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CREATIVE ORCHESTRATION McKAY 2nd summary

PRINCIPLES OF CLARITY 5

1. Choir consistency 5

2. Definite texture 5

Prototypes 5

1. Monophonic texture 5

2. Chordal texture 5

3. Imitative texture 5

4. Accompanied melody 6

5. Polymotivic 6

6. Polyrhythmic 6

7. Heterophonic 6

7. Other textures 6

3. Effective pitch distribution 7

4. Limitation of harmonic and melodic components 7

5. Vividness of timbre 8

6. Dynamic balance 8

7. Good instrumentation 8

PRINCIPLES OF INTEREST 9

1. Contrasts 9

2. Timbral variety 10

3. Motion and punctuation 10

4. Background material 10

5. Doubling 11

6. Vigor of design 11

7. Structural eventfulness 11

PERSONAL NOTES 12

Orchestral prototypical moments 12

Bulletproof registers 15

Doublings 16

Doublings 18

Flute 18

Clarinet 18

Bassoon 18

Trumpet 18

Trombone 18

Harp 18

Violin 18

Cello 18
Why doubling?: add attack, add resonance, add body/power, change timbre.

Write like a (string, flute, horn…) player (think in lines, avoid block chords)

patterns special fx

all

woodwinds

brass

percussion cymbal crash

cymbal struck / piatti

cymbal trill (hard or soft sticks)

harp près de la table (intensified)

strings

Motor elements:

bass 8th

fill ostinato for debajo de la melodia.

str sustain material 16th / triplets groove (II, va, vc)

snare groove 3plets

horn syncopes

timpani hits 4er

piano 8th

triangle 16th ost

Tension elements:

harp gliss, cymbal, timpani tr., runs (str, ww), triangle trem.

Special effects:

Bass drum cresc. to fffff while full orchestra remains ff (bass drum eats up the whole orchestra). Sibelius: The wood nymph

CREATIVE 1. Monophonic texture
One single line, horizontal emphasis.

ORCHESTRATION McKAY • Unison: one single middle register line (viola + cello + horn + high bassoon
or low clarinet)

2nd summary
• Octave or grand multi octave: the instruments must play in their natural
registers each.

• 16th or 32nd for unusual effect (piccolo + bassoon)

Variety:

register

PRINCIPLES OF CLARITY
type of doubling (octave or unison),

timbre

articulation

1. Definite texture

2. Vivid timbre (soloistic registers, contrasting tone qualities) and good


instrumentation (idiomatic writing, registers)

3. Pitch distribution
2. Chordal texture
4. Dynamic balance
Blocks of sound, vertical emphasis.

5. Limitation of melodic and harmonic elements

6. Contrast (timbre, pitch locale, articulation, pace…)


Options for spacings: low string harmony = place for woodwinds, close
7. Doublings
intervals in the middle register (mellow), concentrated high harmony with open
middle, harmonically rich woodwinds with open strings and brass…
1. Choir consistency
The choirs of sound (woodwinds, brass, percussion, strings) must be Horns and trumpets usually in closed harmony

rhythmically and harmonically consistent and complete.

Variety:

Maintain spacing (open or close)


rhythmic content (energetic and varied patterning)

Rhythm either contrasting or similar


antiphonal writing

Maximum 4 voices per choir


special flavors: spacing, emphasis on a particular note, register.

3. Imitative texture
2. Definite texture Imitation (voices that enter and leave constantly) and line similarity,
overlapping action.

Texture: togetherness in musical action, inner design, unifying force.


Enough open space (sculptured silence) in each of the parts

Different metric points of entry (not only 1st beat!)

Prototypes
Variety:

register

The closer the texture is to its prototype, the stronger its impact and
intelligibility will be.
subtle supporting harmony

different points of entrance

timbre

7. Heterophonic
type of doubling (unison, octave)
Horizontal emphasis: theme and variation played simultaneously. Principal
melodic line sounding with concurrent lines that introduce little variations to it.

4. Accompanied melody Usable in any melodic texture (like accompanied melody or monophonic) and
in accompanimental textures (as an enrichment: for example as differing
Defined roles, differentiated through register, rhythm and articulation:
versions of a main arpeggiated motion).

1. Melody
If harmony is added, it should be kept thin.

2. Countermelody (subordinated, incomplete, imitating)

3. Sustaining choir (chord, single tone, percussion role…)

4. Accompanimental rhythmic design, “motion”


7. Other textures
“Motion” and sustaining factors can be combined into one compound design.
Heterophonic texture: theme and variation played simultaneously. Usable in
Variety and inventiveness in the accompaniment.
any melodic texture (like accompanied melody or monophonic) and in
accompanimental textures (as an enrichment: for example as differing versions
5. Polymotivic of a main arpeggiated motion). If harmony is added, it should be kept thin.
Two contrasting motives simultaneously interacting. Rest of material is There are two types of heterophonic blend: melodic and rhythmic.

inconspicuous and non-motival.

