How Many Markings?

For a long time as a composer/arranger, I have tended to under-mark my scores. And for much of that time, I considered it a flaw in my own writing not to be more specific in my instructions. Aren’t clearer markings always better?

I’m beginning to think that, no, they aren’t. For several reasons.

First, because my markings, in my studio, aren’t necessarily going reflect the interpretation of the ensemble. With so many factors affecting interpretation, it’s hard to imagine that every dynamic and articulation I choose will be perfect for all situations.

Second, and more important, because good writing has implied markings. A well-written phrase will be sung like a phrase, regardless of what I write or don’t write. If I write a tenor part with care, the tenors will sing it musically, whether I put hairpins on every bar or no hairpins whatsoever.

Are there specific interpretive elements I want to notate in my scores? Of course, and I do. But more and more I am satisfied to give less, or give only an overview. Let the performing artists have room to interpret the piece. If I’ve written it well, we’ll come to similar conclusions.