Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

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Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

Postby Doug Kerr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 8:38 am

It would be nice if we could have Encore, during play, honor various marks that indicate a disruption of the meter.

The four marks I will discuss are illustrated here:

Fermata_etc_01.gif
Fermata_etc_01.gif (789 Bytes) Viewed 4576 times

Fermata

The fermata (sometimes colloquially called a "bird's eye") is a mark most commonly placed over a note top indicate that the note is to be substantially prolonged.

I could imagine several ways in which the fermata could be numerically specified, including:

• By extension of the face value of the note by a multiple, which could be entered to perhaps one decimal place (e.g., 1.5 [times]).

But I would think that the "discount" given by the duration parameter would still keep its absolute length. For example a quarter note (which we might think of as having a face value of 240 "ticks"), with a duration parameter of 90%, normally sounds for 216 ticks, and be followed by a gap of 24 ticks, occupying a total time of 240 ticks.

If its "fermata multiplier" were 1.5, then perhaps we would consider it to occupy a total time of 360 ticks; it would sound for 336 ticks, and be followed by a gap of 24 ticks.

• By just suspending the clock during the note for a duration described in fractions of a beat (perhaps specified in "ticks").

I am really most attracted to the latter.

A fermata mark in Encore today is "attached to" a note", and that would remain appropriate.

Breath mark (comma)

A comma placed above the staff (usually between two notes) indicates a "breathing place". This can have either of both of two meanings:
• A place in which the player of a wind instrument is advised to take a breath. This may or may not indicate a disruption in the meter; if it does not, the breathing time is presumably stolen from one of the adjacent notes.
• Corresponding brief pause in the rhythm.

I leave it up to the real musicians here to refine this concept.

But my guess is that if Encore were to "play" it, it should be taken as a pause in the rhythm. I would suggest again that the amount of the pause (or even theft of time if that mode were supported) be denominated in ticks.

The breath mark should probably be attached to the preceding note.

Encore today includes a comma mark, but it is not attached to a note.

Caesura

This sign is a "double slash" normally starting on the second staff line from the top and crossing the top staff line.

It indicates a brief interruption in the music, and is ordinarily placed between two notes.

If Encore would honor this mark, I would suggest again that the amount of the pause be denominated in ticks.

The caeusura mark should probably be attached to the preceding note. A caesura mark, when deposited, should presumably automatically be initially placed in the proper vertical position.

Encore today includes a double slash mark, but it is not attached to a note, and does not have an automatic initial vertical position.

Break tick

In hymn scoring, it is common to use a slightly different symbol whose significance is, for all practical purposes so far as I know, the same as the caesura. It is a short vertical line crossing the top line of the staff. I don't know if it has a formal name.

I suspect the intent here is to have a mark that is not as visually intrusive as a caesura mark.

It would be nice to be able to use this in exactly the same way as a caesura.

About ticks

Regarding "ticks", there is no uniform standard for this subdivision of a quarter note. In MIDI files, however, a subdivision of a quarter note may be asserted (and is then followed in the display of "position" in the score in a MIDI editor/sequencer. In a MIDI file emitted by Encore, that assertion is 240 "ticks" per quarter note.

Doug
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Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

Postby commnthings » Sat Aug 15, 2009 9:39 am

Doug,

Great suggestions! I know that the fermata one has been kicking around for a while.

One aspect of the fermata is that on a multi-part score with different time value notes in the affected measures in each score (e.g. a whole note rest with fermata in staff 1 and a straight-time dotted half note rest and a played quarter note with the fermata in staff 2) there has to be a way to reconcile the entire measure. The average musician won't be able to figger out that the quarter note fremata gets a (for example) 1.5 multiplier while the whole rest fermata gets a 1.125 (?) multiplier.

I'm traveling with an under-equipped notebook and can't provide a visual example - I'll post one later today when I get home.

