A Companion to Slug
Frog Peak Newsletter # 17
PEAK PICKS (contents)
*New Members, new Frog Peak scores
*SALE: Collected Scores of Johanna Beyer
*Frogspeak: Harley Gaber; Daniel Goode
NEW COMPOSERS, NEW WORKS
Composers recently welcomed to Frog Peak include Mike Winter and John
New scores include Christian Asplund's "Time and Eternity," Warren
Burt's "Repetitive Rant for Peace,"and a beautifully hand-crafted
score by Eric Richards: "Lovers, Loners, and Losers." Other new
additions are listed below, and on our website.
Balungan Volume 11 has been released by the American Gamelan
Institute. The latest issue features articles by Barbara Benary, and
Hardja Susilo among others. Balungan is an international journal that
presents scholarly and artistic perspectives on Indonesian and
international gamelan music and related performing arts; the editor
is Jody Diamond.
Selected NEW FROG PEAK SCORES
* The Sky Has Many Stories To Tell. Violin, piano, alto flute, cello.
* Darkness Becoming Narrative. String instruments and percussion
* Steel Suite. Keyboard.
* Prelude (from Recom III) Javanese or American gamelan.
* Approximating Omega. Pitched instruments.
* dissection and field. Any instruments.
* B'midbar (Numbers). Solo piano and invited speakers.
* Silent Demonstration. Any instruments, any number of players.
* Chorales for Harmonic Piano.
* Blues Canon (from "Listen...!"). Violin, violoncello, contrabass.
* petite ouverture en forme de "mErCE CunninGHam". Piano.
* Three Caribbean Song Games. Steel pans and voice.
* Postlude from Planxty Cage. Piano.
* Shendo No.5. For trio.
* Desperate Messages. Baritone, piano, and cello.
* For Lydia Davis. A Collection of Succinct Music.
SALE: Collected Scores of Johanna Beyer
Johanna Beyer's scores are being offered in two five-score sets for
$50 each, a 33% discount; individually priced, each score would be
$15. Please mention this newsletter when placing your order.
Johanna Beyer Complete Percussion Score Set. Bey21.
*Set includes: March for 30 Percussion Instruments, Three Movements
for Percussion, Waltz for Percussion, Percussion Opus 14, and
Johanna Beyer Complete Piano Score Set. Bey22.
*Set includes: Dissonant Counterpoint, Bees, Gebrauchs-Musik,
Movement for Two Pianos, and Clusters.
Eric Richards on Harley Gaber
Harley Gaber, an American composer, took his own life in Gallup, New
Mexico on June 16, 2011. The body of work he created in the 1970s is
among the most distinctive of post-World War II American music.
Harley began composing music of striking originality while still in
his teens, first as a student of Horace Reisberg at New Trier High
School in Winnetka, Illinois. He continued at the University of
Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where his studies with Kenneth Gaburo
became more of a relationship of artistic equals than of teacher and
student. Ken and Harley formed a life-long friendship in which they
investigated- and challenged- each other's basic aesthetic
assumptions. This singular relationship came to an end with Gaburo's
death in 1993.
