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Books about Orchestration - any recommendations?


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Author Topic: Books about Orchestration - any recommendations?  (Read 337 times)
guest54
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« on: January 10, 2012, 05:41:57 am »

Orchestration is an art in itself, most effectively practised by Russians and Frenchmen after 1900 or so. I was wondering whether Members have any favourites among the writers about the subject? Berlioz is almost certainly long out-of-date, so I suppose Corsacoff and Piston are about the only sources of information, although even they will almost certainly not describe exactly how Debussy Ravel Shtrafinski and many later composers obtained their most magical effects.

Further books listed in the Wikipedia are Cecil Forsyth's (1914), Casella's (1950), Koechlin's (19549 - a large one), Adler's, and Blatter's - none of which I have seen. Adler's and Blatter's are the only two that are remotely contemporary.

Piston or Pistone was really a kind of Italian, who wrote eight symphonies, five string quartettes, and a pianoforte quintette, which is a good steady record, deserving of a thread of its own - but was he really any good at orchestration?

Here is Cecil Forsyth:


and here Walter Piston:


Whose judgement would you tend to trust?
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #1 on: January 10, 2012, 10:13:26 am »

You can't go far wrong with Rimsky (although indeed the ranges & capabilities of many instruments have developed somewhat since his day).

But Berlioz remains the most entertaining - especially on the topic of the organ and its inadvisability in an orchestral context Smiley  The remarks on the ophicleide are mirthful too.

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« Reply #2 on: January 10, 2012, 12:03:50 pm »

Whilst not strictly a "book about orchestration" after the manner of Berlioz, Rimsky, Forsyth, Piston et al, I heartily recommend Anatomy of the Orchestra which the conductor and composer (not that I've encountered any of his music) Norman del Mar (Faber, 1981, rev. 1983) dedicated to the composer Thea Musgrave.
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guest54
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« Reply #3 on: January 11, 2012, 10:39:50 am »

Norman del Mar - thanks for the tip!

Most composers are instantly recognizable by dint of their own peculiar instrumentation (which makes a large contribution to their own peculiar "style"). But the first man to produce truly inspired pieces of orchestration as such was I feel Dvorak. And subsequently, as I say, there came many more examples from Debussy, Ravel, Shtrafinski, and others as the twentieth century progressed.

No doubt all the books on orchestration tell us about the possible ranges and playing techniques of all the instruments; something much more difficult would be to tell us how to write inspired passages of the kind mentioned - beautiful effects never before heard. I would be interested to know whether any books even attempted it in the past.

And then come the true modernists of the past twenty years or so, who appear to be striving for novel orchestral effects at the expense of every other musical attribute; that is to say, they have altogether abandoned the idea of music as a combination or succession of tones, and concentrate their efforts on the obtaining of novel orchestral sounds or "colours." I suppose since that has been going on for twenty years or so there must be a book or two about it all in the pipe-line.
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ahinton
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« Reply #4 on: January 11, 2012, 01:04:47 pm »

Most composers are instantly recognizable...

...Shtrafinski...
Ahem...

But the first man to produce truly inspired pieces of orchestration as such was I feel Dvorak.
Alas, poor Berlioz...
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dhibbard
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« Reply #5 on: January 27, 2014, 04:48:21 am »

my favorite is Cecil Forsyth's Orchestration now published by Dover.  Its a classic and a good primer.
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guest54
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« Reply #6 on: January 27, 2014, 06:54:42 am »

As well, Forsyth's original text may be downloaded from here:

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Cecil%20Forsyth%20orchestration%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts

or here:

https://ia801705.us.archive.org/11/items/orchestration00fors/

without any exchange of filthy lucre.
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ahinton
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« Reply #7 on: January 27, 2014, 07:13:05 am »

As well, Forsyth's original text may be downloaded from here:

https://archive.org/search.php?query=Cecil%20Forsyth%20orchestration%20AND%20mediatype%3Atexts

or here:

https://ia801705.us.archive.org/11/items/orchestration00fors/

without any exchange of filthy lucre.
It's a very outdated manual; Norman del Mar draws occasional attention to its shortcomings and outmodedness in his book.

As to the "filthy lucre", unless one's computer and other pertinent equipment as well as the means to run it and access the internet has all been a free gift, "filthy lucre" has inevitably been involved at one or more times, even if only indirectly.
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dhibbard
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« Reply #8 on: January 28, 2014, 12:48:24 am »

hmm I didn't know that orchestration could get outdated... Huh   oh well it was one of the books I used in college.
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dhibbard
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« Reply #9 on: January 28, 2014, 02:43:08 am »

however, I would recommend that one use a software program like Sibelius 7.5     http://www.avid.com/US/products/sibelius?cmpid=701i0000000JGGS   a London based company...   

you can generate the parts in 2 clicks... its what I use.


Dave
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dhibbard
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« Reply #10 on: January 28, 2014, 02:49:06 am »

also...http://www.finalemusic.com/     Finale 2014 should be also a good product... its also widely used.   
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dhibbard
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« Reply #11 on: January 31, 2014, 01:43:07 am »

what I like about Sibelius software is that you can actually play it back .. save it in mp3 and listen to your music after you have created the score... of course its synthesized version of an orchestra... but its pretty darn close.
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ahinton
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« Reply #12 on: January 31, 2014, 05:33:45 am »

hmm I didn't know that orchestration could get outdated... Huh
Indeed, but books on the topic can...
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Neil McGowan
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« Reply #13 on: January 31, 2014, 06:32:33 am »

also...http://www.finalemusic.com/     Finale 2014 should be also a good product... its also widely used.   

Finale is indeed a good piece of software - I'm a regular user.

Yet worth bearing in mind that both Finale & Sibelius permit the user to write non-existent notes for instruments - ie, which go off the range of the actual physical instrument... without warning the user of this.

Of course, with some woodwind instruments, the lower limit is often being extended by new technologies and keywork, and the upper limit is often more a constraint of tone-quality and player ability. But it should not be possible to write notes lower than C for the viola*, should it?  Or at least, not without a warning Wink

Bearing in mind how obsessive Finale's online warnings are in other areas of usage (!), this seems quite an omission?

I've not used Sibelius much, so I can't comment on its functionality.


* I agree, certain modern electric violas can be fitted with a fifth, low-F string. I've tried one, once. But this is a tiny number of cases - most five-string electric violas have a "violin e-string" as the fifth string, although it's quite unresponsive to play on it.
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« Reply #14 on: January 31, 2014, 07:12:15 am »

Sibelius indicates notes that are out of the instrument's range in red, and notes at the extreme end of the range in dark red.



It's not totally accurate, though it is always at least a useful guideline (e.g. on the cello notes above the high C, two octaves above middle C, are not only marked in red but do not play back. Certainly the virtuoso repertoire calls for notes up to a tenth higher, but the average cellist will have quite a difficult time producing those with any degree of accuracy.)

It is of course possible to call for notes below the low C of the viola if one has previously instructed the violist to tune the string down a certain amount, although in those cases I still prefer to write the part as it would be fingered. HIF von Biber agrees with me:



but other people, such as Schnittke, do not:

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