Typesetting Il Lamento della Ninfa

This is a short article I wrote last year, about a few typesetting issues I encountered while copying Claudio Monteverdi’s Lamento della Ninfa.

Time signature

The first (easy) issue concerns the time signature of Amor:


Using LilyPond, one way to achieve this is to override the way the time signature is printed: we will manually print the time signature, using the "timesig.mensural34" and "three" feta glyphs (see the feta font).

One possible solution is:

  \once\override Staff.TimeSignature #'stencil =
  #(lambda (grob)
       #{ \markup\vcenter {
           \musicglyph #"timesig.mensural34"
           \musicglyph #"three" } #}))
  \time 6/1
  \clef "petrucci-f4"
  a\breve. g | f e |


Black note heads

The second issue is how to render the black note heads observed in this snippet:


In my editions, I usually make two score versions: an urtext version, essentially used by myself for proof-reading. This urtext version has the same layout as the original source score, same clefs, etc, so in this particular case I’m using LilyPond’s petrucci note style. The second version is a so-called concert version, the one to be used by interpreters, and for it I’m using the standard classical note style.

The black note heads issue will be solved in two different ways in the urtext and concert versions of the score.

Black note heads in urtext version

This is the easy one: we just have to change the note style to blackpetrucci.

\new Staff \with {
  \override Rest #'style = #'neomensural
  \override NoteHead #'style = #'petrucci
  \remove "Time_signature_engraver" }
    \time 6/1
    \clef "petrucci-c4"
    c'1 c' d'
    \override NoteHead #'style = #'blackpetrucci
    c' b\breve |
    \revert NoteHead #'style
    a\breve r1 r\breve*3/2 |
  \addlyrics { ran -- do il piè fer --  }


Black note heads in concert version

Using classical note style, we cannot use the same trick: there is no black whole note head in the feta font. The solution I chose is certainly not the most elegant… that is, filling whole note heads with a black oval, and breve square note heads with a black rectangle.

\new Staff \with {
  \override NoteHead #'style = #'baroque
  \remove "Time_signature_engraver"
} <<
    \time 6/1
    \clef "G_8"
    c'1 c' d'
    \override NoteHead #'stencil =
    #(lambda (grob)
       (let* (;; print the note head as usual:
              (head-stencil (ly:note-head::print grob))
              ;; get the corresponding duration,
              ;; to decide whether an oval or rectangle
              ;; filling is required
              (duration (ly:grob-property grob 'duration-log))
              ;; print the note head alone (without ledger lines...)
              ;; to get its gauge
              (glyph-name (format #f "noteheads.s~a"
                                  (ly:grob-property grob 'glyph-name)))
              (glyph (grob-interpret-markup
                      (make-musicglyph-markup glyph-name))))
         ;; we add the usual note head stencil and the oval
         ;; or rectangle filling (horizontally translated to
         ;; the note head center)
             (if (>= duration 0)
                 ;; oval for whole note
                  (* 0.9 (/ (interval-length (ly:stencil-extent glyph X)) 2))
                  (* 1.1 (/ (interval-length (ly:stencil-extent glyph Y)) 2))
                  0 #t)
                 ;; rectangle for breve
                 (make-filled-box-stencil (ly:stencil-extent glyph X)
                                          (ly:stencil-extent glyph Y)))
            X CENTER)
           (cons (/ (interval-length (ly:stencil-extent head-stencil X)) 2)
    c' b\breve |
    \revert NoteHead #'stencil
    a\breve r1 r\breve*3/2 |
  \addlyrics { ran -- do il piè fer --  }


The complete function can be found here.

6 thoughts on “Typesetting Il Lamento della Ninfa

  1. Phil H

    Nicolas – my understanding is that the black noteheads are coloratio – that is, they indicate note values that are 1/3 less and imperfect (see Apel, page 126). As such, would it not make sense to show them as the correct (shorter) note value in the concert version?

    1. Nicolas Sceaux Post author

      My opinion is that the typesetter shall deliver scores as close to the original as possible, only more readable and convenient (as interprets usually have very little time for rehearsals before concerts). It is not mine to impose to interprets how a specific notation shall be played, and hide what it was like in the original score. In that particular case, the musician who asked me this score was clear that he wanted the black note heads to be rendered that way.

  2. Janek Warchoł

    Perhaps we should add black whole notes to Feta font? Nicolas, how frequently does this notation appear?

      1. Janek Warchoł

        ok – i’ll keep this in mind, and when i’ll have an opportunity to work with Feta i’ll try to do this as well.


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