GARRITAN INTERACTIVE
PRINCIPLES OF ORCHESTRATION
by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov



Chapter IV
COMPOSITION

Part 1 - Orchestrating the Same Music


Lesson Notes:
This lesson begins the discussions on composition. Here we will discuss composition of the orchestra and explores different ways of orchestrating the same music.

Professor Belkin Comments: Note that RK quite wisely makes the point in his introduction that orchestration is really part of composition itself; timbre is not really something you add afterwards.




COMPOSITION OF THE ORCHESTRA


Different ways of orchestrating the same music


There are times when the general tone, character and atmosphere of a passage, or a given moment in an orchestral work point to one, and only one particular manner of scoring. The following simple example will serve for explanation. Take a short phrase where a flourish or fanfare call is given out above a tremolando accompaniment, with or without change in harmony. There is no doubt that any orchestrator would assign the tremolo to the strings and the fanfare to a trumpet, never vice versa. But taking this for granted, the composer or orchestrator may still be left in doubt. Is the fanfare flourish suitable to the range of a trumpet? Should it be written for two or three trumpets in unison, or doubled by other instruments? Can any of these methods be employed without damaging the musical meaning? These are questions which I shall endeavor to answer.


If the phrase is too low in register for the trumpets it should be given to the horns (instruments allied to the trumpet); if the phrase is too high it may be entrusted to the oboes and clarinets in unison, this combination possessing the closest resemblance to the trumpet tone both in character and power. The question whether one trumpet or two should be employed must be decided by the degree of power to be vested in the given passage. If a big sonorous effect is required the instruments may be doubled, tripled, or even multiplied by four; in the opposite case one solo brass instrument or two of the wood-wind will suffice (1 Ob. + 1 Cl.).

Professor Belkin Comments: Note however that power is NOT directly proportional to the number of instruments playing; for example 16 violins are not 16 times as loud as one. As a rule, psychoacoustics tells us that one can give the impression of a MUCH greater increase in power through a light doubling an octave higher than through heavy doubling at the unison. Heavy unison doubling, especially with the same instrument, makes the sound THICKER, but not a lot louder.

The question whether the tremolo in the strings should be supported by sustained harmony in the wood-wind depends upon the purpose in view. A composer realizes his intentions beforehand, others who orchestrate his music can only proceed by conjecture. Should the composer desire to establish a strongly-marked difference between the harmonic basis and the melodic outline it is better not to employ wood-wind harmony, but to obtain proper balance of tone by carefully distributing his dynamic marks of expression, pp, p, f and ff. If, on the contrary, the composer desires a full round tone as harmonic basis and less show of brilliance in the harmonic parts, the use of harmony in the wood-wind is to be recommended. The following may serve as a guide to the scoring of wood-wind chords: the harmonic basis should differ from the melody not only in fullness and intensity of tone, but also in color. If the fanfare figure is allotted to the brass (trumpets or horns) the harmony should be given to the wood-wind; if the phrase is given to the wood-wind (oboes and clarinets) the harmony should be entrusted to the horns.

Professor Belkin Comments: As RK here points out, by far the most common situation (when using several families) is for the harmony and the melody NOT to be in the same family. Putting harmony and melody into each family simultaneously makes bringing out the main line much harder to balance correctly, whereas contrast of timbre makes the melody stand out more easily.

To solve all these questions successfully a composer must have full knowledge of the purpose he has in view, and those who orchestrate his work should be permeated with his intentions. Here the question arises, what should those intentions be? This is a more difficult subject.


The aim of a composer is closely allied to the form of his work, to the aesthetic meaning of its every moment and phrase considered apart, and in relation to the composition as a whole. The choice of an orchestral scheme depends on the musical matter, the coloring of preceding and subsequent passages. It is important to determine whether a given passage is a complement to or a contrast with what goes before and comes after, whether it forms a climax or merely a step in the general march of musical thought.

Professor Belkin Comments: This is a point of capital importance. One can sometimes orchestrate a passage perfectly in itself and it will still sound feeble after something else. Koechlin calls this the problem if “successive balance”, as opposed to the (more commonly discussed) problem of simultaneous balance. A classical example of this is excluding an instrument from one passage, because it will soon have a solo. The principle of “NOVELTY MAKES GOOD CONTRAST” is at its clearest here, and explains why even a very familiar timbre can have a strong effect.

It would be impossible to examine all such possible types of relationship, or to consider the role played by each passage quoted in the present work. The reader is therefore advised not to pay too much attention to the examples given, but to study them and their bearing on the context in their proper place in the full scores. Nevertheless I shall touch upon a few of these points in the course of the following outline. To begin with, young and inexperienced composers do not always possess a clear idea of what they wish to do.
Professor Belkin Comments: This is 100% true. The first step is having a clear idea of the character and dynamic one wants. (If the answer for dynamics is “mf”, often that means the idea is simply vague. Try to think most of the time in terms of “loud” or “soft”.)

