Sunday, April 07, 2013

Ricercare in A Minor for Orchestra

I couldn't leave this piece alone for the past several days, so I got the orchestration done. I'm not going to go through many of the compositional elements again, so if you want to know about the compositional processes, just read the two posts previous to this one. Here, I'm just going to mention a few things about the orchestration, and otherwise let the piece speak for itself.

The previous version was v2.0 and this one is v2.4: v2.1 was just the cut-and-paste of the sting parts into the winds and brass, v2.2 I added rests to the winds and brass, v2.3 I added articulations, and 2.4 I added dynamics (I don't need much in the way of dynamics for a fugue, as it is a stately and restrained type of thing). I like to do it this way, because it is like sculpting the sound: The strings are the background, the winds and strings add depth to that, and then the rests, articulations and dynamics turn the sound into something akin to a musical version of a topographical relief map.

Traditionalists will hate the way I set the score up, but I came into orchestration after years of composing electronic music, and there are no transposing instruments with MIDI; every instrument is just a timbre to me. The score is also set up non-traditionally, as I like every section to be a reflection of the strings, in the same order (No horns above the trumpets), and with the same clefs. It should be obvious that I do this to facilitate the cut-and-paste approach I use. Since I don't have an orchestra, it doesn't really matter anyway. If someone wanted to perform it, I'd prepare a traditional score (But you'd have to PAY ME to do that. lol).

Here's todays MIDI to MP3 of the music: Ricercare in A Minor for Orchestra

I've learned the setup details for my MIDI2MP3 program, so the quality is way better now. It really is a wonderful convenience.

For the exposition, I use a very conservative approach with just the winds doubling the appropriate string parts in unison. In the brass, I was considering a soprano saxophone for the top part, and it goes up to the highest note on that instrument, but the soprano sax sound font was horrible, so I used a piccolo trumpet instead, and I like this solution a lot. See how every section is a reflection of the string section? This has always seemed like the most logical way to do it, to me. If I had more MIDI channels, I would have a saxophone section too, but strictly for auxiliary sounds and with a much tighter range: Soprano, alto, tenor, and baritone. That way you could keep them in their sweet spots, and there is already enough in the bass and contrabass octaves. I will regain this ability, by the way, when I get my next Synclavier: It has 128 MIDI channels!

Here is the rest of the exposition, presented without commentary.

Now that the exposition is over, we have tutti strings and winds here in the second episode statement...

... as well as the interlude.

Then the middle entries - or the development area: Fugal and sonata terminology has kind of merged in my mind - start off with an unaccompanied duet between oboe and clarinet. Since I have two of each, I may mark this as a soli section and have them trade off so they don't tire.

The flutes then enter to make it a trio, but the clarinet is poised to drop out after the pedal (Another reason for soli: That will take quite a bit of wind).

Now the bassoon enters, and when the augmented statements begin, the strings reenter.

When the doubly-augmented statements begin, the winds bow out.

That leaves the strings to play the doubly-augmented statements by themselves.

When the augmented statements reenter, so do the winds.

And then, with the return of the doubly-augmented fragments that prove the three-voice perpetual canon, they exit again, and the stage is set for the brass.

Having the tuba begin the brass entries is nice and dramatic.

When the next series of thematic statements begin, the winds reenter and things are huge and solid sounding.

I ran out of instruments: The entry in the contrabass octave that begins in measure one-hundred-twelve has no new sound associated with it, but that is the only one; things worked out almost perfectly.

So, when the episode and interlude return, it is tutti for all voices playing. This sounds magnificent.

For the recapitulation/five-voice perpetual canon, the brass start things without accompaniment, and with the piccolo trumpet starting things off, it ought to be very dramatic live. Unfortunately, the trumpet sound font I had to use sounds pinched up there, but the rest of the brass sound great, considering that they are a sound font set.

When the augmented versions start, the stings come back with them.

And when the second set of original subjects begin, the winds come back.

So we have a complete orchestral tutti for the first time here for the ending. Those next augmented statements beginning in one-hundred-forty-six do not require new sounds, because they are incomplete statements.

As I said, I don't think a lot of dynamics are required for this, but for the ostinato that begins in the contrabass octave at measure one-hundred-fifty, I do use sforzati. This gives a driving wallop for the ending.

And so there you have it. Everything ends on five octaves of pure tonic.

Whatever kind of piece you are orchestrating, you need both logical tactics, and a logical strategy. Fugues are relatively easy in this regard, actually, because there aren't really an unlimited number of possibilities. Basically, whenever a subject statement appears, you want it to get a new sound, or be in a new texture. That's your strategy. And then the tactics are the use of the various choirs to provide the variety that logic dictates. It only took me three or four days to do this one, since I didn't have to agonize over a plethora of possibilities. It just naturally fell into place.