Octandre (1923) was first published by J. Curwen & Sons of London in 1924. The Curwen edition is also provided with an Errata sheet that contains some, but not all, of the numerous misprints and omissions. In 1956, a new edition was published by G. Ricordi & Co., New York. It was, however, only a reissue of the Curwen edition with corrections and some revisions and additions by Varèse. These changes, as well as others made by Varèse, are found in both the manuscript and in a copy of the Curwen edition, the cover of which prominently bears Varèse’s signature and address but also the words “Reference Copy” in his handwriting (in both black and red ink) and the words “include Errata” (which refers to the Curwen Errata with some modifications).
The changes made by Varèse in the manuscript are not numerous and concern mostly tempi and dynamics; they are in pencil and red ink, and appear to be written in Varèse’s handwriting. There are, on the other hand, considerably more corrections and revisions in the reference copy, mostly in pencil or red ink, and a few in red or blue pencil. Some of these markings, which fortunately are not particularly relevant to the editing of the music, are probably not in Varèse’s handwriting.
For the present edition, aside from the obvious misprints, references are made to the markings in both the manuscript and the reference copy. Much of the task of verification and correction took place in 1966; as, nevertheless, both the Curwen edition and the Ricordi reissue further included a large number of inaccuracies with respect to the placement of dynamics, accents, and slurs, requiring careful editorial revision, it was deemed advisable to proceed with a completely new edition rather than with the incorporation of the corrections in subsequent reprints of the Ricordi edition.
The task of preparing the score for the engraver was entrusted to James Tenney, whose thoroughness and attention to style and consistency are gratefully acknowledged. Varèse’s style of notation is basically retained, except when it is felt that contemporary common practice demands such modifications as the use of measure numbers instead of rehearsal numbers, the placement of the oboe part below the flute part, and the transposition of certain passages of the trombone and contrabasse parts in more readable clefs. Varèse was also in the habit of mixing Italian with French in his instructions, such as following con sord. with sans. sourd. Thus, inasmuch as the score is fundamentally in French, for the sake of consistency, a number of terms have been judiciously respelled in that language.
By Chou Wen-chung