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Topic: Arranging from Brass to Strings

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  1. #1

    Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Off and on in my life I have composed works that will one day be part of which will become my requiem, “In Remembrance.” Some of the themes, or compositions, have been published, performed live, in the computer, or simply laying as sheet music tucked away in my bedroom, but the puzzle has not been put together as of yet. There was a time when I thought that I only wanted to write it for brass, but then part of the 2nd movement got published and another section of the 1st movement got perform and both featured strings. So as I grow older, I hear the requiem growing into a work for choir, orchestra, and pipe organ.

    Last night I arranged just a minute and a half worth of music just for strings that used to be transcribed for brass. This section of music is in the middle of the first movement. It is the introduction to a section simply called “Hymn.” Do you think that I’m on the right path here or do the strings take away from the stand alone brass? If you could picture along with the strings, brass overlays with touches of woodwinds with percussion accents, that will eventually be the feel. I don’t know if it’s just an aural illusion or in my head, but I almost hear a choir singing along with the strings in this clip.

    The box file is the string introduction to “Hymn.” I also included the YouTube link so you could hear “Hymn” performed live to note the contrast. The “Realm of the Hyacinth” has nothing to do with requiem. It is just tagged on there because it was performed in the same concert.
    ~Rodney
    https://www.box.com/s/abd55a6f82cd8d160bc0
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jIr99nZWH2s

  2. #2

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by composingatnight View Post
    ...Do you think that I’m on the right path here or do the strings take away from the stand alone brass? If you could picture along with the strings, brass overlays with touches of woodwinds with percussion accents, that will eventually be the feel. I don’t know if it’s just an aural illusion or in my head, but I almost hear a choir singing along with the strings in this clip.

    The box file is the string introduction to “Hymn.” I also included the YouTube link so you could hear “Hymn” performed live to note the contrast...
    What a great on-going project, Rodney! The new strings recording at Box is really nice, moving. And the live track on the YouTube video sounds really great - an excellent live recording. What a thrill!

    You ask if you're on the right path - knowing that we have to use our imaginations since we're hearing these two things separately, strings at Box, brass at YT - But from your description, I'm hearing the full blend as being a Very worthy goal. Strings, brass, some winds and percussive accents. How could that combo go wrong, at least in theory?

    Choir - You know, I suggest you stay with the instruments. It's music in that "dramatically stirring" category (especially potent when coupled with the YT images) - and this is my own taste, but I feel adding a choir would make it over the top. I really don't care for these big dramatic things that have choir and full orchestra, they end up sounding corny to me. As I said - my personal preference.

    Great post, thanks for it, Rodney!

    Randy

  3. #3
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Hi Rodney,

    Interesting project ... I listened to both and have to say the all-brass flavor really hit me much harder emotionally. This was a very moving piece; great job the way it develops and builds.

    My humble two cents is to keep that first movement all-brass ... it's just too emotional to dilute. Save the full orchestra for the following movements. If you feel that's too unusual a form, then at least have the piece unfold with just the brass, then add the other orchestral sections later into the piece.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Regards,

    Frank

  4. #4

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by rbowser- View Post
    What a great on-going project, Rodney! The new strings recording at Box is really nice, moving. And the live track on the YouTube video sounds really great - an excellent live recording. What a thrill!

    You ask if you're on the right path - knowing that we have to use our imaginations since we're hearing these two things separately, strings at Box, brass at YT - But from your description, I'm hearing the full blend as being a Very worthy goal. Strings, brass, some winds and percussive accents. How could that combo go wrong, at least in theory?

    Choir - You know, I suggest you stay with the instruments. It's music in that "dramatically stirring" category (especially potent when coupled with the YT images) - and this is my own taste, but I feel adding a choir would make it over the top. I really don't care for these big dramatic things that have choir and full orchestra, they end up sounding corny to me. As I said - my personal preference.

    Great post, thanks for it, Rodney!