Harley's work manifested his life-long obsession with getting
"inside" the music. He notated minute directions for the attack,
dynamic changes, and other physical characteristics of each and every
note, in ways that, while they might have superficially resembled
some of the serial music of that time, were really his attempt to get
beyond appearances, and slow down the sense of time in the music
through a deeper investigation of the sound itself. This interest was
already present in his early works for solo instruments, including
"Chimyaku" (alto flute, 1968), "Kata" (violin, 1969), and "Michi"
(violin, 1969). "Kata," originally available on an LP produced by
CRI, was included on the New World Records CD Gaber/Hellerman/Zorn
This focus was continued in his seminal string music of the 1970s:
"Sovereign of the Centre" (four violins, 1972/1974)and "The Realm of
Indra's Net" (four tracks of recorded violin, 1974); recordings of
these were released on CD in 2010 by Edition RZ (1022), Berlin. The
first recording of "The Winds Rise in the North" (string quartet,
1974, rev. with added violin, 1975) was on an LP produced in 1976 by
Titanic Records in Germany (Ti 16 and 17); the original recording was
later remastered by Edition RZ (4008-9), and released on two CDs in
In these pieces for strings, Harley wanted to actually create the
illusion of suspending time and consciousness by letting the kind of
minute events and gestures that had been "composed out" in the
earlier works now be formed through the use of often unpredictable
bridge harmonics. These seemed to almost spontaneously build up in
intense aggregations of sound that unfolded extremely slowly as in
the earlier carefully notated works, but now in their intensity
seemed almost emotionally unbearable for some listeners. For Harley,
however, the music reflected "undefined moods and states" often
influenced by, or parallel to, feelings expressed in Eastern poetry
Gaber, increasingly uncomfortable in New York in the late 1970s,
moved to La Jolla, California in 1978. He held a job for a long time
as a restaurant manager, and spent a great deal of his spare time
playing tennis, which had increasingly fascinated him in his last
years in New York. He devoted more and more time to the visual arts,
first to painting, and then to a large-scale project that gradually
consumed all his energies. He created a massive, large-scale series
of literally hundreds, if not thousands, of drawn-over archival
photos and graphics from the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and
called it "Die Plage." At one point the drawings filled a
hanger-sized building in Newport, Oregon, where Harley spent an
increasingly large amount of time. "Die Plage" was mounted a few
times as an installation in California and Oregon, but it had nowhere
near the impact that Harley had hoped for.
Harley had been fascinated with the music and art of
twentieth-century Germany since he was young. He became increasingly
preoccupied with an idiosyncratic view of the Holocaust as a metaphor
for the ambiguous relationship between Good and Evil, art and real
life, and oppressor and oppressed. This viewpoint was explored again
many years later, in 2008, with Harley's return to composing.
This was occasioned by a request for a new piece from Harley's oldest
and closest friend, William Hellerman of the Downtown Ensemble. The
result was "Webern's Gambit," a multi-media work for film and cello
that juxtaposed disturbing film imagery, including old German footage
and recordings, with a live performance of a cello part derived from
pitches in a movement of the Webern "Piano Variations."
While Harley had been reworking and re-editing music by others in the
previous few years-more as an exercise in learning GarageBand than
anything else-this first foray into original composition after so
long proved quite traumatic for him: he simply had not been used to
working with others for almost 30 years. This ultimately led to his
decision to concentrate on a series of tape pieces, in what would
become the last few years of his life.
The realization of these pieces was due in no small part to the
emotional support and practical acumen of Philip Blackburn, the
director of Innova Records. Blackburn had been a student of Gaburo's
for many years at the University of Iowa, and intuitively understood
Harley's artistic and emotional needs. Blackburn was instrumental in
realizing and producing Harley's last two CDs: first, "I Saw my
Mother Ascending Mount Fuji" (tape and processed violin, 2009),
followed by "In Memoriam" (tape, 2010), the latter released two weeks
before Harley's death.
These works really represented a new attempt by Harley to deal with
many different aspects of his life and music. He superimposed music
by other composers (Gaburo, Paccione, Blackburn, Verdi, and others)
upon natural sounds he created in GarageBand, to create an
emotionally somewhat less charged, more varied landscape than the
intense string music of the '70s, but with those qualities that
characterized all of Harley's art-careful attention to detail, and
going deeply below the mere surface of things-in Melville's words,
one of "those men who dive" and come "up again with blood-shot eyes."
Henry Brant's "Textures and Timbres: An Orchestrator's Handbook."
Carl Fischer, 2009.
A review by Daniel Goode.
It's always good news when the craft and art of orchestration is
brought up-to-date by a significant composer-practitioner. If you
think about it, what an orchestration book is-is a labor of love for
a composer, who might better spend the time actually composing and
orchestrating. Such texts have been, traditionally, odd combinations
of lists of important trivia (like the ranges of instruments) and
real hard-earned practical experience in the use of these
instruments, sometimes with innovative ideas from the composer's own
compositions (viz. Berlioz). Brant's handbook, begun when he was a
teenager in 1932, is an outlier in some ways. It doesn't do either
the basic manual task, or a grand synoptic view of contemporary
orchestration. It is an unusual book. There is nothing quite like it.