Balance complexity against simplicity by not having melody and


Motival definiteness through contrasting architectural characteristics like:
accompaniment being complex at the same time. If the melody is
contour: curve / angle or leaping energy / steadiness;
heterophonic, keep the accompaniment sketchily delicate, stable and direct (or
movement/pace: agitation and rapidity / calm;
vice versa).

density: fullness / thinness;

articulation: staccato / legato.


Onomatopoeic: Imitation of nature (like orchestral “sound design”)

Examples: Delius Cuckoo, Respighi Fountains and Pines

6. Polyrhythmic Pointillism: Fragmentary designs in clear, unmixed timbres and in differing


Blended rhythmic action into one single impression, hypnotic sensation.
(non-competing) registers.

Entrances should be heard only briefly and in rapid order (splashes or points of
The different threads (thinly harmonised or single line rhythmic patterns) must sound).

be non motivical so that none will predominate.


A very thin background of sustained motion may be added to give continuity
to the sound.

Continuous motion
Active design / live and continuous rhythmic pattern (attention getting motor Common orchestral designs:
activity, kinetic value) magnifies the timbre.
trill/bisbigliando, harmonics, muted, tremolo/flutter-tongue, glissandi

woosh and crash

Variety: vestiges of a melody, phrase continuity (but kept to a minimum!)


staccato/repeated staccato notes

arpeggiation (staccato or legato, quick or slow)

wave patterns (legato or staccato)

runs, leaps

alternation of entrance (antiphonal work, durchbrochene Arbeit)

alternation of staccato and legato


4. Limitation of harmonic and melodic
expansion (mixtur)

development of common underlying design/combination of different elements of design

legato (one breath)

components
fanfarre
Harmony:
maestoso (power octaves)

pedal tones
Too full harmony will endanger clarity.

grace note (1: flam, 2: ruff, 3: ratamacue)


Orchestral harmonic rhythm needs to be slower.

ostinato rhythm /rhythmic pattern (ex: gallop)

chords (arpeggiated or non arpeggiated)


Never use the three choirs harmonically to avoid a cloudy sound.

Alternate harmonic function between choirs.

• Strings: linear design, with small amount of harmony in the middle register.

3. Effective pitch distribution • Brass: open, strong, foundational intervals. Full harmony creates an intense
harmonic impact (no harmonic reinforcement needed). If full harmony in
brass is used, limit the range from D3 to A4 (15135)

Melody, countermelody, harmony/accompaniment and bass need to be in • Woodwinds: use for harmonic emphasis.

non-competing pitch locales.

Degrees of harmonic intensity:

CHARACTERISTICS:
• Strong: Close voicings

• Very high pitches obscure lower tones.


• Moderate: Foundational open voicings

• Very low tones give a blurry effect.


• Non-harmonic: Linear design

• Extreme registers are tiring and are to be used only in key points.

• Balance the three different degrees of harmonic intensity, distribute each one
• Middle register (zone around the middle C): inconspicuous area, suited for among different families of sound.

accompanimental design and harmonic background (relaxed and fluent


register for horns, violas, clarinets, second violins).
Orchestral harmony normally maintains consistency of choir action (number of
voices and type of spacing); if there is variation of voices or spacing occurs it
USES:
should happen following a very simple design with is clear and purposeful
• Use middle register most of the time, alone or combined with either high (usually by contrary or oblique motion).

or low pitch.

• Full register (all high, mid and low registers) only for climatic moments of Balance the amount of parallel, oblique and contrary motions.

high intensity and briefly.


“Keel action” (an internal pedal tone or similar maintained element) at the
centre of things for stability and gluing.

• High and low pitch without middle register only for special effect.

• High or low pitch alone are very expressive but tiring.

Melody:
• Featured low sounds should sound isolated to be clearly hearable.

Complex (long and without repetition) musical material requires more attention
and mental effort that simple material (brief, repeated).

Variety: pitch locale variegation.

One single melodic component at a time.

Countermelody should be less demanding (shorter, incomplete).

7. Good instrumentation
5. Vividness of timbre Instrumental registers
Distinctive tonal character.
Become acquainted with the extreme low and high registers of all the
instruments (pedal tones of the horns, high tones of the tuba, low flute, high
Soloistic instrumental register:
bassoon…). They have a certain stringency of timbre.

