Author Topic: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?  (Read 35332 times)

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Offline amw

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #160 on: September 23, 2014, 06:29:29 PM »
And very abrupt shifts between pizz and arco.
It's not that bad if you take the last arco note on an up-bow. (and are a reasonably well coordinated person)

Offline EigenUser

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #161 on: September 24, 2014, 12:41:49 AM »
It's not that bad if you take the last arco note on an up-bow. (and are a reasonably well coordinated person)
Yeah, that didn't bother me so much. Tricks like up-bowing the note before the pizzicato were made for this*.

By the way, what do you play? For some reason I was under the impression that you play piano, but do you also play a stringed instrument or are you just familiar with technique?

*For non-string-players, an up-bow is when you sound the instrument by moving the point of the bow up (likewise, a down-bow means moving the bottom of the bow down, not to insult anyone's intelligence :D). Of course, on cello and bass the "up" and "down" description doesn't work, but you get the idea. So, when playing normally with the bow (arco), all motions consist of up-bow and down-bows. Playing an up-bow before a pizzicato is a good transition because your right hand will already be near the string at the end of the note.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

Offline Florestan

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #162 on: September 24, 2014, 12:49:41 AM »
Of course, on cello and bass the "up" and "down" description doesn't work, but you get the idea.

Replace "up'' with ''left'' and ''down'' with ''right'' and it works perfectly, because moving the bow towards left on a cello / double bass will have the same effect of bringing your hand closer to the strings at the end of a note.
"I compose music because I must give utterance to my feelings, just as I talk because I must give utterance to my thoughts." --- Sergei Rachmaninoff

Offline amw

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #163 on: September 24, 2014, 01:26:55 AM »
Yeah, that didn't bother me so much. Tricks like up-bowing the note before the pizzicato were made for this*.

By the way, what do you play? For some reason I was under the impression that you play piano, but do you also play a stringed instrument or are you just familiar with technique?
I played violin for about a year, and was awful at it. I also played cello for two or three years, and flute for about six months (took me about three months to be able to make any sounds come out of the damn thing...). Piano's the only instrument I have any sort of competence at. But as a composer one has to know, in theory at least, how to play every instrument of the orchestra, even if it's just what sorts of movements the players are going to make. Such things then become intimately bound up with the actual music one writes.

(I quickly learned not to specify fingerings though, as 9 times out of 10 the players would cross out all my fingerings and write in their own, and if I then adopted their fingerings the next person to play the piece would replace them with their own etc.)

Replace "up'' with ''left'' and ''down'' with ''right'' and it works perfectly, because moving the bow towards left on a cello / double bass will have the same effect of bringing your hand closer to the strings at the end of a note.
"Left" and "right" are more accurate anyway, since for violin and viola your right hand is parallel to the strings (rather than perpendicular as with cello and bass) and therefore moves horizontally. But "left-bow" and "right-bow" never caught on for some reason >.>

Offline springrite

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #164 on: September 24, 2014, 01:36:11 AM »
When I ask orchestra players which composer do you like to play the most, the most frequently mentioned name is Brahms.
Do what I must do, and let what must happen happen.

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #165 on: September 24, 2014, 06:48:00 AM »
When I ask orchestra players which composer do you like to play the most, the most frequently mentioned name is Brahms.

Paul, are you sure they didn't say Schoenberg? :P
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Offline springrite

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #166 on: September 24, 2014, 06:49:53 AM »
Paul, are you sure they didn't say Schoenberg? :P

One did, and a sound beating from fellow orchestra members followed promptly.
Do what I must do, and let what must happen happen.

Offline relm1

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #167 on: September 24, 2014, 07:09:39 AM »
I am a professional composer and orchestrator and love this topic.  An important aspect of orchestration is that it must effectively meet its intent.  In other words, something that is considered muddled in one context might be effective if the intent is achieved.  There are many great composers who are not great at orchestrating and I saw earlier in the thread examples of great orchestration of poor material.  So another way to think of this is that poor orchestration might work in a different context but the desire is not sufficiently nor succinctly achieved.  Bernstein said good orchestration can be thought of like wearing the appropriate clothes for an event.  You wouldn't go swimming in a sweater...that wardrobe would work well in a different setting but it doesn't fit the context....unless the idea is to be ridiculous.  Orchestration is a constant effort to find the most specific thing in the most meaningful way as concisely as possible. 

