Orchestration: Learning and remarks

Thaleia: Learning the sound of choir combinations and conductors.

Thaleia is a heroic piece about the muse of comedy. Thaleia means the ‘blossoming happiness’. I wrote this piece as a summary of all I learned about the craft in 2018/2019. There are also experiments to learn how I can improve my work next year: We will be testing choir combinations, fast moves in low instruments, number of clarinets and where to breath, sound of high instruments.

After the experiment with the choirs, we will hear the difference in interpretation between 2 conductors (J. Lorenz and S. Melillo)

Choir-testing with Wind Orchestra Wind-richtung 19, Musikakademie Marktoberdorf 2019

Thaleia: Test scheme

1. Testing choir combinations (conducted by Stephen Melillo):

  • Bar 1 – A: Bassoons and trombones
  • Bar 1 – A: Trombones and Low brass.
  • Bar 6: Flutes, clarinets, saxophones and bell tree.
  • Bar A – B: Flutes and piccolo, clarinets.
  • Bar B – C: Muted trombones and bassoons
  • Bar K – L: Hoorns and oboe
  • G – H: Flutes and vibraphone.
  • G – H: Flutes, vibraphone and bass clarinets.

2. Testing fast moves in low instruments:

  • M – N: Bassoons and contrabassoon (with the high last bar lowered an octave )
  • M – N : Bass clarinets, Tuba.

3. Testing number of clarinets and their breathing:

  • N – O: Tutti, but only clarinets 1.
  • N – O: Tutti, 1 clarinet. The neighbour says ‘breath’ when he is breathing.

4. Testing high notes on high instruments:

  • Bar S – T: piccolo flutes clarinet 1,2,3.
  • Bar S – T: piccolo flutes and clarinets 1,2,3. Clarinets play an octave lower.

5. Testing the difference made by conductor:

  • C – G: tutti by conducter Jochem
  • C – G: tutti by conductor Stephen

6. Play the whole piece through once (conducted by Stephen Melillo)

Lessons by Stephen Melillo

  • The orchestration is the fingerprint of the composer.
  • Write high instruments high and low instruments low.
  • Write a snowman: the bottom must be broad and filled or it will not stand.
  • Orchestration has a big influence over how listeners percieve the piece as a whole. (See: State of the building/necklace analogy)
  • While composing think of the 3D effect, where the sound comes from and conduct that actively so you become aware of the set up of the orchestra you are composing for. (includes the percussion)
  • An orchestra is a group of SATB-choirs, so you can mix their colors. Also the band itself is (ideally) an SATB snowman-shaped choir in tutti passages.
  • People want their instrument to shine, if you write well for the instruments and the choirs, people will like your music because they will be heard in the most beautiful way they can. I think it is a sign of good taste for a composer to design that moment for all instruments and choirs.
  • Percussion can help keep the rythm, but it’s not what makes their instruments shine. All percussion-instruments have soundcolors of their own and together form a whole extra orchestra.
  • Doubling piccolo with glockenspiel is actually a waste of instruments, give them their own moment of fame, they are stand alone instruments.
  • You can voice SATB of an instrument choir (there are no other options):
    • In unison
    • Concerted
    • Solo
    • Solo with chords
    • Polyphonic
  • Tension can be amplified with low brass to get the darker sound. When you compose a dissonant there in the low brass it will give an extreme effect because of the natural overtoneseries will scratch in that range.
  • You could also add tension by choosing a darker sounding key (G- instead of F+)

By Anneloes Wolters


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