    Randy
    Thank you for the response, Randy! It's kind of funny concerning this work, around 5 years or so ago I thought I only had the finale to finish, but then I started connecting the movements with bridges, expanding the bridges, and then even the bridges became major themes within the work. So it began with a 4 movement work, but I needed to modulate the keys for a smoother transition to the next movement. The 1st and 2nd movement became one and went from the 1st movement being 5 minutes long to 30 minutes long! Then, I composed a bridge from the 1st to the 2nd connecting them into one which leaves us to the finale? Well, not quite.

    How do I start this work? I have this piece for strings, piano, and gong called "The Death of My Mother," but a huge fanfare after that work would just not seem appropriate. Just things I need to work out, and have been on my mind for years while I worked on other works and commissions for performances and publishing. This work is easily 45 minutes so far, but it could be one of those works that reaches even 2 hours because the more I compose on this work the more it inspires me to write other compositions that connect with it. So here I struggle with restraint and be done with it, verses trying to compose the sole purpose of existence and the meaning of not only life but also death.

    Randy, I am going to take your advice concerning the choir. However, if a choir is called for such as the beginning of the 2nd movement, I believe that I will only use it when it is absolutely necessary and not just for another layer to the sound. Thank you for helping me with that decision. To pick your brain even further, I have posted a live performance of the 2nd movement "The Garden of Love." It is originally scored for piano, cello, and SSAA. Do you think a full out orchestral arrangement would destroy the texture? Once again, I am struggling with restraint verses "epic" I suppose.
    ~Rodney

  5. #5

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by composingatnight View Post
    ...To pick your brain even further, I have posted a live performance of the 2nd movement "The Garden of Love." It is originally scored for piano, cello, and SSAA. Do you think a full out orchestral arrangement would destroy the texture? Once again, I am struggling with restraint verses "epic" I suppose.
    ~Rodney
    In a word, No, I don't believe a full out orchestra arrangement would destroy this additional movement you've posted. I appreciate your trepidation over becoming too "epic" with this material. Since you have that concern in mind, it would probably be impossible for you to ruin things in that direction - you're too aware of not wanting to go there.

    AND this is just super that you've posted another live performance! What a wonderful thing it must be to have that experience of musicians and singers performing your work. Love this.

    Randy

  6. #6
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Hi Again Rodney!

    Wow ... just listened to this piece of your's; quite a treat to have listened to the brass and string arrangements you had started in this thread, and now, just a few hours later, I'm enjoying this one (although I'm going to have to temper listening to these three pieces with some Beach Boys or similar feel-good, sunshine-in-your-face music. LOL )

    This was really gorgeous, and it was great being able to read the nicely written lyric as it played (I have always had a hard time following original lyrics without way too much concentration on words vs. the entire glow of a piece). Like the other movement/section, this was very moving and lovely.

    One cautionary Rodney: Are you familiar with the musical "The Secret Garden"? Your work, despite original music and lyrics, is very, very similar in tone, message, and vibe to the musical (particularly the show's finale). I happened to see an excellent regional production of "The Secret Garden" just a couple of weeks ago, and the message of "come to the garden" is strong in both works. I suppose this theme is an old one, a rather universal one, but just wanted to mention this comparison to you.

    Nonetheless, "The Garden Of Love" is a beautiful work of yours ... I really enjoyed it. Super.

    Regards,

    Frank

  7. #7

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Hi Again Rodney!

    Wow ... just listened to this piece of your's; quite a treat to have listened to the brass and string arrangements you had started in this thread, and now, just a few hours later, I'm enjoying this one (although I'm going to have to temper listening to these three pieces with some Beach Boys or similar feel-good, sunshine-in-your-face music. LOL )

    This was really gorgeous, and it was great being able to read the nicely written lyric as it played (I have always had a hard time following original lyrics without way too much concentration on words vs. the entire glow of a piece). Like the other movement/section, this was very moving and lovely.

    One cautionary Rodney: Are you familiar with the musical "The Secret Garden"? Your work, despite original music and lyrics, is very, very similar in tone, message, and vibe to the musical (particularly the show's finale). I happened to see an excellent regional production of "The Secret Garden" just a couple of weeks ago, and the message of "come to the garden" is strong in both works. I suppose this theme is an old one, a rather universal one, but just wanted to mention this comparison to you.

    Nonetheless, "The Garden Of Love" is a beautiful work of yours ... I really enjoyed it. Super.