In Ravel's orchestration of Mussorgsky Pictures at an Exhibition, why is the saxophone used only in one movement?  Why does only one trumpet start the promenade?  Why such an obscenely high tuba solo in Bydlo?  Other example - in Ravel's Bolero, at rehearsal 8 , there is a strange passage with a notoriously difficult passage for solo horn with 2 piccolos.  The high piccolo range tends to be more difficult to keep in tune with some notes are naturally sharp and some naturally flat.  The first piccolo plays in E major, the second piccolo plays in G major an octave lower, and the horn plays the ostinato theme we've head adnoseum in C.  Without context all of these examples are poor orchestration but in context, they are brilliantly effective therefore success!  (see 7:44 of this video https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3KgpEru9lhw&feature=player_detailpage#t=464).  Ravel is one of the great orchestrators and these decisions were very deliberate and intentional.  If the same combination of instrumentation was used to start the promenade of Mussorgsky, would that work?  Also the opening bassoon of Stravinsky's Rite of Spring.  Wouldn't it make more sense as a different instrument?  Yes, but the intent is an unusual timbre and the sound of an instrument outside its tessitura (the comfortable range). 

Also important is balance between the forces.  60 strings can be covered up by one trombone.  Is that the intent?  If so, use powerful forces sparingly.  Now we are also broaching the topic of dramaturgy.  You see this is a very deep well and constant source of invention & experimentation. 

I can send a one minute example of my music and orchestration but the site limits the upload to 500k!
« Last Edit: September 24, 2014, 12:16:02 PM by relm1 »

Offline Mirror Image

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #168 on: September 24, 2014, 06:46:43 PM »
One did, and a sound beating from fellow orchestra members followed promptly.

 :P
“Works of art make rules; rules do not make works of art.” - Claude Debussy

ibanezmonster

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #169 on: September 24, 2014, 07:15:40 PM »
Other example - in Ravel's Bolero, at rehearsal 8 , there is a strange passage with a notoriously difficult passage for solo horn with 2 piccolos.  The high piccolo range tends to be more difficult to keep in tune with some notes are naturally sharp and some naturally flat.  The first piccolo plays in E major, the second piccolo plays in G major an octave lower, and the horn plays the ostinato theme we've head adnoseum in C. 
I always thought that example sounds awesome- the effect is quite a bit like that of an organ.

Offline EigenUser

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #170 on: September 24, 2014, 11:05:49 PM »
I always thought that example sounds awesome- the effect is quite a bit like that of an organ.
Me, too. It falls under the category of being "so wrong that it's right."

I should hear Bolero again sometime soon. Not my favorite Ravel by a long shot, but damn good. Second-rate Ravel is still first-rate music.
Beethoven's Op. 133 -- A fugue so bad that even Beethoven himself called it "Grosse".

Offline relm1

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #171 on: September 27, 2014, 07:41:19 AM »
If anyone is interested, I have created a brief sampler of my music and orchestrations:

http://youtu.be/bOGCOfLNb5c

This features a range of styles including my concert music, film, and video game music all for large orchestra. 
« Last Edit: September 28, 2014, 11:00:52 AM by relm1 »

Offline Purusha

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #172 on: December 16, 2014, 05:35:29 PM »
Wasn't the Bolero just an exercise in orchestration in the first place? Maybe he was just experimenting.

Offline jochanaan

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #173 on: December 17, 2014, 07:41:36 AM »
Wasn't the Bolero just an exercise in orchestration in the first place? Maybe he was just experimenting.
Great composers such as Ravel generally don't publish their mere "exercises" or have them performed.  I know, he described Bolero as "seventeen minutes of orchestra without any music," but he also said that people would whistle it on the streets. 8)
Imagination + discipline = creativity

Offline Fagotterdämmerung

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #174 on: December 18, 2014, 12:10:04 PM »
  Whenever I see this thread I always think "Mahler!", not so much in terms of timbre ( which he had a great understanding of ), but in terms of understanding instruments' ranges. Look at a bassoon, Mr. Mahler, it's right there. You can even ask a bassoonist.

  It may be an apocryphal story, but I remember this story of Mahler getting frustrated with a percussion player who he saw as being too gentle in his strokes on the bass drum, and going right up and hitting the drum as hard as possible, only to have a dead, muffled note come out. I'd love to know if it's true!

 

Offline jochanaan

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Re: What, in no uncertain terms, is "bad" orchestration?
« Reply #175 on: December 18, 2014, 05:28:33 PM »
...It may be an apocryphal story, but I remember this story of Mahler getting frustrated with a percussion player who he saw as being too gentle in his strokes on the bass drum, and going right up and hitting the drum as hard as possible, only to have a dead, muffled note come out. I'd love to know if it's true!

 
According to Alma Mahler's biography, the story is true, and happened during rehearsals for the world premiere of his Sixth Symphony.  For the hammer-blows in the finale, he had a massive frame constructed with a leather skin that was to be "beaten with clubs."  The bass drummer tried it out--only a muffled boom.  Again--no louder.  Mahler ran back, seized the club and gave the machine a huge thwack.  The resulting note was no louder than before.  So they had to use the old bass drum.  "And the true thunder came."
Imagination + discipline = creativity

 

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