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Thread: Orchestration

  1. #31
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    Quote Originally Posted by mikeh375 View Post
    You'll learn. Composing is about you yourself, it's not a competition, its a journey of self musical discovery. Where you end up is not as important as the journey, which you should undertake with all you can offer.
    You missed my edit, I added that they are not stylistically relevant, (to our times) no prob.
    Mike, I respect your opinion and your intelligence. We are trying to do completely different things as composers; you seem to do it for your own enjoyment and as a means to make a living, while I’m aiming at something else. There is a true sense of responsibility to fulfill a potential even though composition is more so part of an education, much like philosophy, rather than something grounded in the real world. I’d love it if my music could have a political effect, and that’s the expectation, I don’t think I could do it otherwise. The good thing is that I have time on my side and you never know when society might change - the appreciation of art often changes with it - it might be 15 years, it might be 30.

    But I think I understand your music better now and what you seek to do and accomplish.
    Last edited by 1996D; Nov-22-2019 at 10:22.

  2. #32
    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Mike, I respect your opinion and your intelligence. We are trying to do completely different things as composers; you seem to do it for your own enjoyment and as a means to make a living, while I’m aiming at something else. There is a true sense of responsibility to fulfill a potential even though composition is more so part of an education, much like philosophy, rather than something grounded in the real world. I’d love it if my music could have a political effect, and that’s the expectation, I don’t think I could do it otherwise. The good thing is that I have time on my side and you never know when society might change - the appreciation of art often changes with it - it might be 15 years, it might be 30.

    But I think I understand your music better now and what you seek to do and accomplish.


    Yes I made a living from composing, true enough, there are not many who can say that sadly. In doing so, no price was paid with loss of personal artistic integrity, the job was just that, ridiculously easy at times and sometimes executed with no integrity at all when the clock was ticking, such was the nature of either the brief and/or the clients. The real price paid was time away from those I love.
    You're wrong on my motives though. You said yourself it's not an easy thing to do and you're right, there is only enjoyment when it goes well and satisfaction when a cohesive piece has been achieved. Then it's on to the next push. I've always composed, I had no choice in the matter, it was and still is, just what I do.

    The one piece I can think of in recent history - an undoubted masterpiece from all aspects imv - that had any right at all to change the world is Britten's War Requiem. It is intensely moving and resonates within after hearing for quite sometime afterwards (with me anyway), but it hasn't ultimately changed a thing because it cannot.
    Politics as a creative wellspring is as valid a reason to compose as any other of course, but in our time, I doubt whether or not music has any pragmatic impact beyond itself. Even the receptive listener will move on after a while and probably to some J Bieber. A more noble aspiration for one's music imv might be Michael Tippet's...to offer succour. Now we both know music can do that.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Nov-22-2019 at 15:19.

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  4. #33
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    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
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    I have enjoyed the discussion, but haven't participated because the topic in general terms and in the abstract doesn't much interest me. Discussing specific orchestration problems and pieces would, if anyone should decide to do that.

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    yep...I'm in on that Edward...anything in mind? I'm always interested in distribution of notes vertically - enclosing, juxtaposition and so on. Stravinsky eked out some marvellous timbre with new approaches to that particular facet as did Mahler, by leaving big gaps in the vertical space at times.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Nov-22-2019 at 16:41.

  8. #36
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    It seems everything talked about on here is about harmony and tone in general, and orchestration and counterpoint are never discussed.

    To the composers here, what individual quirks do you have with orchestration? What instruments do you enjoy combining as to produce unique and beautiful sounds?

    And with counterpoint, what instruments have you found work best together?

    Mahler said that the clarinet, flute, and piccolo combined produce the most clarity which is true, and I've been experimenting with select brasses with woodwinds to produce a powerful yet penetrating and beautiful sound.
    In reply to the OP--

    My favorite beautiful sound of the orchestra is the very cliched cellos and horns in upper register unison, simulating the tenor singing voice. I also love the Jerry Goldsmith upper register violin unison cantabile, without the lower octave doubling, even in modern settings it sounds good. So simple but effective.

