur copies of this conversion. (Copy enclosed for your perusal.) [These are now published in the guitar fascicle of the Lute Works of John Johnson].  The purpose was, as we always did it in the past, to make sure that if a mistake has been committed here, someone else would be able to catch it. And then, all hell broke loose once again, as if we had never met in Cambridge and never agreed to anything there. If you so desire, I will be happy to supply you with the diatribes I was bombarded [by e-mail.] with by Arthur at that point. But I’d rather not. It’s bad enough I had to read this abusive vituperation.

Arthur has absolutely no reason to be offended. Besides the bandora pieces, which were done by me at John’s request and after we agreed that Arthur is not responsible in any way for the guitar edition of Johnson, he had not seen yet any of my changes to his “scoring” of the guitar. The samples of my editing attached herewith, have not yet been seen by Arthur. Judge for yourself then. After Arthur agreed to the elimination of the “fussiness factor” and the putting in order all unplayable situations the end result is something he should be actually happy with. It is disingenuous for Arthur to so much as imply, as he did to me several times, that because I am not a famous performer, I do not have the qualifications to judge what is or is not playable on the guitar.

I tried to reason with Arthur any way I can. I even organized this meeting in John’s house so that we could resolve all our differences face to face. To have Arthur stick a knife in my back, and in a sense, also in John’s back, is a tough medicine to swallow. To have him threaten me with “taking his Francesco elsewhere” because he doesn’t accept that in the case of Johnson he overstepped his authority and tried, surreptitiously, to assume authorship for a book written by someone else, is not something I am going to accept nicely. No, he is doing everything he can to discredit the Johnson edition, even before it was published.

What had happened here, is that Arthur had tried to force me to publish a guitar version of Johnson which is unsalable, unperformable, and against everything this publishing house stands for, and against everything we all agreed to many times. Since he couldn’t get away with it, he decided to black-mail me with a threat—taking his Francesco elsewhere. So what am I to do? agree to the inevitable demise of the publishing venture?

None of this would have been necessary, if we were dealing with a rational person who can remember from one day to the next what it was we agreed upon, or even discussed. I am very well aware of the word compromise, but I cannot possible compromise the integrity of John Ward as author of the Johnson book, just to assuage Arthur Ness imagined grievances. There aren’t any. I cannot also compromise the financial well being of this venture by agreeing to put out guitar music which is not playable on the guitar, or written out in the most discombobulated manner possible, using a polyphony that could not have existed in the mind of John Johnson, and certainly has not been proposed by John Ward. Besides that, everything is negotiable. I would be the last one to make any critical remarks about Arthur’s transcription of Francesco for the KB. None of my business and outside my frame of competence. If he can find a publisher that will agree to do it without a parallel guitar edition, then there will be no problem. [As is well known by now, Arthur Ness has not published a second edition of his Francesco book since 1994]. But as long as he is contractually obligated to me, he will have to accept a guitar edition under the terms we agreed to before.

As for now, the Johnson is proceeding nicely, albeit several months behind schedule. Just about ready to send it to the printer. All three fascicles will have the same identical information, the same organization, the same table of contents, and the same high level of scholarly and graphical excellence. I am proud to be associated with this project, and I shall do the utmost I can to insure that its author is happy with the result. Lutenists and guitarists world wide would only benefit from this. As for the rest of the MoLA project, I shall resist all efforts by Arthur Ness to sabotage it. I would like to do it as neatly and as quietly as possible. But forced to protect my credibility and the viability of this publishing house from any threat whatsoever, I shall have to take whatever actions are necessary to achieve the purpose. Otherwise, I might as well go fishing. Literally.

I would suggest that at this point in time there is little to be gained by any further communications with Arthur Ness. His actions so far exhibited a high degree of irrationality and I have a feeling that he is not in a very stable state of health now. You suggested you will go and talk to him. You will do of course, whatever you think is right, regardless of what I say. But I have a feeling that letting Arthur come to his senses on his own, and giving him time to do it, will be a better course of action. Perhaps, once he had seen the published Johnson, he would realize how silly and how counter-productive this whole exercise had been. [That, Alas, did not happen!]

You and Pat can help us by sharing your expertise and insights with the author of the book, John M. Ward. The sooner we get your corrections, the sooner we will be able to publish Johnson and get the entire MoLA off the ground successfully. [That too, had never happened. At the time, I submitted full sets of proofs to both Paul O’Dette and Pat O’Brien, in response to their demand to be part of this project. I have never received any marked up proofs from either of them].

Nuff said.

CC: John Ward, Peter Danner, Pat O’Brien, Tim Crawford. (Portions of this letter were sent to Tim on a previous occasion.)

[The following examples were printed at the end of my January 19, 1994 letter, copies of which were sent then to the people listed above. I have never heard from Paul O’Dette about his meeting in Boston with Arthur].

Example 1.