Use the particular middle (mild) register of each instrument for background Use extreme registers for accompaniment or melody, not for both.

material. Use high or low registers to vivify soloist or motival material.

The use of only non-extreme registers gives an impression of delicacy,


Structural means of achieving clarity for homogeneous groups like choir, organ sweetness and gentleness.

or band): antiphonal writing. Use of strikingly opposed registers.

Idiomatic characteristics
Contrasting tone quality:
Normal balance of articulative characteristics comes from using the natural
kinetic role of each family:

• Dry (snare drum, pizz. strings) / Liquid (glockenspiel, flute, clarinet)

• Sibilant (rattle, flute flzg.) / Solid (wood-block, xylophone, trumpet)


• Brasses: harmonic, sustaining. Slower in articulation and naturally harmonic

• Mellow (viola, low clarinet) / Harsh (trombone flzg., cymbal crash)


• Woodwinds: melodic. Moderate in speed and tend towards melody

• Smooth / Sharp
• Strings: motoric. Accurate and rapid in articulation, well suited to florid
• Brittle / Plastic
design.

• Ethereal / vulgar

• Shrill / Mellow
For special effects these roles may be reversed (brass melodic, active
• Percussive / Sustained
woodwinds, sustaining strings).

6. Dynamic balance
2 woodwinds (french horn included) = 1 brass (non muted)

(woodwinds are easily overpowered by brass or full strings)

Strongest families, hold in check: Timpani and military instruments (snare,


bass drum, cymbal), brass, horns.

Weak instruments: Middle range clarinet, harp, harpsichord and similar


delicate percussions.

Avoid fussiness to keep epic solidity and high energy.

It can be integrated in any textural type. (Nutcracker Suite: piccolo melo +


PRINCIPLES OF INTEREST bassoons accompaniment).

Contrast of articulation
Create interest through contrast and variety in motion, structure, register.

Degrees or articulative intensity


To ensure variety, you need to have a large palette of resources available in 1. harsh and vigorous
dry percussion (xilo, snare, woodblock)
your mind.
DISSONANT/NOISE

2. pointed and vivid plectrum instruments (pizz. strings,


guitar, cembalo)
1. Contrasts 3. moderately intense (ambivalent) bowed strings
Contrast of timbre
4. less intense brass
Sudden changes of tone color and register (by groups of instruments or in
melodic form). Addition of a simple supporting background is also possible. 5. softened by harmonic resonance bell-tone percussion (glockenspiel,
Use the soloistic registers for the melodic voices.
celesta, harp, piano)

Stereophony: offstage instruments.


6. soft and gentle
woodwinds (gentlest: flute)
Antiphonal writing/Durchbrochene Arbeit
SINUS-LIKE

Contrast of staccato and legato


Maximum tonal interest through contrast of articulation: combination of the
Consecutive most extreme opposites (flutes -blown- / celesta -percussive-, trombones -
Inner contrast of articulation within a line (particularly necessary in the string blown- / cymbals (struck).

lines: study string quartets to get a feeling for subtleties of bowing). See
architectural use of this contrast by the Wiener Klassik.
Examples: “And the fallen Petals” by Chou Weng-Chung (blending of harsh
percussive sounds with blown instruments) and Concerto 7 by Hovahness.

Simultaneous
Combine continuous staccato and continuous legato sounds for vividness and Contrast of chord and line

interest (see Brahms piano concerto No. 2, and Saint-Saens).


An internal melodic line cuts through a chordal mass sounding in the same
Frank, Delius and Wagner tend to legato monotony.
register that works like a cocoon that embraces the internal melody.

Scarlatti and Prokofiev tend to staccato.

• Use contrasting timbres in similar pitch locales: english horn line cutting
The ideal: balance between legato and staccato and sufficient use of trough string harmony, solo violin line cutting through woodwind harmony.

simultaneous contrast.
• Create points of dissonance between line and chord.

Staccato accompaniment vs. legato melody or vice versa.

Contrast of density
Contrast of pitch Sudden changes: from thick to thin (relaxed clarity and pleasant surprise), from
Contrast between high and low pitch.
thin to thick.

Extreme contrasts (piccolo/bass clarinet) produce a bizarre effect.


Gradually adding or taking away various instruments: crescendi and
Contrasting pitch locale can be used for doubling or antiphonally.
diminuendi.