    We periodically get asked here about instrumental combinations and which ones are good, etc. Have you ever read Rimsky-Korsakov’s orchestration book? He goes into quite some depth about each and every possible instrumental combination there is. Hundreds or thousands of them. And discusses their pros and cons (flute is overpowered here, or flute blends well here…etc. etc.) Each and every nuance (certain instruments in unison, in octaves, two octaves apart, etc.) You should check it out if you haven't read it yet.

    Do you get the chance to compose for a live (not computer) orchestra that often (and get a live performance)? I never have, and most composers today do not. It is extremely rare. So while I had directed study in orchestral composition in college and have studied orchestral composition for years, I’m afraid I don’t have much hands-on experience producing unique sounds for the orchestra. If I was to try, I would start by studying the scores of Toru Takemitsu for sure as his orchestral sounds I find the most unique and attractive. But I am a fairly conservative composer overall and so my style of orchestration is very basic and straightforward.

    Most composers today, including myself, compose for small groups they know personally or for contests (hosted by small groups). So you are constrained by the instrumentation to orchestrate for. When I compose for them, I make sure I exploit all the different combinations I can so as to give a variety to the sound of the music and keep it interesting. Got to make sure everything stays balanced though. Sometimes you get really weird and unique instruments. Toy pianos seem to be popular now. Also, the popular thing now with chamber groups over the past couple years is having a group with the same instrumentation of Pierrot Lunaire. This is less than ideal as there is only one bass instrument, the cello, and even that only goes to a low C below the staff. So that has its own orchestration problems.

    With counterpoint, I’m old-fashioned. I like hearing large groups of the same instrumental families play counterpoint. 1) choir 2) brass quintet 3) string orchestra. In an orchestral setting, I like woodwinds, usually two of the same (two oboes, two bassoons, two flutes). The contrapuntal ww writing in Beethoven’s 9th is a particular favorite. In modern music my favorite is Bartok’s Duos for Two Violins.

    Even though you didn't ask, but since I have a big mouth (haha)--Things that bother me about (other people's) orchestration are when the writing is unidiomatic for the instruments the music is written for, or when the composer writes for the orchestra the same way you write for the piano. I hate when the orchestration is ALWAYS in two parts (you can tell it was written on piano—two hands), and when the bass is always in octaves and never has melody or interest. Stuff like that. Basically, a lot of modern film music.

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    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
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    I also meant to suggest these “unique” combinations in regards to more modern orchestration (and speaking as a professional tuba player and fanatic):

    Tuba and piccolo – example in Robert Simpson’s 3rd Symphony second mvt.
    Tuba and oboe – couple examples in John Williams’ film scores
    Tuba and clarinet

    And as a tuba player my favorite things to play or hear a tuba play besides supporting the whole orchestra with loud bass notes in my powerful register, is playing in extreme registers (the low guttural notes often combined with raspy trombones, and playing high above the staff).

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  12. #38
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    1996D, do you have a score you are working on you could post that you wanted feedback on or had a question about? Or a soundfile? Was there a particular problem you were working on?

    yep...I'm in on that Edward...anything in mind? I'm always interested in distribution of notes vertically - enclosing, juxtaposition and so on. Stravinsky eked out some marvellous timbre with new approaches to that particular facet as did Mahler, by leaving big gaps in the vertical space at times.
    Yes! Stravinsky’s Symphony of Psalms (mvt. 1) comes to mind in that regard (the recurring E minor chord).

    While we wait for 1996D to site any specific orchestration problems or questions--

    Maybe this could be an interesting topic regarding vertical distribution of notes, potential orchestration problem, and John Williams (so we can all take part)—

    It is often said in orchestration textbooks that when scoring a chord (triad for example) for full tutti orchestra, the chord should be spelled completely in each choir (ww’s, brass, strings) (this is for traditional, not contemporary/modern context). But take a look at the very first chord here:


    It is a Bb Major chord, however, the only choir playing the complete triad is the brass, and only in the horns and trumpets even then. Everyone else is simply playing a Bb. All winds and all strings. Even the trombones, which might normally be doubling the trumpets at the octave (or thereabouts) are not. If I was orchestrating for him, I would have suggested either having everyone play Bb, or spelling the chord in all choirs, but not leaving it as is.

