Techniques of Orchestration

Dr. Justin Henry Rubin © 2005

A. Type I Orchestration (continued)

3. Orchestrating to Illustrate Structure. Another way that orchestration can be creatively employed is to use it to help elucidate the form of a piece for the listener. In the following ternary bagatelle for piano, sections A and B share a similar texture. Therefore, a different approach to the instrumentation at this structural change will be explored. In addition, although the A section returns verbatim following the central portion, there is nothing prohibiting the orchestrator from enriching this final part and straying from an identical arrangement as heard at the outset.

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4. Scoring Strategy. When a composer is conceiving of an ensemble, it is worthy to first plan on how it will be engaged in the work at hand. We have already decided that to make a greater distinction for the three similarly textured sections of our piece, each will be accorded a unique orchestration, while carefully maintaining an organic unity with the whole. As such, four solo winds and brass will be supported by a small string ensemble. A vibraphone will be added, as the rich tone of its sustained attacks will blend well with the mood of the piece being arranged.

One notable timbral choice made for this arrangement is the specific instruction for the string parts at the opening to play sul tasto (to bow over the fingerboard) which brings with it a gentle, distant tone to the ensemble. Note that the contrabass is reserved throughout this piece only for the cadence points of the A sections; a confident orchestrator understands that instruments should be used only when they are needed in the piece while over-use will detract from the desired effect. Indeed, some instruments can be reserved by the composer to support only specific functions (as observed here) while remaining silent for the rest of the work.

In bar four a suspension occurs between the violins but which was an appoggiatura in the original piano score. This was changed because the piano needs to rearticulate the note in order for the dissonance to be expressed with sufficient strength, whereas an instrument capable of producing sound with sustained intensity does not require another attack.

Section B is distinguished through our use of only the winds and brass for the primary aspects of the arrangement while the strings are tacit. Since these instrumental groups provide the composer with a wide variety of timbral choices, we will avoid the simple, although effective, approach of the string arrangement from the first section. Analyzing the music at hand, we notice that each phrase begins with a series of melodic repetitions (supported by subtly different harmonies). Therefore, we can employ an antiphonal technique wherein we will alternate how each segment is arranged between two instrumental sub-groups.

In bar seven we will dovetail two instrumental lines (flute and oboe) to seamlessly transform the timbral quality of the melodic voice. These same two instruments will reinforce one another in octaves at the conclusion of the section.

Also in the central portion of our brief piece the vibraphone is introduced, but only to emphasize certain important pitches within the melodic contour. It continues on into the final section, here primarily as a rhythmic embellishment.

In the return of section A the flute persists in its doubling of the melodic line an octave higher, thus producing continuity with B. The bassoon introduces a new timbral dimension to the arrangement by reinforcing the cello (in unison). This is also used to create a balance with the now stronger intensity of the treble parts.

Unlike the piano original, which concludes identically as the opening phrase, in our orchestration we have added a final embellishment drawn from the brass (absent to this point in this section), winds, and percussion.

As before, the printed score below is untransposed. The original piano part is included only for reference as it is not a member of the ensemble.

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