Aleatoric Elements : From Boxed to Out of the Box Notation In Finale

Music that supplies only the pitches while directing the players to improvise the rhythms freely is a common (partly) aleatoric device which gives the composer a desired degree of control over the tonality, while retaining temporal freedom.

The notation is typically indicated by surrounding a series of specific pitches with a square or rectangular box, along with a box extender line to indicate that the pitches are to be improvised on for a specific number of beats or a given number of seconds. The exact duration of the “box” can also be indicated as a text duration (e.g. 00:06″ etc).

In “Creating Aleatoric / Temporal Boxed Notation in Finale, Part 1” we looked at how to create these semi-aleatoric directives.

Sometimes, the reverse is desired: the rhythm is notated, but the specific pitches are left up to the player. A common convention for this is to show stems of different lengths (without noteheads) to show the relative pitch relationships:

This is quite simple to do in Finale:


SPECIFIC RHYTHMS, ALEATORIC PITCHES


  1. Enter regular notes with their approximate frequencies and relationships.
  2. Highlight the phrase you just created using the Mass Edit tool.
  3. Run Plugins > Note, Beam, and Rest Editing > Ledger Lines (Hide) for extreme range pitches.
  4. Run Plugins > Note, Beam, and Rest Editing > Change Noteheads.
  5. Choose the Custom Notehead Radio Button.
  6. Once in the Change Noteheads dialog, press the Space Bar which is Character # (32).
  7. OK the dialog.

Triangle noteheads are commonly used to indicate highest or lowest note of the instrument w/ no definite pitch:

 

  1. Enter regular notes with their approximate frequencies and relationships.
  2. Highlight the phrase you just created using the Mass Edit tool.
  3. Run Plugins > Note, Beam, and Rest Editing > Ledger Lines (Hide) for extreme range pitches.
  4. For discontiguous selections spanning more than one bar, use the Mass Edit tool to drag-select consecutive notes which will have the same triangle notehead:

    1. Run Plugins > Note, Beam, and Rest Editing > Change Noteheads.
    2. Choose the Custom Notehead Radio Button.
    3. Once in the Change Noteheads dialog, for highest note (upward triangle), select character # (209), for lowest note (downward triangle) select character # (249).

If you have multiple discontiguous notes in a single bar to modify, rather than selecting multiple areas and running the plugin more than once, use Finale’s Special Tools:

  1. Select the bar using Mass Edit.
  2. Select Tools > Special Tools >  Note Shape.
  3. Each notehead now has a selection box.
  4. Drag Lasso to select notes grouped together, then use the Shift key to select specific noteheads separated by notes you don’t want affected.
  5. Now, double click one of the selection boxes, and when the dialog opens, select the triangle notehead.
  6. When you OK the dialog, only the selected notes will have the new notehead:

You’ll note that in the character selection dialog, characters # (177) and # (198) which are suitable for half notes, should you need them.

One last thing. Convention shows this type of notehead centered on the stems. It’s easy to move them over. Here’s how:

  1. Select the bar(s) with the Mass Edit Tool
  2. Choose Tools > Special Tools > Notehead Position from the main menu.
  3. Use the same technique as above to select the triangle noteheads.
  4. Arrow them over as a group until they all are centered over the stem.
  5. You can also move over any articulations associated with these notes as needed.

FEATHERED BEAMS


As long as we are already using Special Tools in Finale, let’s look at another common element common to aleatoric music : Feathered Beams, or Feathered Beaming. Feathered beaming is used to indicate that the notes are played gradually faster or slower, independently of the actual tempo, in “free” time:
  1. Enter the notes and beam them together across one or more beats.
  2. Select the Mass Edit tool.
  3. (you can optionally use Tools > Special Tools > Custom Beam Angle (or the Patterson Beams plugin) to match phrase shape. You can also run the Patterson Beams plugin at the end of the process.)
  4. With Mass Edit region, select Tools > Special Tools > Secondary Beam Angle.
  5. Handles will appear on the secondary beams:

To indicate accel., elect the left-most handle next to the main beam first, and move it so that it overlaps the main beam:

You’ll notice that the left handle drags the entire beam up or down, keeping the current orientation.

Next, click the right handle of the same secondary beam and drag it up so that it clears the main beam. Repeat the process for any 32nd and 64th beams etc, and adjust to taste :

For beaming that indicates that the notes get slower, simply reverse the beam placements : the left edge is the most widely spaced, and the beams overlap at the right edge.

Finally, I want to let you know about a plugin suite that can really save you a *ton* of time for this type of notation in Finale. JW Change by Jari Williamsson changes existing elements with a general user interface. (currently in beta as of this writing). It makes quick work of esoteric notation like feathered beams, custom noteheads, and lots more. Download it and try it out!

That’s all there is to it!

~robert

see also:

4 Replies to “Aleatoric Elements : From Boxed to Out of the Box Notation In Finale”

  1. Do you have any tip on how to create custom beaming shape? Like curved beams indicating irregular rhythm?

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