This bizarre figure must be an oversight that some how made its way into the keyboard, before Doug Freundlich had a chance to catch it. Nevertheless, if Arthur considers himself a knowledgeable transcriber, for either guitar or lute, he should have brought this to John’s attention, before it was presented to me as a final engraving ready to print. This was exactly the spot which I indicated to Arthur as being problematic and which prompted his tantrum There are about 60 similar occurrences throughout the book. [the A example is the engraving of this passage as it was submitted to me by Arthur. The B example is what I had to to do to render this playable and the way it was eventually published.)

Example 2.

Measure 9 is an example of Arthur’s assumption of authorship. There is nothing in John’s KB transcription to indicate that the soprano voice is equal in duration to the bass, and that the melody actually resides in the alto, not in the soprano. The question is not which is more correct. For all I know Arthur may be right and John is wrong. But this is not Arthur’s book. As the engraver he cannot assume editorial authority and apply his judgment in preference to that of the author’s without first securing the author’s agreement. Guitaristically, this works either way. What matters to me is that the author’s text has been corrupted without his knowledge or agreement. I cannot allow this to happen at Editions Orphée. There are about 250 similar occurrences throughout the book.

Example 3.

As you can see, the same assumption of authorship here, changing the durations of some notes in the opening chords of mm. 44, 45 and 46. Not much of a problem in 45 and 46, but m. 44 is another matter. The notation requires the player to hold the tenor and alto voices for the duration of a dotted half. How do you do that and still move to fret 8 for the high C? [of course it could be done by shifting to position IX, but that would have been a distortion of the indications in the tablature]. I find it insulting that Arthur would question my judgment on this question, just because I am not a world famous performer. Here is an example of a scholar taking upon himself responsibility in an area in which he clearly have no demonstrable expertise[2]How many guitar editions with Arthur Ness as editor do you know of? [One might ask the same question today, 8 years later!] and then throws a tantrum when confronted with his incompetence. The point of discarding such notation is that those who write for guitar magazines today, Graham Wade, Angelo Gilardino, Donald Bousted, Garth Baxter, to mention a few names, pounce on things like that with glee as a perfect proof of the publisher’s shortcomings. I cannot afford to let this happen. There are approx. 180 similar occurrences throughout the book.

Example 4.

Here is an example of an entire passage in the guitar which uses a totally different musical text than the keyboard. How did this happen? I would grant Arthur this benefit of a doubt: perhaps his text in the guitar is a more correct reading of the source and the mistake is in the keyboard. If this is in fact so, it is an inexcusable sloppy scholarship on his part to insert the “correct” text in the guitar but not in the keyboard or the tablature. It is doubly inexcusable if, as the engraver of all three fascicles, he executed this without so much as alerting his employer, me, to a discrepancy in the production. If he is right, he is wrong not to have brought this to anybody’s attention. If he is wrong and his reading of the source is faulty, then you can well understand the problem I have on my hands. There are about 25 similar occurrences throughout the book.

Example 5.

I agree that Arthur’s is a better representation of the music than the KB. Hence, I suggested to John we retain it, with a slight modification of the third beat.[3]To have left the double stem on the E, would have induced guitarists to play a unison of II-f and I-a, something the tablature does not call for. Even though it was done surreptitiously, it is still a good idea. Final decision is, of course, in the hands of John.

M. 8: Note: the tablature ciphers are vertically aligned, indicating that all notes of the chord are to be played at the same time. In the keyboard transcription notes are all vertically aligned with the soprano and alto sharing the same stem. What useful purpose is achieved by horizontally displacing the same notes in the guitar? Why sharing the same stem in my version is the awful bogey man “Schrade type notation”, or the more recent “modified Kirsch”, and the same sharing which occurs in the KB is not? A C Major chord in the first position does not acquire any hallowed connotations of a super-sophisticated counterpoint and polyphony, just because it is a couple of centuries older than the same C Major chord in the first position originated by Carulli or Sor.

M. 9: The first and third beats are another typical example of the problem expressed in Example 3 above. Examples of this nature are too numerous to count. It took me some three weeks of concentrated work to undo all this damage. Now, in retrospect, it would have been faster and cheaper to simply discard the entire Ness engraving of the guitar and start from scratch.

Matanya Ophee.

Copyright © 2002 by Matanya Ophee. All Rights Reserved.


1 It should be clear from this that Arthur’s accusation that I am using a Schrade-type notation is without merit whatsoever. The polyphony and note durations have already been set by John Ward in the KB. He did not use a Schrade type notation and did not use any horizontal displacement of notes. In the guitar version, all of John’s durations have been maintained religiously, and a certain degree of displacement was introduced in order to compensate for the crowding factor of the single staff.
2 How many guitar editions with Arthur Ness as editor do you know of? [One might ask the same question today, 8 years later!]
3 To have left the double stem on the E, would have induced guitarists to play a unison of II-f and I-a, something the tablature does not call for.


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