    So:

    This was before computers. How did he know this would work? Or is this a problem? Does it work? Why or why not? Where did he get this idea from (are there any pieces in the repertoire that do this)? Is it pointless to have the chord in the trumpets and horns because you can’t hear it anyway? This seems like a mistake a beginner would make, but it’s kind of brilliant too.

    My opinion is that it works (and is quite effective), even though there are some performances and recordings where the effect is lost and unbalanced, but when it works, it is very dramatic and impressive. Most of the time the brass chord comes through and you can hear all the pitches. As a conductor I would make sure of it. But I am shocked the second and third trumpets (and horns) can come through at all.

    I don’t know. Maybe this is no big deal. Feel free to ignore. Just came across my mind when reading above posts.

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  14. #39
    Senior Member mikeh375's Avatar
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    Good example Torkelburger. Fwiw, here's some musings on that chord and perhaps why it is scored as it is ..other interpretations are available of course...

    His choices it seems to me are all about the musical intent rather than scoring formula and the intent and art must take precedence over the science right? The singular Bflat note (in all octaves, but particularly trp1) is his priority - a sort of "..and Williams said let there be music and there was" moment. A single note with utter supernova brilliance (ok I'll stop waxing lyrical) to grab the attention. All the doubling and spacing seems designed to reinforce and enhance that particular notes power and impact and bring it into an even sharper relief than any other chord member and although the triad is complete in the trumpets and was always going to shine in that register regardless of whats above and below, it is noticeable that the 8va doubling of the 3rd and 5th is limited to the triadic range immediately above the bones, i.e an octave below the trp triad. Distributed to a weaker sonic comparatively speaking, (vlas double stop/hrn2 for the 3rd and an even weaker hrn3 on the fifth), the middle range 3rd and 5th are in effect background filler and because of the disparity in balance, the upper brilliance is emphasised even more so I feel. As you suggest TorkelB, one could have easily achieved an equable balance in tutti across the full triad and acoustic spectrum with well known formula to create a full on orchestral slam but Williams chose not to do this because he wanted a forceful clarity on one note in a particular register.

    Flts and picc play where they can contribute best, with upper partial strengthening and similarly the obs and clts blended octave reinforcements of each other also contribute to the upper winds with 8va support.

    Musically, the bones are in fanfare mode and the unison makes sense, no need for harmonic blocking in as they are a priority line. Note that the trpts are marked sfz and the rest sffz for perhaps a more democratic balance or at least one not too divorced between top, middle and bottom. Williams is quite aware of how overpowering the trpts could be untamed and attempts to guard against it.

    Let's face it though, in that register and close spacing it's all about the trumpets and what other key would one choose to showcase them in a brass march? - bflat tpts, bflat tenor bones,double horns in f and bflat and tuba (in bflat?)

    Anyway, some thoughts that might have touched on the creative decision to score as he did.

    BTW it's nice to know I'm not the only Simpson fan. I particularly like his quartets, but the symphonies too.
    Last edited by mikeh375; Nov-23-2019 at 15:36.

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    Very good points, thanks for the insight!

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    Quote Originally Posted by Torkelburger View Post
    I also meant to suggest these “unique” combinations in regards to more modern orchestration (and speaking as a professional tuba player and fanatic):

    Tuba and piccolo – example in Robert Simpson’s 3rd Symphony second mvt.
    Tuba and oboe – couple examples in John Williams’ film scores
    Tuba and clarinet

    And as a tuba player my favorite things to play or hear a tuba play besides supporting the whole orchestra with loud bass notes in my powerful register, is playing in extreme registers (the low guttural notes often combined with raspy trombones, and playing high above the staff).
    That's interesting, I'm working on a piece that absolutely needs to be perfect because it has a meaning behind it; it's a symphonic poem of kinds, through-composed, on a philosophical concept, and orchestration is crucial in getting the exact feeling right.