You can count on three fingers such recent examples of
composer-written orchestration books. Walter Piston's useful, compact
Orchestration (1955 by W. W. Norton and Company), Larry Polansky's
New Instrumentation and Orchestration: An Outline for Study (1986 by
Frog Peak Music). This one is a course outline with all the important
categories, but not the examples or commentary. And now Henry Brant's
"handbook." One might use a fourth finger for books-neither manual
nor guide-like composer Robert Erickson's 1975 Sound Structure in
Music, an important analytic study of timbre and texture in
contemporary music. Other specialized books for jazz or avant-garde
and experimental music are not by important composers, though some
are certainly useful guides for students.
The hard demographic truth is that few young (or even any) composers
unless in a privileged conservatory setting, are going to have the
full palette with which Brant quantizes his results. For example
Brant often lists: 18 violins, 2 bass clarinets, contrabass clarinet,
and so on. Where will you find these outside of a well-stocked
conservatory, or in a movie city with movie budgets to hire any
number and types of instrumentalists?
So trying and testing Brant's examples is going to be out for most of
us. We'll have to trust Brant until and unless our own use of his
precepts fails in some way. Particularly in the "American system," it
can be hard to test orchestration ideas because there is limited
access to expensive instruments. With aggressiveness, a young student
composer in a conservatory might have the moxie to bring together
these instrumentalists, cajole, or otherwise lean on enough levers of
instrumental power to try out Brant's extravagant combos-or even
invent his or her own. But most students will not be able to do this.
By definition, orchestration books are "how-to" manuals, practical
and not theoretical guides. This is hugely true of Brant's handbook.
In his manual, published posthumously in 2009 a year after he died at
95, he makes absolutely no mention of the significant 20th century
advances in acoustics (like formants), or psychoacoustics (like
auditory streaming). He doesn't analyze the noise-to-pitch
continuum, nor even, perhaps most significantly, give us any inkling
of his vast knowledge about spatial separation of instruments and
instrumental groupings, and how this would affect orchestration. That
he omits any mention of his self-proclaimed life work, spatial music,
seems strange at first. But read on! There is, I believe, an
But (a big but!) this doesn't make Brant's handbook any less
important. It is vastly so! My message is this: whatever I say as
critique of his handbook, you still must read it if you use
orchestral instruments in your music.
Let's take two case studies from Brant's handbook:
CASE STUDY # 1: THE UNISON
Composers, arrangers, and transcribers create unisons among
instruments as routinely as Moliere's character speaks prose and is
amazed when told that he has always done so. Brant would have us be a
little more amazed and reflective when we assign the same note or
line to two or more instruments. Normally it's crude practicality
that governs the choice of unison: we have just these instruments
available when we either need or think we need a unison sound.
Sometimes it's as simple as: let's give a player something to do for
a while. The only question we need ask ourselves in this instance is
can they do it. If we've thought about unisons theoretically at all,
it might be with these things in mind:
-The Balinese practice of tuning pairs of instruments just off the
unison, which gives that famously brilliant shimmer to Balinese
-The not-quite unison texture called heterophony found in religious
chanting and much experimental music. In the former it is pitch and
rhythmic discrepancies of "untrained" voices on the same melodic
line-which we usually find beautiful and moving for complex reasons,
musical and cultural.
-The fascinating psycho-acoustical study that found the "just
noticeable difference" in frequency which can turn a perceived unison
of two tones into the experience of two separate tones.