Contrasting motor possibilities

flute (fluid) / wood block (brittle), sax (legato) / snare drum (staccato), trumpet Total mixture can be horizontal (Webern, kaleidoscopic orchestration, Bartok -
(substantial) / pizz. viola (delicate).
all instruments as soloists- Concerto for Orchestra) and vertical (total mixture,
non doubled: Webern, Boulez).

2. Timbral variety
Instrumental registers 3. Motion and punctuation
Extreme low and high registers of all the instruments (pedal tones of the horns,
high tones of the tuba, low flute, high bassoon…). They have a certain Motion as a sustaining factor
stringency of timbre.
Sustaining tones are the pedal of the orchestra.


Unsustained and fragmented sound tends to dry out. Too much sustaining
Use extreme registers for accompaniment or melody, not for both.
sound obscures the delicacy of design.

The use of only non-extreme registers gives an impression of delicacy, Achieve foundational feeling without adding actual sustaining material: use
sweetness and gentleness.
continuous motion patterns (ostinato figures or similar). This stabilizing motion
glues the music together. Maintain the motion patterns thin and delicate (one
Overlapping or two voices tops).

Light and shade effect (alternation of blended and pure tone of different choirs
of sound.)
Contrast this continuous motion with fragmentary, pointillistic material (kicks,
The alternation rate must not be too regular to avoid monotony.
stabs, accents…).

Punctuation
Total mixture/Unusual instruments An accented point or important entrance can be intensified or highlighted by
Clear points of tone color sounding simultaneously in separate designs and reinforcing it briefly with additional design for extra strength and variety. Like a
pitch locales.
brief heterophonic unison (no consecutive meaning, just a touch of emphasis).

Basic timbral ingredients Striking suddenness can bring pleasant surprise (timpani roll, flutes quick
1. Soft woodwinds flutes, clarinets repetition or stab…).

2. Harsh woodwinds oboes, bassoons


4. Background material
3. Warm brass horns, muted brasses
Percussion as background
4. Clear brass trumpets, trombones The pulsating timbre of a percussive element can supply a stabilizing effect.

5. String tone violins, violas, cellos, basses


It engages the attention and hypnotically fills up the sound space: everything
6. Plectrum sounds harp, cembalo, guitar, pizz. strings else seems incidental. Random, variated, fragmentary material merges into
meaning: unifying power of a motor pedal (rhythmic ostinato).

7. Bell-tone percussion piano, celesta, vibraphone, bells


Strings as background
8. Dry percussion snare, woodblock, tambourine Naturally fluent, vague and active background (many possible patterns).

Use the entire string section. Then add woodwind and brass melodies.
For superior blending of the harmonic support, make each choir have its own

individual spacing and design/voice leading (to avoid a routinely exact mixing
of resonances) (see Tristan und Isolde / Lohengrin)

5. Doubling
6. Vigor of design
• Do not double if the purpose of the doubling is not 100% clear.

• Reasons for doubling: for tonal power / for tonal subtlety.


Even in the simplest action there must be a purposeful design and sense of
• A maintained doubling is tiring.
spontaneity

Add a grace note to a repeated tone, a trill, a little syncope, articulate pedals…

Doubling for power


1. Unison doubling toward the middle register: rich and intense.

2. Octave doubling: powerful.


7. Structural eventfulness
3. Multi-octave doubling: very powerful, massive.

To use with moderation (only part of the time in the doubling):

• Brass (slower and more tiring than woodwinds and strings. Their fresh
entrance will make more impact).

• Bell-toned instruments (piano, xylophone, glockenspiel…): attention


getting (become tiring).

• Extreme registers: use with moderation (piccolo, double bass, bass drum,
tuba…) only for surprise and brilliance and added briefly. The tuba is best
for doubling the lower trombone when deep power is needed. It is slow in
articulation and its constant use will tend to retard action and blur sonority.

Enrich the line with a little heterophony or add a sustained note (ignoring the
little notes of the design) to add some floor to the texture: any effect is
magnified by some slight supporting structure (like the setting around the
diamond).

Doubling for subtlety


Mix two opposing timbres

low flute + xilo,

viola + english horn,

horn and cello + a dryer sound (string pizz. or snare drum).

Unison doubling produces maximal blend.

Octave doubling produces less blend, but is more fresh.