Bob
Last edited by commnthings on Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:10 pm, edited 4 times in total.
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Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

Postby Doug Kerr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 10:42 am

Hi, Bob,

commnthings wrote:Doug,

Great suggestions! I know that the fermata one has been kicking around for a while.

Yes, I have pressed for it before.

One aspect of the fermata is that on a multi-part score with different time value notes in the affected measures in each score (e.g. a whole note rest with fermata in staff 1 and a straight-time dotted half note rest and a played quarter note with the fermata in staff 2) there has to be a way to reconcile the entire measure. The average musician won't be able to figger out that the quarter note fremata gets a (for example) 1.5 multiplier while the whole rest fermata gets a 1.125 (?) multiplier.


Good point. This is perhaps another reason to use the "stop the clock for x ticks" way to specify the impact of the fermata.

I'm traveling with an under-equipped notebook and can't provide a visual example - I'll post one later today when I get home.


That will be good. I've also seen an example in a notation textbook.

Thanks.

Best regards,

Doug
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Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

Postby Denkster » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:27 pm

Doug Kerr wrote:• By just suspending the clock during the note for a duration described in fractions of a beat (perhaps specified in "ticks").

I am really most attracted to the latter.
Sounds good to me too.

Some issues must be detailed further.
  • If 'the clock stops in one voice' that clock should be 'stopped' for all voices of all staves at the same time, for the same duration.
  • Meaning: if you put such a mark in one staff, it should be placed automatically in all other staves, at that same point in time.
  • Another complication: One voice in one staff has a fermata, the other voices rest. Where will the fermata in the other staves be attached to?
  • If the user removes a fermata or breath pause from one voice, should the system remove all corresponding fermata's?
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Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

Postby Doug Kerr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 12:40 pm

Hi, Eveline,

Denkster wrote:Some issues must be detailed further.
  • If 'the clock stops in one voice' that clock should be 'stopped' for all voices of all staves at the same time, for the same duration.
  • Meaning: if you put such a mark in one staff, it should be placed automatically in all other staves, at that same point in time.
  • Another complication: One voice in one staff has a fermata, the other voices rest. Where will the fermata in the other staves be attached to?

At least one notation text speaks of this issue and indicates that a rests should receive the fermata (of course there is no technical sense of "attachment" there, but the concept seems applicable).
  • If the user removes a fermata or breath pause from one voice, should the system remove all corresponding fermata's?

  • All good elaborations.

    That's why we get the big bucks!

    Thanks

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby commnthings » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:10 pm

    Here's the example I talked about.

    Bob
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    Playable Fermata-1.gif
    Playable Fermata-1.gif (3.27 KiB) Viewed 4578 times
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Doug Kerr » Sat Aug 15, 2009 7:28 pm

    Hi, Bob,

    commnthings wrote:Here's the example I talked about.

    Ah, excellent. I'll have to think about how one rule or another would make that work.

    Here, the dotted half on staff 2 is extended to cover the extension of both the eighths in staff one.

    Seems perfectly reasonable musically, but it does illustrate why our doctrine can't be trivial!

    And in fact, the scorist might in fact have to do something "supernatural" in this particular case. Our job might not be to take care of it but to ensure that the tools are available!

    This might be a case where the scorist just needs to apply a 100 tick "stretch" for each of the eighths on staff 1 and a 200 tick stretch on the dotted 'arf in staff 2 (telling some dialog when these were applied "not to try and synchronize these across staves,").

    But in fact the program could in fact audit what was done and show a warning (a red light over the measure, or such) if it didn't add up.

    Thanks a lot.

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby commnthings » Sat Aug 15, 2009 11:25 pm

    Doug,

    Here are some comments from a choral singer (20 years serious singing)
    Doug Kerr wrote:A comma placed above the staff (usually between two notes) indicates a "breathing place". This can have either of both of two meanings:
    • A place in which the player of a wind instrument is advised to take a breath. This may or may not indicate a disruption in the meter; if it does not, the breathing time is presumably stolen from one of the adjacent notes.
    • Corresponding brief pause in the rhythm.