Enter Henry Brant with Chapter 9: Unisons. Actually let's briefly
step back to another account of unison texture, that by Walter Piston
in his 1955 orchestration text. He gives wonderfully subtle analyses
of D'Indy, Beethoven (his 9th), Stravinsky (Symphony in Three
Movements), and Debussy examples. But Brant at the head of his
chapter, using his own created examples (as are all of his examples)
immediately puts us off balance by exemplifying the misuse of
"accidental" unisons; then he proceeds to "passing unisons" and their
cost to "harmonic balance." The whole discussion is on a level of
acoustic detail that must be unique in the published literature. One
of his distinctions is between the "expressive unison" with hybrid
tone-quality, and the "functional unison" with "nondescript
character...well-blended..." Altogether he has six categories-of
great interest and observational clarity. Chapter 10 continues the
discussion logically with "octaves and double octaves."
But unison pedagogy keeps cropping up in other chapters as well:
-"Three-way Unisons: Definite Pitched Percussion and Piano" (p. 156)
in Chapter 33, Piano as an Orchestra Instrument. This whole chapter
is an important contribution in looking at our familiar piano in an
analytic way as just another member of the orchestra. Take the
middle range of the piano-the range of the solo and jazz repertoires.
This is the least valuable for the orchestral piano; the outer ranges
(low and high) are most valuable, says Brant. This could be a
modernist tick of his, but probably is statistically true, since
piano in the orchestra is a modernist addition.
-Harp and harpsichord unisons (p.165) in Chapter 34: Pizzicato
Timbres. Brant is persuasive in treating all pizzicato instruments as
the useful category, bypassing the usual division into different
"families" of strings and of keyboards.
-"A Single-Line Melody Played by One or More Unison Sections" (p.196)
warns that full string sections tend to cancel out the nuances
possible to solo string performers-a really good lesson for many of
us composers who want whole string sections to "fiddle" as would a
solo folk fiddler.
-Unison strings (p.213). This long, 26-page Chapter 38 is devoted to
Bowed Strings. It is the counter-part to the pizzicato chapter. At
the end he gives a formula for the best unison groupings for
delineating "outer parts." He also claims that unisons of muted and
unmuted strings are "non-mixing and of poor resonance." I'm not sure
I would accept such a generalization, though I don't discount it
either. Since strings are the core of the modern symphony orchestra,
his account repays close attention. It contains, for example a
discussion of "fullness and thickness."
This "thickness" (which also means harmonic thickness or density) is
a characteristic of most of the examples composed by Brant for this
book. It could be said that this is a stylistic property of his music
in general. To coin a word: his "choralizing" textures are something
you can notice throughout his oeuvre. The advantages of composing
your own musical examples in a book of this kind are obvious: first
it saves time scouring the literature for exactly the right
orchestral moments to use from thousands of compositions of many
eras. Second, the examples can be tailored exactly to the point at
hand, without extraneous distracting musical contents. On the other
hand, examples sought out in great music impress the point more
forcibly because their whole message is served by inspired
orchestration. But Brant's composed examples are not routine either.
By about a third of the way through the book, one notices they are
becoming ever more detailed, longer, complex and rich in sonic
qualities. It wouldn't be wrong to actually play many of them as
short compositions on a concert program. He almost encourages this in
his important Foreword-which has his many disclaimers of what the
book doesn't do-when he says: "Examples of three bars or more are
regarded as expressive [compared with shorter ones he calls
functional], indicating one or more complete musical statements."
Bowed Strings (chapter 38) gives us a chart (p.190) of how different
sized string sections should ideally apportion the number of
instruments among the five sub-sections: violins through
contrabasses. He says that centuries of experimentation have
standardized these proportions so that progressively fewer low
instruments are needed: because "longer vibrations" (he must mean
wavelengths) of the lower pitched strings "need fewer players for the
sound to carry adequately."
Unison mixing of strings and winds (p.222): "To produce an 'enriched'
string timbre, the wind component should seem to 'disappear' in the
total amalgam." This is done my marking the winds at a lower dynamic
than the strings. And by omitting wind vibratos. The issue of
independent dynamic markings for different sections of an ensemble
moving together in time is fraught. Some would argue that the
conductor should make micro adjustments to the dynamics in the
context of performance. Brant and many other modernist and even late
Romantic composers choose for very knowledgeable reasons to do this
kind of micro-marking themselves.