    Regards,

    Frank
    Hi Frank! Thank you so much for the comments, compliments, and advice concerning the works. I have not heard of "The Secret Garden" musical, but will have to check it out now. The words to "The Garden of Love" were penned by the Poet William Blake (1757-1827.) Although the words originally talked about the tyranny of the church's control of our earthly pleasures, I took the liberty in another translation concerning my grandmother. I will have to check out the music to "The Secret Garden" and its meaning. If I were to sum up the meaning of my requiem "In Remembrance" I guess it would have to be "From earthly mother to heavenly father." Thanks again Frank and taking the time to listen and comment concerning text and scoring.
    ~Rodney

  8. #8

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Hi Rodney,

    My humble two cents is to keep that first movement all-brass ... it's just too emotional to dilute. Save the full orchestra for the following movements. If you feel that's too unusual a form, then at least have the piece unfold with just the brass, then add the other orchestral sections later into the piece.

    Thanks for sharing this.

    Regards,

    Frank
    I would not feel that it would be too unusual. I am all about the best sound to fit the emotion. Do you feel if I add to the brass it will become diluted, and how does the brass cause more emotions in compared to the strings for you if I may ask?
    ~Rodney

  9. #9
    Senior Member Frank D's Avatar
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    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Hi Rodney,

    Quote Originally Posted by composingatnight View Post
    I would not feel that it would be too unusual. I am all about the best sound to fit the emotion. Do you feel if I add to the brass it will become diluted, and how does the brass cause more emotions in compared to the strings for you if I may ask?
    ~Rodney
    Well, first off, I gave you my visceral reaction to the music, but I can try to translate this into musical terms (Beware though ... comedian/writer Martin Mull had a wonderful quote: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" ).

    Secondly, you need to know that my favorite orchestral section/colors are the woodwinds (and since I'm a jazz guy, please include a section of saxophones to this section) ... IOW, I don't really have a dog in this brass vs. strings fight.

    Hmmm ... why the brass choir? ...

    1.- For starters, since the brasss' traditional full-orchestral role is more of support and punctuation than carrying the lead lines for long lengths of time (like strings often do), I guess it's just a fresher color to me when you hear it as 'the star'.

    2.- Majesty ... it's just what I think of when I think of majesty in just about any setting. Brass says this so well.

    3.- Power-power-power ... unless you have an enormous string section, nothing in the orchestra (or band ... concert or jazz) can compete with the sense of shear power that a brass section can produce at ff or fff. I like to be blown away at times, and brass can do this effortlessly. And it can be subtle, as it is in your Requim ... but climaxes are so full when brass are there. Brass in 4ths ... wow, is there a better color than brass playing this interval?

    4.- Brass played p are equally emotional; they can be so lovely and plaintive; there's a melancholy to them. (what's more emotional than hearing "Taps" played live at a funeral on a solo trumpet?). Even out-of-tune Salvation Army brass ensembles playing on a cold Wintery night produce a beautiful, emotional sound.

    5.- Nobody is disputing the enormous span of emotion strings can convey; it just seems to be so commonplace; we hear strings-strings-strings in every imaginable setting and combination and for major parts of long orchestral works ... it's always beautiful, but it's simply not as unique as a full brass ensemble stepping out for a highly emotion-charged section. You mention you may have 45 min worth of music ... or more! ... opening with a single color ... and an emotion-grabbing one at that ... will make the entrance of the full orchestra in following sections all the more welcome and fresh.

    OK, I'm starting to 'dance about architecture' ... my original reason ... the brass arrangement hit me in the gut ... is still the most telling thing.

    You have a beautiful piece of music written and I'm sure you will play around with it for a long time until YOU feel you have what sounds best to you ... and that's why you are a good writer; you care.

    Good luck with this piece Rodney ... keep us posted!

    Frank

  10. #10

    Re: Arranging from Brass to Strings

    Quote Originally Posted by Frank D View Post
    Hi Rodney,



    Well, first off, I gave you my visceral reaction to the music, but I can try to translate this into musical terms (Beware though ... comedian/writer Martin Mull had a wonderful quote: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture" ).