PERSONAL NOTES
Orchestral prototypical moments

• Unisson

Microtonal unison

Pulsating (modulating pitch and volume) unison

• Runs

Bartok violin concerto 2, III (ending)

Grievous Williams

Harry Potter Hedwig’s Theme

Journey to the Island

• Orchestral epic crescendo/transition

Shostakovitch 5, IV

Tchaikovsky 5, II

• Orchestral “Drop”/Climax

Shostakovich 5, IV

Mahler 1, IV

• Grand finale

Debussy La mer

Mahler 2, finale

• Scherzo, motoric fun

Scherzo for motorcycle and orchestra

Roussel Symphony 3

• Cross cutting a main theme with different “episodes”

Mary Poppins Roof Dance

Meistersinger p.16

• Double exposition (octavate 2nd)

Brahms 1, II

• “Choral” passage

Jaws end titles

Tchaikovsky 5

• Chaos

Three places in New England (III)

• Cluster fff to triad ppp

Ligeti string quartet 2

• Emphatic crescendo

Treasure crescendo Last Crusade beginning

Hagrid zoom Harry Potter 1

“What?” Zoom to Kevin’s face Home Alone

• Coda/outro

Raider’s March coda

How to Catch a Million coda

Maria

• Intro

Shindler’s list

Maria

• “On” intro

Hedwig’s theme

The tale of Navorsky

• Bad guy moment

Indy’s great escape (train)

Home Alone

Sherlock Holmes 1, Lord Blackwood (Zimmer)

• Two ambiguous voices

Artificial Intelligence

Treasure crescendo Indy’s very first adventure

Shostakovich (?)

• High/middle microtonal pedal

Sicario

Dunkirk

Let me in

• Pandiatonic floating ambient

The prestige

Pärt Im Memoriam

• Floating, non thematic ambient/underscore

Harry Potter Mirror scene, Face of Voldemort

Indiana Jones, End scene

Bulletproof registers

bulletproof harmonic melodic

piccolo A5-G7

flute A4-G6

clarinet D4-A4 D3-D4 / Bb4-Bb5

oboe A4-D6

english
C4-D5
horn

bassoon Bb2-C4

french horn F3-Bb4 (written: C4-F5) F3-D4 (written: C4-A4) Bb3-Bb4 (written: F4-F5)

trumpet Bb3-Bb5 Bb3-Bb4 Bb4-G5-Bb5

tenor
F3-F4
trombone

bass
F2-F3
trombone

tuba Bb1-Bb2

violin -A6

viola -D6

cello -A4

double
-C3
bass
Doublings

PICC FL OB ENG CL BASS CL BSN HR TRP TRB TB SNARE


BD TIMP
CEL GLOCK.S VIB HRP PNO CYMB
PIATTI VLN VA VC DB
HORN P.

1 FL TRP CEL HRP

Respighi
Pentola

8 DOWN FL OB CL BSN

Tchaikovs
ky 1, I

8 UP PICC FL F VLN
HARM.

Z FL CYMB TR

16 DOWN FL BSN

1 HR TRB VA VC

1 MUTED VC SUL
TRB PONT
Bax

1 MUTED VLN
TRP

1 BSN HR VA VC DB

1 HRP VIOLIN
HARMON SUL
ICS PONTICE
LLO

1 OB HR
TRP
Sibelius
3, I 75%

1 GLOCK.S HRP
P.

1 HRP PIZZ.
STR

8 UP DB+DB

8 ENG BASS CL
HORN
PICC FL OB ENG CL BASS CL BSN HR TRP TRB TB SNARE
BD TIMP
CEL GLOCK.S VIB HRP PNO CYMB
PIATTI VLN VA VC DB
HORN P.

8 VLN
HARMON
IC + VLN
PIZZ

8 TRP TRB

SOLO PICC

La Mer,
Debussy,

E.T.

WHERE?

Z CYMB. VIOLIN
TR. WITH SUL
DRUMSTI PONTICE
CK LLO
Doublings
Harp
Unison:
• Flute (Respighi Pentola)

Flute • Clarinet (Respighi Pentola)

• Celesta

Unison:
8va up:
• Harp (Respighi Pentola)

• (Harp chords) Celesta chords

• Celesta

8 down: Violin
• Bassoon (Tchaikovsky 1, I)
Unison:
• Flute (Peter Grimes Interlude)

Clarinet • Clarinet

• Celesta (Hedwig’s theme)

Unison:
8va down:
• Flute

• Violin

• Harp (Respighi Pentola)

Z:
8va down:
• (strings pizz.) snare am Rand

• Bassoon

Bassoon Cello
Unison:
Unison:
• (cello sul pont. tremolo): trombone muted

• Cello

• (low strings pizz): bass drum (Los Angeles Symphony, Pärt)


8va up:
• Flute (Tchaikovsky 1, I)

Trumpet
Z:
• (trumpet run) snare trill

Trombone
Unison:
• (Trombone muted) Cello sul pont. tremolo

8va down:
• Tuba

Z:
• (Brass chord) snare trill