    Now working on how to get the power right without it getting clunky, perhaps the oboe would give a nice sound to the tuba, and cellos and horns do indeed sound nice, I already have the darkest part of the piece on that combination, with double basses and bassoons as well.

    Another issue is when you start pieces they tend to take time to build up and they get better as your passion grows throughout the piece, the creative energy expanding with each passing creation. Beethoven in his 3rd I think wrote the first movement last, so it would be explosive and grand, and it is indeed that, probably the best first movement ever written.

    But if not working in reverse, I believe it is in revision that first movements can truly be elevated. If you're trying to project a specific idea it's crucial that you are properly warmed up creatively and that's hard to do when beginning a piece, so revision seems to be the only way.

    I'm almost done, composed like a madman these last days, it just needs more beauty in the finale, and the first 10 min are perhaps rather dull, because they're a sort of buildup; those minutes need to be maximized through ornamentation, perhaps more percussion. It's the part of the philosophy that I can relate the least to, so it's been hard to project the desired feeling, perhaps more studying is needed.

    The goal is to make every minute interesting in a way that keeps you locked in; it is thematically like that and creative musically in a way that encourages complete attention, but it needs more beauty in the buildup. Maybe adding some beautiful melodies as counterpoint and additional orchestration is the answer, though it's important not to make the piece too heavy.

    What are some creative combinations that produce beauty but no loud sound? Harp, glockenspiel, celesta, are already in use with woodwinds. Perhaps different kinds of string effects?
    Last edited by 1996D; Nov-26-2019 at 20:22.

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  19. #42
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    Back to playing, connecting with the thought of a composer is a very natural thing, you can't practise your way through it, you can either think like him or you can't. The emotional part, which is the most important part, is a gift from God.
    Huh??

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    Quote Originally Posted by Heck148 View Post
    Huh??
    It's what the best players and conductors have, the ability to stop time and display what the composer wrote in its full glory. All the technical things are unimportant compared to that: the spiritual connection between the composer, the player, and God: complete synergy.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Larkenfield View Post
    great counterpoint can also be found in the works of Brahms, Chopin, Max Reger and others.
    I think it would be more appropriate to switch "Chopin" in your sentence with "Mendelssohn" or "Wagner", cause frankly Chopin isn't really in league with those masters in counterpoint.
    But I think the most beautiful Chopinesque counterpoint is found in Ballade Op.52:
    the canonic section at 6:38 consists of A Bb D and C# G B switching registers using invertible counterpoint. Not dazzling or mindblowing by the standard of other masters, but respectable and functional enough to spice up the style of music he wrote, I think.

    3:10
    6:38

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tmQSWuYwrI&t=3m10s
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7tmQSWuYwrI&t=6m38s
    Last edited by hammeredklavier; Dec-03-2019 at 00:48.

  22. #45
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    Quote Originally Posted by 1996D View Post
    It's what the best players and conductors have, the ability to stop time and display what the composer wrote in its full glory. All the technical things are unimportant compared to that: the spiritual connection between the composer, the player, and God: complete synergy.
    interesting....that really doesn't relate to my own experience, or that of most performers I know, or have worked with...first off. if you're a busy musician, you are playing tons of music, overlapping services, and often obscure or relatively unknown composers...trying to commune, or spiritually connect with each and every composer is rather impossible...I guess if you play only a few concerts a year, you could spend the time probing the psyche of the composer....for the workaday musician
    that really doesn't work. we communicate by way of the printed score, what the composer wrote...we use our knowledge, training and experience to perform to the best of our ability....technical ability is extremely important, but so is training, and so is "spirit", or musical sense, awareness....we always try to plug into the style, the "personality" of the music, which is a form of connecting to the composer's original expressive content...Considerably different approaches are applied to, say, Mozart, Brahms, Shostakovich. for me, god has nothing to do with it

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