    Caesura
    This sign is a "double slash" normally starting on the second staff line from the top and crossing the top staff line.
    It indicates a brief interruption in the music, and is ordinarily placed between two notes.

    Those are both valid interpretations of how the comma/breath mark is used in choral music. Most times the breath mark does not disturb the meter but some times it does. In this case the composer/arranger uses a different mark to denote the seriousness of the pause. The caesura (//) is most commonly used. In this case, like the fermata, it increases the measure duration and if it is deleted in one staff it needs to be deleted in the others to reconcile the measure duration. It would, of course, be attached to a note. My thought is that it should be placed AFTER the associated note. Its biggest effect is to make the following note(s) act like a pickup note(s) for the following measure.

    The more common breath mark, the comma, is typically advisory only and should not alter the measure duration. They are typically placed quite randomly when comparing one staff against another and are most commonly associated with the lyrics. If an arranger uses them he typically means breathe here (and not in other places).

    My feeling regarding the "tick" is that it should behave more like the caesura than the comma. The only hymn book I normally see (Episcopal 1982) typically breaks a measure across two staves at the point you'd insert the tick and ignores any associated meter changes.

    This may not be completely coherent as I've just returned from a week of intensive handbell ringing (a workshop) and my brain is still ringing. How you choose to implement these in Encore depends on how faithfully you want the MIDI playback to represent the composer's desires. I think the fermata should be a high priority. If you do implement that then the caesura/tick might be fairly easy. Giving the user the ability to select an attached/playable pause (caesura/tick) and a simple unattached text item (comma) would be a good thing.

    Keep up the great work!

    Bob
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Doug Kerr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:14 am

    Hi, Bob,

    Thank you so much for your insight here.
    commnthings wrote:My feeling regarding the "tick" is that it should behave more like the caesura than the comma. The only hymn book I normally see (Episcopal 1982) typically breaks a measure across two staves at the point you'd insert the tick and ignores any associated meter changes.

    Yes, EH 1982 is the work I most frequently consult!

    I think the fermata should be a high priority. If you do implement that then the caesura/tick might be fairly easy. Giving the user the ability to select an attached/playable pause (caesura/tick) and a simple unattached text item (comma) would be a good thing.

    Well said, though perhaps the comma should be attachable (but not playable).

    I am now attracted to the following notion regarding fermatas, caesuras, and Episcopal ticks. I''ll use the fermata as an example. Assume two or more staves.

    We would emplace a fermata "on" a certain note in one staff. A pop-up dialog would let us set the "hiatus" in ticks.

    After we execute, a warning note would come up:

      This measure has unequal total fermata or caesura delays in the different staves
    Then, if we went to apply a fermata to another staff, the offered hiatus value would be that same one, since the most common thing (!) would be to have a single fermata in each staff. But one could do otherwise if warranted (as for example the hiatus in this staff were to be "distributed").

    Only after the measures in all staves were "balanced", hiatus-wide, would the warning disappear (although we could dismiss it with a button if we, for some reason, did not want to cure the imbalance at the moment).

    Of course, we should be able to inspect the properties of a fermata or caesura to ascertain its hiatus value (just as we need to be able to inspect the properties of any parametric item, including notes).

    Presumably fermatas and caesuras would have a voice property (as they would need to, having an association with a note). But that boon brings with it a complication.

    Imagine an SATB short score, with two parts on the each staff. If the two parts on a staff have a consistent meter (at least in the measure of interest, or at least in the pertinent portion of teh measure), then presumably in the printed notation, a single fermata would suffice for both notes of the "chord". But with the fermata having a "voice" property, it would presumably only generate a hiatus in one of the notes.

    Thus (as in the case of dynamic marks, although I am still being fought on this), we have the need for a "plenary" fermata, one that would influence the notes of all voices that occur at a consistent instant (the exact qualifying definition of that certainly needing further refinement). Perhaps the way to do this would be a check box on the pop-up "hiatus-setting" dialog: "Applies to all voices". (It should probably be on by default.)

