Author Topic: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project  (Read 2184 times)

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Patrick O'Keefe

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5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« on: November 09, 2017, 04:10:07 PM »
This probably should be posted in the "Beginners" section of the forum, but it's here for the time being.

A short time ago Michel suggested to somebody that his ensemble writing seemed to be more strings plus solos rather than choirs of winds and brass.  I'm sure that's a terrible paraphrase but I can't find the posting at the moment.  In any case, I thought he might as well have been addressing the comment to me.  I think I do all right letting an instrument's unique timbre show but I have trouble with a brass choir or a wind choir sounding cohesive.  I really have trouble with a strings, winds, and brass tutti.  So I'm going to practice some orchestration. 

This thread is likely to be long and rambling.  And I'm certainly going to ask for lots of suggestions.

This project may go nowhere, but I'm thinking of orchestrating a set of 5 bagatelles I wrote for piano over the past 3 years.  Actually, 5 were written 3 years ago but the last 2 got moved into a sonata so I've recently written 2 more.  Those two are essentially done now (but there will be tweaks for a few days).  The first 3 have been performed (in a slightly earlier form) so I know they are playable.  No pianist has yet seen the last two.  But even if they fail a pianist's audit they will still serve as a basis for orchestration.

Here's a link to 5 sets of PDF and audio files of the piano version (plus audio files of performances of the 1st three in slightly earlier versions): 
https://app.box.com/s/wmdcp4ez24tjj1jgmbp1

May 19, 2018 update
Note:  I have removed all orchestral setting from that folder.  It now contains only the original piano works.
For the orchestral versions, see Five Short Orchestral Pieces at
https://app.box.com/s/bzqohzuw9j4hufge0ef5f5u3sgyqc6zo


I think numbers 1, 3, and 4 are amenable to orchestration.  Numbers 2 (built on arpeggiated chords) and 5 (a two voice invention) may lose too much in translation.  So I guess my first question is: Should I try this, or should I find something else to orchestrate?

I should mention that in spite of my age (71) I'm a student; suggestions from my teacher/tutor will take slight precedence over suggestions from this forum.  (Slight.  He's pretty used to my ignoring or modifying his suggestions.)

 
« Last Edit: May 19, 2018, 02:01:08 PM by Patrick O'Keefe »

mjf1947

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #1 on: November 09, 2017, 07:19:04 PM »
First off /// What a treat!  ;D

I loved #4 .............................

If you orchestrate what instrumentation would you choose?

Quite a challenge ..... to capture the nuance of the piano versions.

Mark




Jerry Engelbach

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #2 on: November 10, 2017, 02:36:44 AM »
Patrick,
 
I too favor number 4.
 
But as a body of work they're all engaging. Each one is distinctive, while they all share a playful, spontaneous, improvisational quality. I like your use of percussive effects. All five together make a nice part of a concert program.
 
You're in convivial company. At 73 I'm also learning by orchestrating what were originally piano pieces, but that were neither as modern nor as pianistic as yours.
 
Cheers,
Jer
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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #3 on: November 10, 2017, 09:08:38 AM »
While I don't have a favorite, #4 is special; it essentially wrote itself.  The others I struggled with a bit.  #4 just kind of flowed out.  I tweaked the tempo a bit, played with the last bar's left hand, and that's about it.

I have mixed feelings about the instrumentation to use in the orchestration.  If this is to be just an educational exercise I have infinite resources at my disposal but if I want performable pieces I need to scale back.  There is only one ensemble in my environs - Seattle WA, USA - that is likely to consider performing any orchestral piece I write: the Octava Chamber Orchestra.  They are usually limited to the classical period orchestra: strings, pairs of winds, a pair of trumpets, a pair of horns, and tympani.  No trombones; no tuba.  Sometimes percussion, but not usually.  Sometimes harp, but not usually.   I will probably aim towards that small ensemble.

Obviously the lack of trombones and tuba limits my getting practice using brass choirs, but there are other avenues.   #1 started life in two forms: for piano and for brass quintet.  I can try that sort of thing for other pieces, too.

In any case, I envision a different type of orchestration for each piece since they are quite different in character.

Update:
I ran this idea by my teacher.  He's in favor and thinks I should start with #2 which I think is going to be the trickiest of the lot.  It's going to take more of a re-envisioning of the piece rather than just orchestrating.  He suggested I look at Dallapiccola's orchestration of his Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera.  Sheesh.  What have I gotten myself into?
« Last Edit: November 10, 2017, 03:24:02 PM by Patrick O'Keefe »

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #4 on: November 27, 2017, 05:19:19 PM »
It's been a few weeks since I first proposed this project.  Since then firmed up the idea to go with the classical chamber orchestra so I can pretend the pieces might actually get performed.  I'm starting with the full score of pairs of winds,  trumpets, horns, tympani, and strings even if some of the staves are empty.  If they are still empty when I'm finished I'll remove them.