They can improve in this direction by reading good scores and by repeatedly listening to an orchestra, provided they concentrate the mind to the fullest possible extent. The search after extravagant and daring effects in orchestration is quite a different thing from mere caprice; the will to achieve is not sufficient; there are certain things which should not be achieved.


The simplest musical ideas, melodic phrases in unison and octaves, or repeated throughout several octaves, chords, of which no single part has any melodic meaning are scored in various ways according to register, dynamic effect and the quality of expression or tone color that may be desired. In many cases, one idea will be orchestrated in a different way every time it recurs. Later on I shall frequently touch upon this more complicated question.
Example:
Snegeourotchka
, Section 58; Section 65 and before Section 68 – sustain notes in unison.
There are fewer possible ways of scoring more complex musical ideas, harmonico-melodic phrases, polyphonic designs etc.; sometimes there are but two methods to be followed, for each of the primary elements in music, melody, harmony, and counterpoint possesses its own special requirements, regulating the choice of instruments and tone color. The most complicated musical ideas sometimes admit of only one manner of scoring, with a few hardly noticeable variations in detail. To the following example, very simple in structure I add an alternative method of scoring:

Professor Belkin Comments: As in harmony, usually the more complex the texture, the LESS alternatives there are to arranging it.



Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:




No.175. Vera Scheloga, before Section 35 - a) actual orchestration, b) another method.


Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


It is obvious that the method b) will produce satisfactory tone. But a 3rd and 4th way of scoring would be less successful, and a continuation of this process would soon lead to the ridiculous. For instance if the chords were given to the brass the whole passage would sound Heavy, and the soprano recitative in the low and middle register would be overpowered. If the F sharp in the double basses were played arco by 'cellos and basses together it would sound clumsy, if it were given to the bassoons a comic effect would be produced, and if played by the brass it would sound rough and coarse, etc.

The object, of scoring the same musical phrase in different ways is to obtain variety either in tone color or resonance. In each case the composer may resort to the inversion of the normal order of instruments, duplication of parts, or the two processes in combination. The first of these is not always feasible. In the preceding sections of the book I have tried to explain the characteristics of each instrument and the part which each group of instruments plays in the orchestra. Moreover many methods of doubling are to be avoided; these I have mentioned, while there are also some instruments which cannot be combined owing to the great difference in their peculiarities. Therefore, as regards the general composition of the orchestra, the student should be guided by the general principles laid down in the earlier stages of the present work.

The best means of orchestrating the same musical idea in various ways is by the adaptation of the musical matter. This can be done by the following operations:
  • a) complete or partial trans~ference into other octaves;
  • b) repetition in a different key;
  • c) extension of the whole range by the addition of octaves to the upper and lower parts;
  • d) alteration of details (the most frequent method);
  • e) variation of the general dynamic scheme, e. g. repeating a phrase piano, which has already been played forte.
These operations are always successful in producing variety of orchestral color.

Professor Belkin Comments: An additional method can sometimes be useful: inverted orchestration, i.e. giving the melody to the family which previously had the harmony, and vice versa. N.B. This is only possible in some cases, where the natural balance of the families (e.g. massed brass is always louder than massed woodwind in the same register) does not rule it out.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 176, 177. Russian Easter Fête Section A and Section C.

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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



No. 178 - 181. The Tsar's Bride, Overture: beginning, Section 1, Section 2 Section 7.

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Other References:
Sadko Section 109 - 101 (cf. Ex. 289, 290, and 75).

No. 182 - 186. Tsar Salton Section 14, Section 17, Section 26, Section 28, Section 34.

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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

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No. 187-189. Tsar Salton, Section 181, Section 246, Section 220.
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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score



No. 190–191. Ivan the Terrible, Overture Section 5 and Section 12.
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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


Other References:
Spanish Capriccio - compare 1st and 3rd movement.

No.192 - 195. Sheherazade, lst movement - beginning of the allegro Section A, Section E, Section M; 3rd Movement, beginning Section A, Section I; and 3rd Movement, Section G, Section O.

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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


*No. 196 - 198. Legend of Kitesh, Section 55, Section 56, Section 62.

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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

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*No. 199-201. Legend of Kitesh, Section 68, Section 70, Section 84. (Cf. also Ex. 213, 214. Legend of Kitesh, Section 294 and Section 312).

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Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score

Click on Play Button below to Play from the Score


No. 202-203. The Golden Cockerel, Section 229, Section 233.

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The process of scoring the same or similar ideas in different ways is the source of numerous musical operations, crescendo, diminuendo, interchange of tone qualities, variation of tone color etc., and incidentally throws new light upon the fundamental composition of the orchestra.


Next Lesson: Lesson 20 - COMPOSITION - Tutti