    Perhaps the same coding notion that allows a plenary mark could be employed here (maybe a value for the voice property of "-1" would mean "applies to all voices").

    For the "Episcopal tick", it would need an ever broader scope: "applies to all voices, all staves". Perhaps that would be its default.

    Thanks again.

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Denkster » Sun Aug 16, 2009 9:41 am

    Doug Kerr wrote:Seems perfectly reasonable musically, but it does illustrate why our doctrine can't be trivial!
    Indeed.
    Doug Kerr wrote:And in fact, the scorist might in fact have to do something "supernatural" in this particular case.
    Isn't music always supernatural? :)
    Doug Kerr wrote:Our job might not be to take care of it but to ensure that the tools are available!
    Agreed!
    Doug Kerr wrote:This might be a case where the scorist just needs to apply a 100 tick "stretch" for each of the eighths on staff 1 and a 200 tick stretch on the dotted 'arf in staff 2 (telling some dialog when these were applied "not to try and synchronize these across staves,").
    I would rather try to approach it from the musical side.
    1. If there is a fermata in one voice of one staff,
      Then all musicians (all voices, all staves) must have a fermata at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata.
    2. If all musicians have - at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata - a note or rest with the same face value as the one with the first fermata,
      Then add the fermata sign to all these notes
    3. If not all musicians have - at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata - notes with the same face value,
      Then the voice with the shortest note - at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata - is leading.
    4. The leading voice determines the length of the fermata.
    With this algorithm, a program can find the leading voice for every fermata, and thus find the length of the total fermata.
    Doug Kerr wrote:But in fact the program could in fact audit what was done and show a warning (a red light over the measure, or such) if it didn't add up.
    IMHO Encore being a notation program should refrain from bothering the writer with MIDI playback issues, like the length of fermata playback. If the writer demands 'correct' playback, that would be another line of work, where the program could su7ggest solutions as well as emit warnings.

    Interesting subject, thanks!
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Doug Kerr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 11:33 am

    Hi, Eveline,

    Denkster wrote:
    1. If there is a fermata in one voice of one staff,
      Then all musicians (all voices, all staves) must have a fermata at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata.
    2. If all musicians have - at a moment in time, covered by the face value of the note with the fermata - a note or rest with the same face value as the one with the first fermata,
      Then add the fermata sign to all these notes

    But it is not at all reasonable in, say a staff with a soprano and alto part, with identical meter (at least at the point of interest), to infest the printed score with the appearance of two fermata marks - we don't see that in printed scores in such cases. (See Read, Gardner, Music Notation, p 107, Example 7-22c.)

    So indeed we must be able to have the effect of the one fermata sign be on all the "matching" notes in the staff.

    It's just like the matter of the "all voice" dynamic mark (which we also don't have).

    Indeed the technical must support the (practical) musical.

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby commnthings » Sun Aug 16, 2009 5:36 pm

    Doug and Eveline,

    Several thoughts, now that my brain is no longer ringing.
    Doug Kerr wrote:Well said, though perhaps the comma should be attachable (but not playable).

    Attaching the comma to a note will be tricky since it may need adjustment both vertically and horizontally. If it is attached as a playable comma it needs to be placed to the right and be adjustable both vertically and horizontally. It should "steal" time from the attached note to its left so that the following note occurs exactly on its metrically correct time.

    The following two pertain to the caesura and Episcopal Tick.

    I've attached a couple of examples showing common usages of both. The first example shows a simple Episcopal tick on a single staff, followed on the next system by a modified version of the tick. The second tick has exactly the same metric effect as the first but is a stylistic change showing a major text break (i.e. the next stanza).

    The second example is a caesura in a 8-staff system. It is pretty straight forward and has the same metric effect as the Tick. Note that both the Tick and caesura are aligned to the right of the attached note and should be able to be adjusted horizontally.