There are probably many more references to "unisons," (see Appendix
4: Expanded Unisons) throughout the text, as well as musical examples
using unisons. This is not an easy book to use. There is no index to
look up "unisons." We should all write the publisher to ask for a new
edition with an index-and be sure to add, when you write, that the
musical examples should also be indexed throughout the book wherever
they show the important concepts (like unisons) at work.
CASE STUDY # 2: "GROUPS OF CLOSELY RELATED INSTRUMENTAL TIMBRES."
Perhaps Brant's boldest idea, one most dismissive of convention, is
this disassembling of the traditional categories of "instrumental
families:" woodwinds, strings, brasses, percussion, and their
recombining in new categories. Here is his text on wind instruments,
Wind Timbre 1: flute family, clarinet family, bassoon (top octave
only), strings (in harmonics only), horn (restricted range, fiber
mute only), pipe organ (flute stops only)
Wind Timbre 2: muted trumpet and trombone, horn (hand-stopped or
metal mute), all double reeds, clarinet family (bottom fifth only),
pipe organ (reed stops only), accordion
Wind Timbre 3: open horn, trumpet and trombone "open in hat" or
equivalent, muted tuba (all in restricted ranges), all saxophones
(top two octaves only)
Wind Timbre 4: open trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba (full range),
horn (full high range), all saxophones (full range)
In an important addendum to this list (p.54), he gives his idea of
what the model or prototype instrument is for each of these four
groups, respectively: flute, oboe, horn, trumpet, the latter two
As you can see, he mixes up traditional families, even including
strings in Timbre 1. His justification for doing so is repeatedly
shown in examples. A lot of the reasoning has to do with what I might
call "thick" and "thin" tone qualities. And also, complexly, with
overtone structure, but he never explains anything acoustically, so
this has to be our own analysis. Another favorite word of his for
certain textures is "nasality." In the body of the text he does
exquisitely detailed annotations for these textures which account for
the different strengths and loudnesses of the instruments in their
various registers. We can see even in the outline above that he uses
mutes (e.g. "fiber mutes") as a tool to match brasses in their
groupings with other instruments.
This classification of wind timbres is ear opening if you can imagine
them. And counter-intuitive simply in the idea of breaking down hard
walls among the traditional "families." You may want to resist, as I
did at first, because of his orchestral abstractionism: for example,
he combines string harmonics with muted horn (Wind Timbre 1). I
wanted to rebel because of the concrete gesture needed to play these
sounds puts them in different worlds. Perhaps Brant, as a world-class
orchestrator who made recorded sound tracks for films, thinks only of
the sound coming at a distance to the listener: a massed, blended
sound from within the orchestra coming through large theater
speakers. I, on the other hand, picture his combos as if I were
sitting listening to a live ensemble.
Another reservation to Brant's re-configurations occurred to me when
thinking about an audience's experience of a large orchestra.
Imagine, for example that you are listening to a beautiful chord
played by members of Brant's Wind Group 1, say a flute, a harmonic on
violin(s), pipe organ, and muted horn. What do you think the effect
will be on blending when these instruments are modulated by the large
physical spaces separating them? I think it will greatly affect the
blend, unless you are listening on the radio, or are very far back
and high up in the concert hall. Now hold that thought, because I
want to remind you that earlier I noted, incredulously, that this
composer of "spatial music" has absolutely no place in his handbook
for physical separation in any of his conceptual mappings,
categories, and musical examples. The reason, already hinted at
above, is that Brant, the expert Hollywood orchestrator, assumed the
studio-produced result that blends and mixes down recorded
instruments into a film's sound track.
In a live concert hall rendition, the listener will experience my
imaginary Wind Group 1 (above) as a kind of spatial dissonance.
Something like "sonic athleticism'-each sound reaching across space
to its brother and sister sounds, or perhaps in another image: the
cantilevering of a sound bridge between and among the various sound
sources. This is indeed a stimulating pleasure of large orchestra
music from Berlioz, through Mahler, and continues in our own new
music styles of early Modernism to the present. But ironically, it is
not a part of spatial-composer Brant's way of treating orchestration.
