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Re: GSoC 2020: Shape-note notehead encoding

From: Karlin High
Subject: Re: GSoC 2020: Shape-note notehead encoding
Date: Thu, 23 Jul 2020 21:00:43 -0500

On Thu, Jul 23, 2020 at 6:29 PM Owen Lamb <> wrote:
> Aha! Apparently all the old issue conversations have been migrated to
GitLab. The links and attachments work fine here:

Brilliant! I had clean missed how that's worked out.

> This book being the only source cited for such differences, I don't think
there's any reason at the moment to propose the two variants be
distinguished within SMuFL itself. Bar objections, I'll go ahead and call
Emmentaler's mirrored versions stylistic alternates and leave it at that.
> I'm also going to hold off on asking for distinction between half and
whole noteheads, because, as far as I can tell, there isn't enough of one.
It appears that Walker always defaults to down-stem notes unless lack of
space necessitates up-stems, so that would explain why whole notes are only
found in their down-stem variants. There's no situation where using the
up-"stem" variant of a stemless note would free up space or avoid a
collision, so down-stem is simply used all the time!
> Of course, this raises the question of what to do with our current
whole-half distinction. I motion to scrap it, and have \walkerHeads and
\walkerHeadsMinor default to downwards stems and noteheads to achieve the
same effect. It'll be more accurate to Walker's originals, to boot. Any
objections here?

There are at least two shape-note communities. The four-shapes (Sacred
Harp, Fasola) <> and the seven-shapes (Aiken.) Here's my
perspective from the seven-shapes world, with no experience in the
four-shapes one.

I think the majority of seven-shapes people today are in church communities
descended from the singing school traditions of early America, especially
the south. <> These include the
Mennonites (Joseph Funk's people) and the Church of Christ groups. I don't
know exactly what size this community is, but based on group populations,
I'm going to guess over a million people. Some of these have had people
singing from seven-shape hymnals every Sunday for the past century or more.
I think shape notes are important to these people, but not their defining
feature or their main reason to exist. For their music printing purposes,
unless someone's trying to reprint a landmark work, exact historic
authenticity is probably not a huge concern provided things are
recognizable. New songs and new books are continually being published in
this scene. Personally, LilyPond's Aiken Thins are the only shapes I need
for what I do. I've sung from seven-shapes books all my life, and it's
telling that only from the LilyPond community did I learn the distinctions
being discussed here.

The four-shape communities seem more defined by particular books (Sacred
Harp, etc) and conventions or singing events based on them. Their Wikipedia
article indicates that deviations from the historic tradition can be
divisive issues. <> I gather these
folks would be more likely to care which bars of a MI diamond note head are
darker than the others. They also have the advantage of organizational
structures to contact with questions on their musical matters, whereas for
seven-shapes I'd have no idea who's word would carry.
Karlin High
Missouri, USA

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