    Regarding the fermata, remember that there might be multiple fermatas in a single measure as the third example shows.

    Doug Kerr wrote:Presumably fermatas and caesuras would have a voice property (as they would need to, having an association with a note). But that boon brings with it a complication.

    Attaching these things to a voice will indeed be tricky since you only put one on a staff and it applies to all the notes immediately under (for a fermata) or preceding (for a caesura/Tick) regardless of the number of voices present. This talks to Doug's "plenary" fermata.
    Doug Kerr wrote:Imagine an SATB short score, with two parts on the each staff. If the two parts on a staff have a consistent meter (at least in the measure of interest, or at least in the pertinent portion of teh measure), then presumably in the printed notation, a single fermata would suffice for both notes of the "chord". But with the fermata having a "voice" property, it would presumably only generate a hiatus in one of the notes.

    This would be the most common case but it is easy to imagine (I can't upload a fourth example) where the top voice has a straight half and dotted quarter with fermata while the lower voice has a dotted half with fermata both on the same staff. Tricky.
    Denkster wrote:IMHO Encore being a notation program should refrain from bothering the writer with MIDI playback issues, like the length of fermata playback. If the writer demands 'correct' playback, that would be another line of work, where the program could su7ggest solutions as well as emit warnings.

    While I'd really like the playable fermata/caesura/Tick because I produce MIDI files as learning toold, I have to agree with Eveline. For me the greatest feature of Encore has been its ability to produce a very readable score. If the coding gets so complex as to get in the way of that overriding feature then it defeats its purpose.

    It's amazing how such a simple idea gets so complex in its execution.

    Enough. Stick a fork in me - I'm done.

    Bob
    Attachments
    Tick-1.gif
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    Caesura-6a.gif
    Caesura-6a.gif (172.97 KiB) Viewed 4524 times
    Fermata-2.gif
    Fermata-2.gif (30.09 KiB) Viewed 4522 times
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Doug Kerr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 6:07 pm

    Hi, Eveline,

    Denkster wrote:IMHO Encore being a notation program should refrain from bothering the writer with MIDI playback issues, like the length of fermata playback.

    I understand your point, but I don't fully agree with where you go. There are plenty of MIDI playback issues (like assignment of voices to MIDI channels) that the transcriber has to deal with if "full-featured" playback is needed. Otherwise, just hit the Space bar!

    Taken to the extreme, this says that "as a notation program", in play we shouldn't honor dynamic marks, or in a further extreme shouldn't have play at all.

    But I agree that we can't go to extreme levels of subtlety in playback.

    However, once we have playable fermatas at all, we certainly need to be able to adjust the delay. Otherwise, what would be the "default" behavior?

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Doug Kerr » Sun Aug 16, 2009 6:33 pm

    Hi, Bob,

    commnthings wrote:Attaching these things to a voice will indeed be tricky since you only put one on a staff and it applies to all the notes immediately under (for a fermata) or preceding (for a caesura/Tick) regardless of the number of voices present. This talks to Doug's "plenary" fermata.

    Well, I think we need a version of these things that apply to one voice only (as would be needed in one example you mention) and one version that affects all voices (as would apply to the most common situation).

    As I said, exactly the same is true of dynamic marks (even though we don't have that choice yet, nor even acceptance at the bi-coast of my premise for same).

    This is perhaps the line of evolution by volume control for dynamic marks:

    • No such thing (V 4.5.5)
    • Have no voice property, affect notes in voice 1 only (V 5.0.0)
    • Have voice property, affect only corresponding voice (V5.0.2b2)
    • Have voice property whose value can be "all" so they affect all voices. (Future I hope - maybe Encore 5.6-to-be-known-as Encore 6.)

    While I'd really like the playable fermata/caesura/Tick because I produce MIDI files as learning toold, I have to agree with Eveline. . .

    Do note that getting these things to work in live play and getting them reflected in MIDI files are two different matters altogether (not conceptually; just as an actual fact of implementation.)