I think it's a deficit in his whole project. In reality, music is
spatial or on a spatial continuum. Timbral combinations are always
"modulated" by physical placements in space and architecture, and
then heard in relation to the listener's place in the hall.
NOTES AND REFLECTIONS
What follows is a collection of comments on specific points about,
and examples from the Brant text, with a few of my general
reflections which the book stimulated.
The long (54 page) section titled "General Premises" is a must to
understanding the handbook. For example, Chapter 3, Harmonic Balance
"Much of the discussion in this book concerns procedures for
obtaining balanced harmonic textures."
Each "chord" must sound as "one unit," and no notes "protrude,
disappear, or seem foreign..." Though I've noted Brant's
"choralizing" tendencies which this premise readily lends itself to,
he does have some really interesting short chapters which do not
relate to "balanced harmonic textures." Just a few of them are:
Vibrato (Chapter 14)
The Termination of Long Notes (15)
Joints and Separations (16)
Extreme Registers (17)
The Piano as a Pitch Guide in Preparing Musical Materials for
Orchestration (44): "The piano cannot, however, be expected to
provide an accurate forecast of the impression of vertical pitch
relationships...if the texture is intentionally heterogeneous..."
Equivalents of the Piano's Damper Pedal (20)
Percussion Timbres (25): His primary categories pre-empt the usual
first division of percussion into definite pitched and indefinite (or
unpitched) instruments. His two types are:
Instruments producing staccato attacks only
Instruments that have a quickly decaying "carry-over" to the initial
Yet his percussion examples often use vibraphone which with its
damper and motor are just about fully sustaining instruments.
The Roll (30): He warns that all definite-pitched percussion
instruments "gain in distinctness at low dynamic levels" when rolled.
Soft-headed mallets increase the clarity. He takes up rolls of 2, 3,
and 4 pitches.
Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Tendencies in Orchestration
I don't think Brant thought or cared for a moment about who would use
this book. It is impersonally addressed. This makes for a big
disconnect with the younger generations of musicians and composers
who easily use in combination: live and electronic sounds and
timbres, sampled sounds, notation systems like Finale and Sibelius
which come with their own library of orchestral (sampled) sounds,
computer produced sound. He's off the hook at least in the sense that
his Foreword has this disclaimer: he can make "no assurance" that
these kinds of sounds will "produce the same or equivalent results"
as the combinations of acoustic instruments he writes about. Again, I
must note the class issue here. Young, unconnected composers will not
necessarily have access to the high-end, expert players of acoustic
instruments. So of course, these young or unconnected musicians will
find substitutes in the form of samples, synthesizers, processers,
computers, recording and playback devices.
Harmonic Imbalance: Though he wants to discourage this state (at
least when the orchestrator wants balance), one of his key examples
is interesting and tempting to use. He has (p.9) four flutes marked
forte on their low C and three trumpets with the same marking playing
the G, C, E above (p.9). He says the flute "will scarcely be
audible." But interestingly the low C will be reinforced by the
difference tone, C, produced by the G-C-E, an octave below the flute
C. Sure softer, but what an effect! I want to hear it.
A composer friend once commented that one of my ensemble pieces
(Tunnel-Funnel) was "about orchestration." But everything is about
orchestration. Some of the most exciting moments in both 19th and
20th Century scores are "awkward" or off-kilter balances that just
happen to work. Look at Stravinsky, Varese, Janacek, Mahler. Of
course there are also plenty of examples of Brant's "choralizing"
textures, too. Folk bands may have "unresonant" combos that simply
force the issue of blending through expressive playing, or an
intimate understanding of the idiom. For example the Cape Breton
fiddling accompanied by guitar was originally used if no piano was
available, but became an acceptable sound in its own right.
Brant addresses the problem of balancing a progression where chords
vary in number of tones (p.32) by asking the orchestrator to get at
least an approximate equality of players on each tone of the chord,
resulting in harmonic balance, but varied "thickness." He doesn't
mention that this could produce a kind of "tone color" melody of
thickness or thinness, related to Schoenberg's tone color melody,
famously found in his Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16.
