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February 17, 2011 6:42 AM   Subscribe

At a chamber music concert I attended on Monday evening, the pianist came out and, just as he was sitting down to start, used a pen to write down a couple of things at the top of his score. What and why?

The score (an early Beethoven quintet for piano and woodwinds) was already sitting on the piano when he came out. What might he have been writing down? Is this unusual?
posted by HeroZero to Media & Arts (9 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
The best I can think of is some last minute change that had just been agreed backstage (e.g. we're not doing the second repeat in the 3rd movement) and he wanted to write it down so he wouldn't forget?
posted by dogsbody at 6:52 AM on February 17, 2011

Yes, I think that's fairly unusual. Perhaps he was writing a few last minute reminders to himself about changes they'd made, or a particular approach he wanted to remember? Was there any chance he was a fill-in player and hadn't played with the quintet before? Perhaps that was his first access to the score.
posted by jondunc at 6:55 AM on February 17, 2011

I really want it to be the stage manager's phone number, but I regrettably think dogsbody is right. Must be a last-minute change to the run.
posted by londonmark at 6:55 AM on February 17, 2011 [3 favorites]

Last-minute fingering change? Oh, but you said a pen, not a pencil. Hmm. Perhaps he's very close to solving The Beethoven Code and needed to jot down a clue before he forgot.
posted by mothershock at 7:11 AM on February 17, 2011 [1 favorite]

I had a classmate once who would write a short prayer at the top of every test. Maybe it's something like that?
posted by WowLookStars at 8:03 AM on February 17, 2011

posted by TheRedArmy at 9:18 AM on February 17, 2011 [4 favorites]

"I am awesome",

But seriously, the only thing that makes any sense in that situation is what dogsbody says: it agonizes no end to get lost in one's repeats; imagine, you're practiced, you're well-rehearsed, yet you messed up because you didn't find your spot in the music. Better scribble it down.
And there are almost always last-minute negotiations going on about this sort of stuff; some of my colleagues seem to get some special kick out of changing the deal on the way up on stage, just to get everyone wet their pants.
(Could also be the cell number of the girl at the Cafe, of course)
posted by Namlit at 10:07 AM on February 17, 2011

As an orchestral musician, I (very occasionally) have written notes during or right before the concert if there are going to be additional performances. If there were last-minute roadmap changes (relating to cuts, repeats or whatnot) it would not at all be unusual for someone to write these changes down at the last minute. Doing it in front of the audience is a touch gauche but I'd rather be a touch gauche than miss a cut during the performance.

(I remember playing a pit gig for a Gilbert & Sullivan musical which had several numbers in different keys -- a higher key versus a lower key -- and the conductor did last-minute changes. That resulted in some last-minute performance night scribblings. Come to think of it, I had another pit gig where on opening night we had several cuts taken out at the last minute -- and there were some musicians that had X'd out the measures pretty heavily, so lots of frantic erasing was going on right up to the downbeat.)

Are you sure it was pen and not pencil? There are precious few reasons why a musician would want something as permanent as pen (although one of my old horn teachers had his own copies of certain orchestral pieces and would annotate typographical errors in pen) for last-minute cuts/changes.

Part of me wants to think that if it really was pen, the pianist was writing down the phone number of the chamber music groupie he just met backstage.
posted by QuantumMeruit at 10:14 AM on February 17, 2011

When I've done that, it's usually been to capture something discussed with other musicians backstage at the last minute, like "Don't forget to look at Diane for your cue in measure 146." As for the "why use pen" perhaps he didn't have a pencil on him, and preferred to clutter his music rather than risk forgetting.
posted by Sidhedevil at 1:45 PM on February 17, 2011

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