View Full Version : Last night I saw a REAL Symphony Orchestra....

Scott Cairns
04-30-2003, 07:43 PM
Hi All, I had the pleasure of seeing a REAL symphony orchestra last night. For many of you I\'m sure it\'s no big deal, but if you are like me, and your last orchestral experience was the high school band, then I whole-heartedly recommend that you go and see one.

The first thing I simply couldn\'t get over was sonic beauty I was hearing. The orchestra in question was in fact a Uni orchestra and when these \"young kids\" started playing I had to blink as my eyes couldn\'t believe what my ears were hearing.

Not only did seeing the orchestra live give me a greater and renewed appreciation of classical music, it also gave me a \"frame of reference\" for what we try to create with our sample libraries.

I noticed that there was not nearly as much decay in the hall as I would\'ve imagined. It seemed to be more of a \"large ambience\". So in my next orchestral mock-up I will be experimenting with shorter but fuller reverb settings if that makes sense.

I was also interested to see how a composer can really create a \"conversation\" with different instruments in the orchestra. In one of the movements (I think it was in an Adagio by Brahms) the Cello\'s (Celli?) and Basses were playing pizzicatto. The 1st and 2nd Violins were responding by playing the pizzicatto on the off beat. It was something you could actually watch, almost like a tennis match, as the strings on the right duelled with the strings on the left. It also created a nice \"stereo bounce\".

As a GOS user, watching the string section play gave me a deeper understanding of how to utilise my library. Given my lack of musical training I have to admit that my imagination went as far as having the Cello\'s and Basses mirror the strings down in their respective octaves.

I am also not ashamed to say that I didn\'t really know what to do with the Viola\'s. Now, I can see so many possibilities; to my ears Viola\'s and Cello\'s seem to blend beautifully. I suspect now that when I have heard those low and sombre string passages in the past what I was hearing was not violins, but Viola\'s playing in their \"sweet spot\" and Cello\'s playing in their upper registers. I also couldnt go past the beauty of hearing the Basses and Cello\'s playing Pizzicatto whilst the Violins played legato over the top. The sound of the lower strings playing pizz was so full that for a moment I thought that the Timpani had joined in.

In the pieces I watched last night (almost entirely Adagios in style) I noticed that the Horns also play a great supporting role to the strings and were used something like 60% of the time, more than I would\'ve first imagined.

And that\'s another point, the poor old Trombonists mustn\'t have blown more than half a dozen notes last night. As silly as it sounds, I also realised that the whole orchestra doesnt have to play Tutti (all together) the whole time. It\'s obviously quite legitimate to have certain players or even sections sit there for entire movements without sounding a note.

For the experienced and classically trained among you, please forgive me for the simplicity of these statements, but perhaps some of you making your first foray into the orchestral world will gain something from this. I know that I certainly did.

The two main insights I gained from last night were;

1. Sonic Purity, I know it is extremely hard to mimic a real orchestra with samples but hearing something as beautiful as I did last night sure does make me want to strive for it. It also \"recalibrated\" my brain to what sound I should be trying to create.

2. Playing Techniques, if you\'re like me and have gone and bought a stack of sample libraries but feel restricted in how to best use them, go and watch an orchestra. See how the instruments can interact with each other. Also watch the dynamics they create. On of my other failings has been to always load up the forte samples in my libraries. (Must hark back to my Rock \'n\' Roll days.) The softer sound that an orchestra creates is enough to make a grown man cry. No disrespect to Hans Zimmer, but I think I was starting to get into the habit of composing everything at full volume ala \"The Rock\" as I had been listening to so many of his scores.

Last night gave me SO MANY ideas, I can\'t even begin to describe them. The next time I load up Gigastudio I will have a fresh perspective and renewed vigour.

