In this funny little side of the music business, there are many job titles and roles that are played in the production of a piece of music and getting on to the page to put in front of a musician. Some of them are leftover from (at times) centuries ago and others are of a more recent vintage and virtually created out of the necessity or habit of a given project. Having not grown up, musically speaking, as an orchestral musician or a composer, I have found these titles to be interesting, at times misleading, curious, a bit pompous and enlightening. So, I thought I would share a bit of what I learned about some of these titles, how I see them used in the industry, what that means for those entering this side of the industry and most especially, what these titles mean to Engraver’s Mark Musc and how we function in our corner of the musical world.
And now, without further ado:
1. “Orchestrator” - to me, this means “one who puts the music on paper”. Granted, this is a very modern view of the traditional definition, which is someone takes the composer’s original music and arranges it for orchestra. That can included just a simple splitting out of instruments to completely rearranging a piece meant for strings into a woodwind ensemble. The job of the orchestrator is to take the musical vision of the composer and put it on the page in a way which most truly aligns with the original music, but also enhances it. In the modern usage of the word, this also means thinking of how the music will be performed in the studio or live and adjusting accordingly to fit the given recording schedule or orchestra size for a live performance. A composer can be his/her own orchestrator, but I found that in the modern film/TV/video game scoring world, the role of orchestrator is filled by another person or even team of orchestrators.
2. “Music Engraver” - this is a more archaic term which comes down to us from the practice of “engraving” plates of metal with music and then using a printing press to create the printed material. It's an incredibly complex, detailed art form and I am thankful beyond words that I don’t have to create sheet music in this way for my job! Honestly, the process of creating the plates to reproduce the music (they have to hammer in everything backwards, just in case you thought it wasn’t hard enough) is beautiful and awe-inspiring, but painfully slow. Just check out this video and you’ll get a sense of what I’m talking about:
This title was given only to a master craftsman, so today it does sound a bit pretentious, but I like it. I believe that what we, those of us who use Finale or Sibelius or Dorico or whatever, to make our music look as good as we possibly can, follow in the footsteps of the master craftsmen of old, and we too strive for perfection and excellence which comes of our years of practice and study.
3. “Music Copyist” - literally, this person copies music. Simple enough right? This title seems to have been born out of the film scoring industry starting in the 1930s (though perhaps even earlier). This person, usually working under a lead music engraver, was responsible to copying a part or score to reproduce it long before there were photocopiers. If you needed 8 copies of a violin part for a given cue in a movie score, well, you had to have a team of people to create, by hand, each one of them. I spent a very short amount of time early in my career writing out some charts by hand and I still think it’s a great place to start from to learn about music notation. It also gives one a tremendous appreciation of the sheer effort involved by those working in this field over the decades before the digital revolution swept through our industry. What one person can do now in an hour took probably a dozen people all day to do. I use this term quite often to describe my work, since that’s largely what it can be at times. I often work directly with an orchestrator, who will get the music exactly the way it needs to be, and all my job now is to clean up a bit around the edges, make parts and format them correctly and pass them along to our print department. This term can tend to mean a kind of music engraving of less quality than you would get from a true “music engraver” but I don’t see it that way. Not every piece of music needs to be engraved using the fanciest fonts and styles you would use for a major operatic work to be performed in Vienna. A plain, clear, accurate chart that is easy to read is always the best and a copyist keeps this motto in mind at all times.
4. “Music Editor” - “the one of oversees the final production and editorial standards of a given piece of music.” I view this term as describing two potentially different functions, 1. A “content” editor and 2. A “typeset” editor, which could be the same person but not necessarily. In the book publishing industry, there are editors who work with the author to craft, refine and style their works into better writing and then there are editors whose sole purpose is to make sure the commas, punctuation and grammar are used correctly. One editor is concerned with what is said and how the story develops, while the other is concerned with how it is written from a mechanical point of view. The same can be true in our world; an editor may be there just to given a quick look through the music to make sure there are no collisions of articulations and dynamics, make sure slurs are positioned correctly, etc, while another may be suggesting changes to the notes themselves, depending on the audience or customer for whom the music is intended.
Why do all these terms matter? Well, its helps everyone understand the role they are performing in a given project, what’s expected of them and, in knowing the roles of the other people involved in the project, how their actions and choices affect those around them. This is really important when the deadlines are tight; knowing who has what role and how you can enhance their work makes all the difference.
At Engraver’s Mark Music, while we have orchestrated a few small works here and there, our focus is to allow the creative forces in a given project, the composers, arrangers and orchestrators, to spend all their time and energy in those creative tasks, while we handle everything else. It says so right in our name. We are “Engravers”, using the best practices, honed with time, practice, and a myriad of projects big and small. We leave our “Mark” on our engraving with the quality of our work and the efficiency of our processes. Lastly, we are in service to the “Music” and our clients, making it better, clearer, and helping those who create the music stay focused on the creative process. If you are looking for a partner to help you create the best version of your music, contact us and learn how what’s in our name can help you make a name for yourself and your art.
Sammy Sanfilippo, CEO of Engraver's Mark Music