Author Topic: Harmony for Orchestral Writing  (Read 4755 times)

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RichardMc

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Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« on: July 27, 2012, 05:18:09 PM »
I have heard it said that orchestral writing is not governed by the four part writing that one finds in harmony books-like the one I am reading now. And I think I understand that. But then the question is what type of harmony is involved in orchestral writing. What does it reduce to-three part harmony-four part harmony with doubling etc. How is it conceived. I hope this makes some sense.

Ron

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #1 on: July 27, 2012, 05:25:27 PM »
Voice leading is the same whether for orchestra or four-part chorus. The main difference is that in orchestral writing you can spread chords out over large space, or put them together is a specific register. You ought to be varying the thickness (texture) in any case. Some full orchestra; some sections or parts sections; trios, duet, etc. The best way to learn is to study scores.
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #2 on: July 27, 2012, 06:19:30 PM »
exactly as Ron says: the same base principles apply.

if you hit a leading tone in an instrument, you use the "normal" standard resolution direction for that harmony.
if you have a dissonance, you prepare it and resolve it, like in 4-part harmony.

where you have leeway, is that you don't have to stick to 4-part harmony through-out.
and voices CAN appear and disappear at will, depending on the musical context, which would be a no-no in 4-part writing.

generally speaking, orchestral writing will also balance a certain degree of contrapuntal writing with more "harmonic" writing (ie: theme over accompaniment; choral-like writing; etc...)

"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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RichardMc

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #3 on: July 28, 2012, 03:02:34 PM »
Rimsky-Korsakov says:
                         "The composer should picture to himself the exact harmonic formation of the piece he intends to orchestrate. If, in his rough sketch, there exist any uncertainly as to the
                          number or movement of harmonic parts, he is advised to settle this at once."


Does this mean I should have at least block harmonies sketched out before beginning to orchestrate? And should those harmonies contain the number of parts that will be orchestrated, so that with doublings I might have a block chord of five or six parts moving to another chord of five or six parts-with doublings? I am sorry if this seems repetitive but I feel unsure of my self in these waters.

Ron

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #4 on: July 28, 2012, 09:45:23 PM »
The quote from R-K is rather pedantic. You should have a general idea of the overall harmonic structure before starting, but I can't imagine anyone laying out blocks of chords then assigning individual notes to various instruments. Instrumental writing is more fluid and "counterpointalist."
Ron
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Michel.R.E

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #5 on: July 28, 2012, 10:23:43 PM »
it's important to note that the R.K. book was written over 100 years ago, at a time where music was ALL most definitely quite tonal.
many things have changed since then.
not that everything he wrote should be discarded, but some of it needs to be taken in context of the period at which it was written.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

RichardMc

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Re: Harmony for Orchestral Writing
« Reply #6 on: July 29, 2012, 05:22:43 AM »
Thanks. I will try to take the context into consideration. I did start experimenting with scoring different chord distributions-though I understand that I should be working on writing lines for the instruments. I understand that GPO is not an orchestra but it gives some idea of what it might sound like. I have to keep looking at scores as well.