    . . . For me the greatest feature of Encore has been its ability to produce a very readable score. If the coding gets so complex as to get in the way of that overriding feature then it defeats its purpose.


    Absolutely. And it may be that a generally-useful functionality like that can't be done without exceeding our threshold of complexity. (Just like keeping drum maps working, or exorcising spurious bank select messages in MIDI files.)

    But I don't like to start by not refining a vision of what would be desirable because of an advanced presumption that following through on whatever is defined would be burdensome in some regard or another (complicated human interface, coding "too complicated", too hard to explain in the manual without any technical writers on hand, etc.). Just imagine what the first guys to conceive a notation program must have thought! (Probably the curse of my years at Bell Telephone Laboratories.)

    And it's hard to imagine complex code making the score less readible, or making it harder for the transcriber to do that (unless of course it is bungled). For example, we have the considerable complication of chord symbols. But that doesn't get in my road making scores that don't use that.

    Thanks for your further insights.

    Best regards,

    Doug
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    Re: Playable fermatas, commas, and so forth

    Postby Rob M. » Fri Aug 21, 2009 3:28 pm

    I guess one of the things to take from this discussion to date is that usage of the "comma" and the "break tick" varies. (Here, I will use Doug's excellent terminology at the beginning of this thread.) My experience is limited to choral singing, so my remarks here should be applied only with considerable caution to instrumental writing.

    The comma:

    In my experience, the comma does (usually) denote added time to allow singers to take a breath -- but not as long or as definite a pause as would be indicated by a caesura. But the practice of adding time at a comma is not universal. Directors will sometimes ask that the note preceding the comma be "short-phrased", i.e., that time for the breath be taken from that note by singing it only for some part of its full value, thus allowing the meter to continue without interruption. Desired MIDI playback characteristics for the comma will therefore vary substantially, depending on the circumstances.

    MIDI playback characteristics could allow a pause to be inserted with a comma, but it should be optional.

    The tick break:

    The tick break (in my experience) isn't really a break, as such. Its most frequent use in my experience is to indicate where the end of a line of verse appears in the score when that verse line end does not coincide with a system break. That's the case in the sample of Veni Creator provided above by commnthings on August 16th, 2009, 3:36 pm. Of course, the end of a verse line often does imply a short break or a breathing space -- but that's not always the case. A clear example of the latter is below the indicated tick break at Verse 3 of the text. In my opinion, many directors of a competent choir would ask their choir to carry the phrasing through the end of that line of verse into the next; they would expect the singers to stagger their breathing as necessary to maintain support for their tone to the end of the phrase. In short, the tick break for Verse 3 indicates only the end of a line of verse; it does not indicate a break; the longer value of the note at the end of the verse line is quite sufficient to honour the verse line's end.

    A tick break can also imply a slight rallentando immediately preceding the tick, but that is not often the case. That's more likely to be implied by the half-bar line, such as the one appearing at the beginning of the even-numbered verses in commnthings' sample of Veni Creator.

    In short, I think it is a mistake to read the tick break as indicating a break. It indicates the end of the verse line, which may or may not imply a break. Again, the pause in MIDI playback should be optional if it is attached to the tick break.

    MIDI playback:

    If accurate MIDI playback is an objective here, it should also be noted that directors will ask that a breath be taken at various places during performance while the meter continues without interruption even in the complete absence of any indication to that effect in the score. Where that's the case, the preceding note will usually be short-phrased instead of adding time to the meter. But that's not a problem for MIDI playback where the percentage playback value for individual notes can be adjusted through an appropriate feature in the MIDI interface. Perhaps the MIDI interface could also allow the insertion of pauses where desired, rather than automatically attaching such pauses to score markings that don't always indicate a pause.

    if the MIDI interface was something separate and apart from the score window, I would see that as a good thing. That approach seems likely to offer fewer complications to the engraver who has little interest in MIDI playback while offering the possibility of more flexibility to the user who is looking for accurate MIDI playback.
    Rob M.
     

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