So far I've go a start on Bagatelles 1 & 2 - updated Dec. 20, 2017
#1 - https://app.box.com/s/ljbn6sv24qr55ldiwrgkukc8r9m20fgh
#2 - https://app.box.com/s/ooppem02c0sl9q555d8npihctvqd14xj
Each link points to 4 files: piano PDF and MP3 and orchestral PDF and MP3

Bagatelle #1 consists of a modal melodic line over (sometimes under) an "accompaniment" of scalar planing augmented triads.  The scale is a 5 note octatonic scale followed by a 4 note whole tone scale - sometimes rising; sometimes falling.  No harmonic movement of any kind - just these scales of augmented triads.  The triads beg to be orchestrated, but thinly.  An augmented triad cannot be extended with 7ths, 9ths, 11ths, etc.  You just get doublings of notes in the triad.  Too much doubling just makes it muddy (to my ears).  I'm keeping the melodic line pretty much to solo instruments.  I've thrown in some harmonies that aren't in the original piano but only (hopefully) where it doesn't change the feeling.

For Bagatelle #2 I decided to try to capture the mood rather than use an exact transcription.  The piece is all atmospherics.   No apparent tempo or meter.   No real melodic content - mostly just short motific gesturesl and occasional 6-note quartal chords.  The chords are arpeggiated on the piano, but that wasn't easy to achieve.  I'm not at all satisfied with it yet.

One advantage of being both composer and orchestrator is that I can make as many changes as I want.   I've made some changes in meter that reflect the movement better than in the piano version.  It works well enough that I'm going to retrofit it into the piano version.  :)
 
« Last Edit: December 20, 2017, 04:25:05 PM by Patrick O'Keefe »

sandalwood

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #5 on: November 28, 2017, 07:06:08 AM »
Congratulations, first of all, for embarking on such an ambitious project.  May the muses be with you!

...and a caveat, as you might well have understood by now, I simpy don't qualify to "understand" much of modern music and have difficulty in  emotionally relating to it, generally speaking. With some "wrong note" ones I sadly keep hearing the "right note" versions lurking behind. All these despite that I somewhat see or intuit the level of sophistication and craft in many. But then there are shades and degrees to "modern", some definitely more accessible and I keep trying to familiarize myself to all.

In addition to your introductory notes I tried to use Quaderno Musicale di Annalibera as a gateway to approach your suite. I listened to Variazioni per orchestra which apparently is based on the Quaderno and a couple of other orchestral works of his (I'm very glad I did). It was very interesting and revealing to see how his piano music became, so I heard, more accessible as it translated to  orchestral.

I think your bagatelles do make good in keeping your tutor's advice. I hear they have a marked element of the tranquil and serene atmosphere of Dallapiccola's works as well as his matching relatively sparse but remarkably effective orchestral colors; more so in #2 where, by the way, I just loved the pizz bass line. I think the chamber orchestra very well fits the overall concept.

I wish I was able to provide more useful feedback. I look forward to hearing the rest.

Reha

Jerry Engelbach

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #6 on: November 28, 2017, 09:11:28 AM »
Patrick,
 
Beautiful  pieces.
 
You translated them to orchestra with great skill. The transparency of the lines and the instrument colors work extremely well.
 
Cheers,
Jer
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Michel.R.E

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #7 on: November 28, 2017, 11:52:57 AM »
very nicely done Patrick.

a suggestion: mark all those 4ths in the strings in the 2nd bagatelle as being divisi. if you placed this in front of an orchestra they'd end up playing them divisi anyways, even if you haven't marked it, so may as well.

the score layout needs a bit of breathing room too, it's a tiny bit tight in there.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #8 on: November 28, 2017, 12:15:41 PM »
Thank you, Jerry and Reha.  I must admit that I, too, don't qualify to "understand" much of modern music ... depending on the definition of "modern music".  I'm pretty sure my tutor was pointing me to Dallapiccola's Variazioni just as an example of a modern composer orchestrating his own pianos works, not because there was any similarity in style or technique.  I think Dallapiccola's music is some of the most approachable atonal music.  But it is atonal and I've written very little strictly atonal music.  Bagatelle #2 may come close, but it is really my first attempt at playing with quartal harmony.

Some background behind the Bagatelles (and a few other works of mine):  Seattle has a good venue for composers to present short works to other composers: the Seattle Composers Salon.  A composer collects the resources needed (performers, equipment, etc.), schedules it with the curator, and performs it.  But the group leans pretty heavily towards experimental, avant garde works.  I'm way off in the conservative, traditional wing.  So I've taken to composing something tonal/modal but avoiding functional harmony if I want to present it at the Salon - pretty boring by Salon standards, but with enough of an edge that it might not put the listeners asleep.

