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Thread: What are some pieces with unusual instrumentation?

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    Default What are some pieces with unusual instrumentation?

    Do you know of any pieces that feature instruments one wouldn't typically associate with classical music?

    Here is one to start us off.


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    Senior Member senza sordino's Avatar
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    The second movement of Mahler's fourth symphony has the concertmaster's violin tuned a whole tone higher. When I saw it performed last year, the concertmaster brought two violins to play.

    Kurt Weill's Violin Concerto is for violin and wind band, no other strings in the orchestra.

    Ligeti's Violin Concerto uses a few ocarinas, two orchestra stringed instruments are tuned differently.

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    Senior Member rrudolph's Avatar
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    The flexatone part in the Khachaturian Piano Concerto has long been a favorite of mine.

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    nathanb
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    Messiaen - Des Canyons Aux Etoiles (massive percussion ensemble, including a wind machine)
    Ligeti - Le Grand Macabre (car horn preludes and what not)
    Ligeti - Poeme Symphonique (for 100 metronomes)
    Dun - Water Passion (soloist that uses various instruments with water, including...bowls of water)
    Stockhausen - Tierkreis (music boxes)
    Barrett - Interference (it's a kick drum from a standard rock drumkit, correct?)
    Penderecki - Partita (includes both electric guitar and bass guitar)
    Kagel - String Quartets (yes, string instruments...but played often with knitting needles, etc)
    Jolivet - Ondes Martenot Concerto (not so abnormal, but in such a significant role?)
    Rautavaara - Symphony No. 6 (none of that magnetic tape nonsense...just pure synthesizers!)
    Partch - ... (where to begin...the guy invented his entire ensembles!)
    Aho - Symphony No. 12 (standard instrumentation, but supposedly intended to be played outdoors with noticeable wind and such)

    And the list goes on... I believe it was ArtRock who had a blog series on concerti for unusual instruments, including an iPad concerto. I can't recall if the catcerto was included...

    Edit: Sort of the the reverse of the thread: I've made pitched electronica "beats" here and there using sound manipulation (delay for eighth/quarter notes, treble reductions, etc) on things like low notes from a harp.
    Last edited by nathanb; Jul-15-2014 at 19:03.

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    Senior Member brianvds's Avatar
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    Bartok: Music for strings, percussion and celesta

    Mozart wrote some ditties for glass harmonica

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    Member SARDiver's Avatar
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    Gotta say cannon fire in the 1812 Overture would be number one on my list.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arcaneholocaust View Post
    Messiaen - Des Canyons Aux Etoiles (massive percussion ensemble, including a wind machine)
    Ligeti - Le Grand Macabre (car horn preludes and what not)
    Ligeti - Poeme Symphonique (for 100 metronomes)
    Dun - Water Passion (soloist that uses various instruments with water, including...bowls of water)
    Stockhausen - Tierkreis (music boxes)
    Barrett - Interference (it's a kick drum from a standard rock drumkit, correct?)
    Penderecki - Partita (includes both electric guitar and bass guitar)
    Kagel - String Quartets (yes, string instruments...but played often with knitting needles, etc)
    Jolivet - Ondes Martenot Concerto (not so abnormal, but in such a significant role?)
    Rautavaara - Symphony No. 6 (none of that magnetic tape nonsense...just pure synthesizers!)
    Partch - ... (where to begin...the guy invented his entire ensembles!)
    Aho - Symphony No. 12 (standard instrumentation, but supposedly intended to be played outdoors with noticeable wind and such)
    Nice list. Gershwin also used car horns in An American in Paris.

    There is also Conlon Nancarrow whose most significant work was done using player pianos.

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    Senior Member nightscape's Avatar
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    Villa-Lobos' Chôros No. 4 for 3 horns & trombone, No. 7 for winds, violin & cello and Bachianas Brasileiras No. 5 for soprano and "orchestra of cellos"

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    Senior Member GreenMamba's Avatar
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    Arvo Part used rubber duckies in his Symphony #2. He didn't use them for his later religious works, however.
    Last edited by GreenMamba; Jul-15-2014 at 20:26.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arcaneholocaust View Post
    Dun - Water Passion (soloist that uses various instruments with water, including...bowls of water)
    I hate to be that guy, but Tan is actually his family name, rather than Dun. Chinese names still tend to be given in traditional order in Western contexts, unlike Japanese names, even though the latter are also culturally written with the family name before the given name.


    Anyway, responding to the topic, Japanese composer Toru Takemitsu used two Argentinian bandoneon (very like an accordion) in a piece including electronics.

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    nathanb
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    Wait...you mean to tell me that Western interpretations are not always correct?

    ...Sorry if I offended, Maestro Mahlerian

    Also, Gubaidulina and her bayan fetish.
    Last edited by nathanb; Jul-15-2014 at 21:02.

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    Quote Originally Posted by arcaneholocaust View Post
    Wait...you mean to tell me that Western interpretations are not always correct?

    ...Sorry if I offended, Maestro Mahlerian
    Not at all.

    Quote Originally Posted by arcaneholocaust
    Also, Gubaidulina and her bayan fetish.
    Yes, I thought of that while mentioning Takemitsu's bandoneon and electronics piece (which is named Cross Talk, by the way).

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    Quote Originally Posted by Prince Disarming View Post
    Do you know of any pieces that feature instruments one wouldn't typically associate with classical music?

    Here is one to start us off.

    You should investigate the composer Harry Partch. And maybe Hans Joachim Hespos.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Jul-15-2014 at 21:22.

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    Salvatore Sciarrino’s La Bocca, i piedi, il suono for saxophone quartet and 100 saxophones. Apart from the 4 saxophone soloists, 100 saxophone players are placed around the audience creating sound effects with breath, feet, and key clicking, and a ceaseless flow of saxophonists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygsymzGVQ2Y
    Last edited by schigolch; Jul-15-2014 at 22:51.

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    Quote Originally Posted by schigolch View Post
    Salvatore Sciarrino’s La Bocca, i piedi, il suono for saxophone quartet and 100 saxophones. Apart from the 4 saxophone soloists, 100 saxophone players are placed around the audience creating sound effects with breath, feet, and key clicking, and a ceaseless flow of saxophonists.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ygsymzGVQ2Y
    Wow, 100 saxophones! That beats 76 trombones.

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