    Secondly, you need to know that my favorite orchestral section/colors are the woodwinds (and since I'm a jazz guy, please include a section of saxophones to this section) ... IOW, I don't really have a dog in this brass vs. strings fight.

    Hmmm ... why the brass choir? ...

    1.- For starters, since the brasss' traditional full-orchestral role is more of support and punctuation than carrying the lead lines for long lengths of time (like strings often do), I guess it's just a fresher color to me when you hear it as 'the star'.

    2.- Majesty ... it's just what I think of when I think of majesty in just about any setting. Brass says this so well.

    3.- Power-power-power ... unless you have an enormous string section, nothing in the orchestra (or band ... concert or jazz) can compete with the sense of shear power that a brass section can produce at ff or fff. I like to be blown away at times, and brass can do this effortlessly. And it can be subtle, as it is in your Requim ... but climaxes are so full when brass are there. Brass in 4ths ... wow, is there a better color than brass playing this interval?

    4.- Brass played p are equally emotional; they can be so lovely and plaintive; there's a melancholy to them. (what's more emotional than hearing "Taps" played live at a funeral on a solo trumpet?). Even out-of-tune Salvation Army brass ensembles playing on a cold Wintery night produce a beautiful, emotional sound.

    5.- Nobody is disputing the enormous span of emotion strings can convey; it just seems to be so commonplace; we hear strings-strings-strings in every imaginable setting and combination and for major parts of long orchestral works ... it's always beautiful, but it's simply not as unique as a full brass ensemble stepping out for a highly emotion-charged section. You mention you may have 45 min worth of music ... or more! ... opening with a single color ... and an emotion-grabbing one at that ... will make the entrance of the full orchestra in following sections all the more welcome and fresh.

    OK, I'm starting to 'dance about architecture' ... my original reason ... the brass arrangement hit me in the gut ... is still the most telling thing.

    You have a beautiful piece of music written and I'm sure you will play around with it for a long time until YOU feel you have what sounds best to you ... and that's why you are a good writer; you care.

    Good luck with this piece Rodney ... keep us posted!

    Frank
    I love talking about music and trying to explain how and why it works. I could do it all day long. Thank you once again Frank for your response. I enjoyed reading your detailed explanations, and you are so correct in all of your reasons why brass captures the ears and heart of the listener. So you would like for me to write saxophones in the score? Probably 2 altos, a tenor, and a barry? It sounds to me as though you would like to hear a band compositional texture in the mix? Maybe in the hymn? When saxes use their warm tones, the sound just blends in so well with the other woodwinds and brasses. It's one of those colors you do not notice until they stop playing. It's as though their tones put the halo in the wind ensemble. This gives me something to think about, and the funny thing is this would be the 4th time I would have been told that someone would love to hear the hymn part of this requiem scored for concert band.

    My only issue is the effect that woodwinds have on brass when they are playing in tutti. The brass sound weakens and almost becomes watered down whereas strings just add another layer to the brass sound such as a choir. I call it the halo effect. It's something I have been struggling with personally since college. I was so used to hearing a full clarinet section which sounded wonderful but then it was pared with an entire flute section which always boggled my mind concerning bands. I am so leaning toward treating woodwinds as soloist again like they do in the orchestra or maybe coming up with something new such as a clarinet section with the other woodwinds as soloists. I am not sure. I am just thinking out loud at this time. It's as though something in my spirit since college has told me whatever a band can do, an orchestra can make it sound better. But then I've heard Holst’s 1st Suite played by strings and it sounded ridiculous and almost as a bad parody. So this gives me hope once again to my roots and to the sound of a concert band for color.

    When I listen to classical music, and you are correct strings have almost become way too common, my mind and ear will almost shut off. But as soon as a trumpet speaks my ears perk up and I listen to each note as though they are the last notes I will ever hear. I so believe woodwinds possess the same potential, but maybe there needs to be better writing for them such as the use of the English horn in "The New World Symphony." But one thing is for certain, different colors and textures throughout are the key, and I am going to use your advice on starting with a single color and then releasing the full strength and power of the orchestra; and I know the exact spot to do it in! Thanks, my friend.
    ~Rodney

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