Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)

Accidentals and Transposition Symbols

This page reproduces, in chronological order, Sorabji’s statements in his manuscripts and published scores about his use of accidentals. It also provides a listing of the notes explaining the transposition symbols he used to indicate that the contents of a given staff must be played one octave above or below.

Accidentals

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Title Statement
Title Statement
Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.) Les accidents valent seulement pour les notes devant lesquel[le]s ils se trouvent — excepté dans le cas de notes liées.
Prelude, Interlude, and Fugue for Piano (1920, 1922; 17 pp.) Les ♯ et ♭ n’ont aucune valeur que pour les notes devant lesquelles ils se trouvent.
Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.) Les accidents n’ont de valeur que pour les notes devants [sic] lesquel[le]s ils se trouvent excepté dans le cas des notes liées.
Concerto per pianoforte e piccola orchestra, “Simorg-Anka” [no. 7] (1924; 100 pp.) Ordinairement les accidents ♮, ♭, et ♯ n’ont de valeur que pour les notes devant lesquel[le]s ils se trouvent, sauf dans des traits répétés ou dans le cas des notes liées.
Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.) Manuscript: NB. The accidentals have no value except for the notes in front of which they stand — with the exception of tied notes and figures obviously of repetitive nature.

Published edition: The accidentals have no value except for the notes in front of which they stand.
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) Manuscript and published edition: NB. Accidentals hold good only for notes in front of which they stand with the exception of repeated notes and tied notes.
Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.) Accidentals hold good only for the notes immediately in front of which they stand.

Transposition Symbols

It is in Le jardin parfumé: Poem for Piano Solo (1923; 16 pp.) that Sorabji settled once and for all on the symbol Î and its inverted form as well as on their multiples to indicate that the contents of a given staff must be played one or two octaves above or below. In previous years he had used various symbols that cannot be represented here easily here, hence the descriptions between brackets. The transposition symbol shown as I/VIII actually consists of superimposed Roman numerals; the solidus (fraction bar) is simply a typographic convenience. Modern editors often use the G and F clefs with a small 8 above or below.

The last two works mentioned in the list, which date from the mid-1950s to the mid-1960s, are late exceptions of manuscripts containing a note. Otherwise, no work contains any after the last published work, Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.).

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Title Statement
Title Statement
The Poplars (1915; 3 pp.) First manuscript (draft): [letter I with downward-pointing arrow]
Chaleur—​Poème (1916-17; 32 pp.) Verso of title page: […] The sign Î indicates [that] all that follows is to be played an octave higher. [Letter I with inverted caret] an octave lower[.] Return to the ordinary position indicated by “loco”.

First page of music: Le signe Î indiquera que tous [recte tout] ce qui se trouve après doit être joué une octave au[-]dessus. Le signe ordinaire se retablit [recte rétablit] par “loco”.
Concerto II pour piano et grand orchestre (1916-17; 49 pp.) N.B. The sign Î or [letter I with inverted caret] indicates that what follows it is to be played an octave above or below the written notes. The normal position is resumed by the word loco or [caret] or [inverted caret] in accordance with the use of either the 8va above or below sign.
Concerto pour piano et grand orchestre [no. 4] (1918; 100 pp.) […] Le signe Î indique “un[e] octave au[-]dessus”; [letter I with inverted caret] indique le contraire[;] [downward-pointing arrow] = hauteur ordinaire: (ou bien [upward-pointing arrow].)
Fantaisie espagnole (1919; 23 pp.) First manuscript: Î; second manuscript: (*I/VIII = 1 octave au[-]dessus des notes écrites.)

Published edition: [I/VIII fraction]* [Note:] * octave au[-]dessus de[s] notes écrites.
Sonata no. 1 for Piano (1919; 42 pp.) Manuscript: N.B. Le signe I/VIII = 8va au[-]dessus des notes écrites.

Published edition: N.B. The sign (I/VIII) on the topmost stave of the system of 3 indicates that all notes on that stave are to be played one octave above their written pitch. The time signatures only hold good for the bars at the beginning of which they stand.
Two Piano Pieces (1918, 1920; 20 pp.) “In the Hothouse”: N.B. The sign Î indicates that what follows is to be played an octave above the written notes.

“Toccata”: *) N.B. I/VIII = 8va
Concerto for Piano and Orchestra [no. 5] (1920; 144 pp.) Piano part: N.B. I/VIII = 8va

Score: N.B. Le signe Î/VIII = un[e] octave au-dessus des notes écrites: la position ordinaire se rétablit par «loco» [followed by a top-right angle corner, like Schoenberg’s concluding sign for Hauptstimme and Nebenstimme].
Sonata seconda for Piano (1920; 49 pp.) Manuscript: I/VIII; copyist’s copy: Î and I/VIII

Published edition: N.B. Î/VIII = 8va...
Sonata III for Piano (1922; 75 pp.) Manuscript: I^ {the caret is located to the right of the I}

Published edition: NB. Î = 8va [plus dotted line with corner] [letter I with inverted caret] = 8va [plus dotted line with corner] bass [plus dotted line with corner]
Symphony [no. 1] for Piano, Large Orchestra, Chorus, and Organ (1921-22; 300 pp.) The sign Î or [letter I with inverted caret] indicate 8alta [plus dotted line with corner] or 8bass[a] [plus dotted line with corner] respectively.
Prelude, Interlude, and Fugue for Piano (1920, 1922; 17 pp.) Published edition: NB. Î ou Î/VIII - 8va [plus dotted line with corner]; [doubled letter I with caret] = 2 (8va [plus dotted line with corner]) / [letter I with inverted caret] ou VIII/[letter I with inverted caret] - 8va [plus dotted line with corner] bassi [sic]

The “Fugue” uses Î/VIII (pp. 17, 19), whereas the first two sections, written later, use the normal and inverted Î.
Concerto per pianoforte e piccola orchestra, “Simorg-Anka” [no. 7] (1924; 100 pp.) NB. Le signe Î ou [letter I with inverted caret] = 8va [plus dotted line with corner] ou 8va [plus dotted line with corner] bassa
Symphony [no. 1] for Organ (1924; 81 pp.) Published edition: NB. Î = 8 [plus dotted line with corner]
Valse-fantaisie for Piano (1925; 16 pp.) Î = 8va [plus dotted line]
Concerto V for Piano and Large Orchestra [no. 8] (1927-28; 344 pp.) […] In other cases Î or [letter I with inverted caret] indicate 8va... sopra and 8va... bassa respectively. {added in red ink at a later date}
Opus clavicembalisticum (1929-30; 253 pp.) Î = 8va [doubled letter I with caret] [letter I with inverted caret] = 2 (8va) / 8va bass[a]
Passeggiata veneziana sopra la Barcarola di Offenbach (1955-56; 24 pp.) Î or 3rd Stave indicates that everything following is to be read as one octave higher above the written notes.
Frammenti aforistici (20) (1964; 9 pp.) N.B. Î = 8va... sopra; ÎÎ 2(8va...); one octave or two octaves above written notes. and [letter I with inverted caret] = 8va bassa... below written notes.
Last modified: 2021-05-21
© Marc-André Roberge 2021
Sorabji Resource Site (SRS)
Faculté de musique, Université Laval, Québec

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