The Bagatelles were originally written with the Salon in mind - 5 tonal pieces each using something different to replace functional harmony.  (Or in #3's case, using sort of traditional harmony to create tonal ambiguity.)  The original #4 and #5 got moved over to a piano sonata (present to yawns at the Salon).  The new 4 and 5 were not written with the Salon in mind so don't exactly fit the original mold. 

I expect that I'll have an updated version of the #2 orchestration today or tomorrow.  I think it lost some of the intended "daydream" quality in the orchestration.

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #9 on: November 28, 2017, 12:22:20 PM »
very nicely done Patrick.

a suggestion: mark all those 4ths in the strings in the 2nd bagatelle as being divisi. if you placed this in front of an orchestra they'd end up playing them divisi anyways, even if you haven't marked it, so may as well.

the score layout needs a bit of breathing room too, it's a tiny bit tight in there.
Thank you, Michel.  Yes, I'll definitely mark the 4ths as divisi.  And the score needs a lot of clean up.  But I'm still at the cluttering stage.  :)

Edit:
I also notice that the scores are in concert pitch rather than transposing.  I'll fix that later today.
« Last Edit: November 28, 2017, 02:08:50 PM by Patrick O'Keefe »

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #10 on: November 29, 2017, 11:28:34 AM »
a suggestion: mark all those 4ths in the strings in the 2nd bagatelle as being divisi.
Sorry for a bonehead question, but ....  Once I've specified divisi (and unison to undo it) do I need to repeat it at the next divided section?  Do I put a "sim." at the first reappearance?

Michel.R.E

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #11 on: November 29, 2017, 11:33:29 AM »
it depends how often and how close they are.

if it's a repeated pattern that fits into 2-3 measures, and that isn't separated by more than 2-3 measures, I might consider leaving out the subsequent "div./unis." markings.

However, this type of repeated pattern would probably be best served without any text marking, but with split stems instead. Where the notes are divisi, for that/those measure(s) use a double set of stems, up and down. the unison measures are then obvious from a singe set of stems (though a "unis." indication at least once would probably be appreciated, just to assure that you won't be getting only half the string section playing during those passages).
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #12 on: December 20, 2017, 04:57:16 PM »
Moving at my usual glacial pace, I'm still working on Bagatelles #1 & #2.  The links in post #4 now point to updated files.  I'm close to done with the music but have not started cleaning up the score.

I've decided to do #3 in two phases.  Phase 1 is to just get away from piano.  First I'm rewriting it for strings; then I will orchestrate it.  The problem is that, for piano, it has two voices with a series of punctuating chords.  I need to re-conceive it a something with a more orchestratable framework.

And then there are #4 and #5.  My teacher has suggested I use an earlier version of my 5 Bagatelles that had different #4 and #5.  Not different versions; completely different pieces of music.  The old #4 and $5 got moved to a piano sonata.  Those are the two he thinks I should use.  Very different pieces of music.  I've included these in the set of files pointed to by the link in posting #1 of this thread.

The old #4 was sort of an atmospheric piece similar in feeling to #2.  It consists of 5 or 6 motifis that sort of interact with each other but are really independent.   Only one has any kind of thematic growth or development; the others mostly are just repeated transposed.  This is the closest I've gotten to minimalism and is probably the closest I will ever get.  My pianist wanted a non-musical description of the piece so I described it as fragments of bitter-sweet memories being obsessively replayed, interrupting each other but never coming together as any kind of narrative.

The old #5 started life as a toccata but developed some very non-toccata parts.  It will be interesting to orchestrate, but that's a ways off.

Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #13 on: January 25, 2018, 04:51:00 PM »
I've been beating my head against the wall over #3 for a month.  My idea of getting away from the piano version was necessary but not sufficient.  I had to go back to my original musical ideas: A somewhat fast waltz, playful but with some dark edges caused by dissonant punctuating chords - mostly inverted major 7ths - and some occasional bi-tonality.  The realization for piano went in one direction; the realization for orchestra has gone in another.

First, I eliminated the slow introduction that had served as a transition from bagatelle #2.  Not needed here.  (That shortened the piece by a 3rd.)  Then I increased the tempo a bit, softened some of the dissonances, and emphasized the playfulness.  Now I have a very short, lighthearted scherzo.

https://app.box.com/s/zwdqbcvc45o1mlpj3in91axfjaw0hc48
(PDFs and MP3 of both the original piano and the orchestration.)

I'm not done with it, but I've at least got a beginning-to-end orchestration.  I'm considering adding a little percussion.  I've included a completely empty tympani staff but probably is not the direction I'm going to go.   



mjf1947

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Re: 5 Bagatelles - an orchestration project
« Reply #14 on: January 25, 2018, 05:50:31 PM »
What can I say .... I AM A FAN!  ;D

Keep up the fine writing ........................................

Lovely,

Mark