Another Summer Project: Create an Edition

Ok, I know that today’s post was supposed to be about juries, but I needed a few more days to put together my thoughts, and I also remembered another project to add to Monday’s list.  This project originated in an upper level music history course I teach as a viable alternative to a traditional research paper. If done correctly, creating a usable edition of a piece involves  an equivalent amount of work as writing a research paper, and is arguably just as useful (perhaps more so). I still require research papers in my lower level history classes – so don’t get excited yet, students – but for the upper level courses this project was an option in lieu of writing a paper.  For serious performers, creating your own edition of a major solo work can be a great experience, and maybe even fun!  Here are the requirements as presented to my students.  If you decide to do this for a summer project, you can of course edit or modify the steps as you wish. This semester’s course focused on the Classic era, but the project could work equally well for the Baroque era, or possibly even the Romantic era. Enjoy! [The above image is linked from, and is the cover from the Barenreiter urtext edition of Mozart’s Horn Concerto No. 4.]

Creating an Edition: Instructions and Requirements

*This assignment can be completed in lieu of a traditional term paper, and will count for the same percentage of your course average.  Your grade will be determined based on 1) the quality of your work and 2) your thoroughness in completing the following requirements.

I.          Choose a Work

You may choose any work from the Classic [or Baroque] era, although the instructor must approve it. Possibilities  include a complete single-movement work, a movement or movements from a longer work, or an entire multi-movement work (ex. suite or concerto).

II.         Sources

Begin by compiling a bibliography of sources for your chosen piece.  It should include the following.

A.        The composer’s original manuscript (if available), and various other editions from historical to modern.  At a minimum, you need to be able to examine 5-10 editions, including the composer’s manuscript, when creating your edition.

B.         Primary and secondary literature on your chosen piece, including journal articles, books, and any  other information related to historical performance practice.  Treatises by C.P.E. Bach, Quantz, Leopold Mozart, and others include valuable information on articulation, dynamics, and  other aspects of interpretation.  At a minimum, provide 5-10 sources.

C.         Recordings of your chosen work, including performances on both period and modern instruments. 5-10 sources.

D.        Provide a brief (ca. 500 words) summary of the resources you find, including any difficulties you encountered.  If information is lacking (ex. composer’s manuscript), make note of it in your summary.

III.       Edition

Using Finale or Sibelius, create a modern edition of the work, including editorial markings such as dynamics, articulations, phrase markings, and any other information that might be useful to performers.    Include translations of any foreign terms, as well as the original terms.  Simply copying the markings in  another edition is not sufficient! You must compare all of the available sources at your disposal, including   scores, recordings, and primary/secondary literature, in order to make informed choices.  If you are unable to decide between two equally convincing interpretations, you can always  include both possibilities in your edition.  Above all, your goal should be to create a historically informed edition which a modern performer could use. *If you choose a piece with accompaniment, you need only create an edition for the solo part.

IV.       Final Summary  

Provide a written explanation (ca. 1000 words) of the choices you made in creating your edition.  Which  sources proved the most/least valuable? If there were any controversies associated with your work, how did you deal with them?  In cases where you included more than one possible interpretation, explain your  rationale for doing so.  Explain why this project was beneficial to you as a musician.

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