Thanks for reading my long ramblings. images/icons/smile.gif


04-30-2003, 08:16 PM
No problem, as it\'s nice to hear someone\'s responses to their first symphonic concert experience -- amazing isn\'t it? My first concert occured during the last week of my Junior year in high school. Also Sprach and the Theiving Magpie were the highlights of the concert and this is really what got me interested in the orchestra as a whole.

The next day, I drove to the symphony\'s office (Memphis Symphony Orchestra if you must know) and inquired as to whether there was a Youth Orchestra or not, and how I would join it if it was available. A week later I auditioned, was accepted (trumpet), and began the year of service with the Memphis Youth Symphony.

Listening to an orchestra is grand, but actually playing in an orchestra is mind blowing. \"I am able to contribute to the sound that I heard just a few months ago!?\" is the feeling and to me the only thing that will top it is having an orchestra perform one of my works. I remember looking at Sarah during the first run-through session and both say \"Wicked!\" because it was just that intense.

Nothing beats joining an orchestra with a yearly theme of \"Space.\" I honestly never got into Star Wars until I played the opening notes of the Main Title theme, along with Also Sprach, Star Trek: Through the Generations, Mars, and (here\'s a doosy) Pink Floyd: The Other Side of the Moon.

I\'ve played in a few other orchestras since then, but composition and orchestration really are my passions. I love playing, but it\'s a closed chapter in my life and one I\'ll always love. In fact, if I could still play I would probably be a member of one of the civic orchestras, but poor dental work shot that chance images/icons/frown.gif

Yeah, viola is one of the most understated instruments in my opinion. Most people will use them for doubling or for harmonic filling, but they have a unique voice that is more beautiful than the violin in some cases. I love the viola more than the violin, though the cello takes place as my favorite string instrument.

Like above, just my thoughts and ramblings images/icons/smile.gif

Scott Cairns
05-01-2003, 06:32 PM
Thanks for sharing Russ. Wow, actually playing in an orchestra would be a huge blast! Funnily enough, I played in the high-school orchestra (percussion). I can read drum notes but not musical ones terribly well believe it or not. I used to sit next to the Tuba player and his score didn\'t look too hard. images/icons/wink.gif

But actually playing a non-percussive instrument in a decent orchestra would be very cool.

Cheers, Scott.

His Frogness
05-03-2003, 05:55 PM
I was in the percussion section in High School too, hehe. I\'ve been a pianist my whole life, but never good enough to actually perform with an orchestra...in public. I always liked the piano cause I could compose stuff. Anyway, I actually took drum lessons when I was 14 so I could join the marching band,<-----dork!,and I ended up enjoying orchestra more, even if my sheet music was 2 pages long and consisted of 86 measures of rests. Anyhow, I was engineering in L.A for a bit and got to spend a couple days with Novi Novog, who\'s done just about every viola part in Hollywood, and she\'s also a sweetie. I never appreciated the difference between a viola and a violin until I heard her play. Find a song called \"Far From Saved\" by Granian and that song will sell you on the viola. images/icons/smile.gif

-end of fond memories rant

05-03-2003, 11:08 PM

Nice post! I\'m really glad for you that you got to experience that. I too had never been to a \"real\" symphony orchestra until a few years ago when I attended a performance at the Chicago Symphony Orchestra. Amazing stuff. It was a while ago so I don\'t remember details, and I wasn\'t composing as hardcore as I am now, so I probably didn\'t appreciate it as much as I would\'ve now. I\'ll have to attend the CSO again soon, and pay close attention to everything as you did.

Violas rock. I have a friend who\'s a cellist and he tells me there are a lot of viola jokes, but I think violas sound great. I especially like their sound in the lower register.

Man, now I wanna go get tickets!!

Scott Cairns
05-04-2003, 07:24 AM
Thanks for sharing guys. images/icons/smile.gif

Sam, how\'s your project coming along? Well I hope.

Regards, Scott.

05-04-2003, 08:21 PM

Not too badly.. it has its ups and downs images/icons/smile.gif I\'ll be able to announce the game in about 10 days or so.