Homogeneity is a constant concern of his. He says (p.59) that it is
decreased by putting dissimilar timbres adjacent to each other in
harmonic textures. It is also disturbed in Wind Group 3 (see above)
by vibrato (p.78), though he also admits that vibrato adds "resonance
and expressiveness" as it does to a string quartet.
Some of his examples are just eccentric and fascinating, so, for
example he's pointing out a horn on F above middle C, at a piano
dynamic will be soft and "thick" while the piccolo three octaves
above on D, at a forte dynamic will be loud and "thin" (p.10). Are we
taking such things in, dear composer-orchestrators?
Juxtaposition of different timbre groups (p.11), he considers better
than "enclosure" or "interlocking" because there are fewer "intervals
of contact" [between notes of different Timbre Groups].
In horizontal (contrapuntal) writing (p.12), he recommends that each
strand keep its respective timbre even if it causes interlocking or
enclosure. This seems to preclude pointillist orchestrators like
Webern, or even Mahler. So, a conservative moment in Brant. Like Max
Reger was among the 19th Century innovators.
Dissonance. That's the title of Chapter 7 (p.13), another first for
Brant, in that he treats it at all. He tells us, for example, that to
emphasize the dissonant intervals, keep them within the same timbre
group- a forward-looking moment to open up dissonance to the same
status as consonance in the project of orchestration.
Composition finally, definitively merges with orchestration (p.17)
when he shows how to impart "rhythmic motion to static harmony," and
how to "produce contrapuntal motion upon tones of static harmony."
This last example has an elaborate chart where lines are divvied up
using groups of flutes, clarinets, and violins.
Brant shows how to add octaves-pairs in a contrasting timbre (p.23),
which allows the higher of the pair to be played at a lower dynamic
level. This is subtle and canny knowledge.
A triadic assumption (p.24) leads him to say that widely spaced
groupings should be unified vertically (harmonically) by using the
same timbre. Knowing his assumption allows us to disagree with this
as a hard and fast rule.
Uniformity in Articulation is a short, pungent chapter (13), which
has an ingenious solution to a problem you never knew you had. Where
there are common tones in the same voice in succession, and you want
to keep uniform articulation among the voices: instead of creating
long notes or tied notes, exchange parts so each voice always has a
new attack (p.34).
Chapter 17, Extreme Registers, points out that auditory perceptions
in these registers becomes more difficult at fortissimo dynamics, but
is very good at lower levels (p.42).
"Accordion in Wind-Group 2 Textures" (p.75-76): A detailed section on
accordion may also be a first for orchestration books. He shows, for
example, which accordion stops intensify the effects of the other
winds by putting octave duplications outside their ranges.
"Non-Harmony" (p.135) raises the seldom-discussed fact of the
non-blending of dissimilar attack transients in different kinds of
indefinite-pitch percussion instruments like: snare drum, maraca,
ratchet, tambourine, castanets, wood block. Simply coordinating
attacks among instruments that produce tones in different ways is
difficult. But his point is that even with a simultaneous attack, a
blend will not occur. Once more we see his value of homogeneity put
above its opposite. For some composers the non-blending might be
quite acceptable, even desirable.
I would generalize the point to say that in any vertical (harmonic)
array of instruments, blending is decreased by dissimilar attacks.
Sometimes when I'm sitting in a concert hall, a harmonic progression
familiar to my mind seems very strange when passed through the actual
instruments. A really interesting study of blending, homogeneity,
separateness could be to look at say, Mozart, Mahler, and Messiaen
textures in actual performances in their acoustic spaces. What is the
intention and what is the effect?
This important book, exhausting and also exhaustive in some ways
while inadequate theoretically in others, ends with his "Epilog
[sic]...To those everywhere who originate sonorous combinations
rewarding to the nervous system and describe them accurately, I wish
every success. -Henry Brant, Santa Barbara, California, 2007"
The title of this newsletter is from the text of a Shaker song.
"Slug" is one of many Shaker monikers for the Devil.