Gene Gajewski

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I’m sure you’ll recognize this lovely melody as ‘Stranger in Paradise’. But did you know that the original theme is from the ‘Polovetsian Dance No. 2’ by Borodin?

Heh. How many gazillion times have you seen that commercial from the 70’s and 80’s; the one where the stuffy old Englishman hawks a collection of classical recordings. This is that ‘melody’.

I wanted to render this song it in Dorico but found it a nightmare to work with as it has some sections in poly meter, particularly a meter of 6/8 working against a meter of 2/4. You can see what I mean on page 31 of the attached score – bar 104 on that page for the oboe and clarinet switch to 2/4 meter, while everything else is still at a 6/8 meter. In short, the orchestra here is running at 308 quarter note beats per minute at a 6/8 meter, while these two instruments switch meter to 2/4.

A performing musician wouldn’t know (or possibly care) that the true tempo for the oboe and clarinet are less than the orchestra. They only care that their measure, despite having only four beats (if using eights) last as long as the six beats (in eigths) or the rest of the orchestra.

A computer needs to know whther to treat that 2/4 meter with the note lengths as written at the master tempo of 308 qpm, or those notes must be fractionally equvialent in length to the ratio (2:4 to 3:4), which is equivalent to 2:3, or .667. In the first case, the bars metered 6:8 won’t line up with bars metered 2:4. In the second case, they’ll match precisely, but the notes at 2:4 are technically lying.

Due to the clever way Dorico works, switching meters is easy, the bar lines will automatically adjust to match the meter, as the note durations stay the same. If you have more than one stave and they have differing meters, the bar lines won’t line up though, becuse the notes in the changed meter are still being considered as have the same duration, when in in reality they are some fraction of the master meter.

There are some hackery and tricks out there to make poly metered bars line up in Dorico using hidden tuplets, and I’m slowly getting the hang of it. In this clip, I’ve made some changes to the first 2:4 stave to show how to do it. The second stave with 2:4 is left unchanged for comparison purposes. Note it’s bars are short too.

The very first 2:4 bar is of the oboe and has a hidden pickup (anacrusis) of one quarter note inserted to make it match the same length as 6:8 (3:4). The second measure following it is simply metered at 6:8 like the normal, other staves. But – notice all those ugly duplets. That’s those notes as written metered at 6:8, instead of as 2:4. We need to extend them by 50% to make them last the same amount of time as a 6:8 (3:4) measure and we do this by marking all those bars in a ratio of 2:3 (1.5), so four duplets of 16th notes matches the intended 2:4 meter notation, while playing in time with 6:8. (Whew… my brain hurtz.)

Here’s the same slice again, with both the 2:4 staves corrected. One shows colored flags where I’ve hidden stuff. The second example is with those flags hidden as well so you can see the final result. All I need to do to make it pretty is consoldate some of those eight note rest in to quarter rests to match the original manuscripts, and that’s easy to do.

Look carefully at the last clip. The first, second and fourth stave are 6 beats (6/8). The third and and fifth staves are four beats (2/4) – and yet, they line up. Notation convention simply leaves out all those duplets and leaves the performer to realize that his 4 beat measure last as long as eveyone else’s 6 beat measure.

One area where MuseScore hasn’t any issue is with poly meters. In MuseScore, a bar is a bar, and you can meter the staves anyway you please. This is great, but it comes the cost of not be able to easily change a stave’s meter later without completely redoing all note entry as in Dorico, because note lengths will be wrong. Since the original source is in MuseScore we’ll stick with it and avoid a whole lot of note entry in Dorico.

The following audio rendering was created using MuseScore itself – its newer orchestral sound library is very much improved over the version 3 and older MuseScore libraries. Nice.

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