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Topic: Would You Sacrifice Colorful Instrumentation for Your Piece to be Published?

  1. #1

    Would You Sacrifice Colorful Instrumentation for Your Piece to be Published?

    Publishers look for works that appeal to the needs of their clients. If your work featured an unusual instrumentation would you sacrifice the color so your work could be published? Last time I checked pieces written for tenor, celesta, vibes, 2 marimbas, and cello were not on the top seller list of classical publications. Would you rescore the work for SATB and piano instead? Or if you had a violin, clarinet, bassoon, and tuba piece would you rescore the work for string quartet or full orchestra? These are just some examples.

  2. #2

    Re: Would You Sacrifice Colorful Instrumentation for Your Piece to be Published?

    Not 'published' but produced (reproduced) for a clients needs - yes. I do this all the time, repeatedly.

    I have reformed, redone, changed instrumentation and repurposed both new and old tracks with extra or removed elements so they are suitable for the client.
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  3. #3

    Re: Would You Sacrifice Colorful Instrumentation for Your Piece to be Published?

    That's an interesting question, Rodney, and with an equally interesting reply already from Graham.

    I admire you two, and others here on the Forum who work with publishers, clients, contacts which provide you means to actually money from your music. The music business has always been a mystery to me, so I am always ready with a good round of applause for folks who manage to "go pro."

    Layers of notes, that's a basic essence of music. When looking at a score, that's about all we see. While each line is labeled with the composer's intended instrument, we know the instrumentation could be changed either from necessity or in the spirit of experimentation.

    I think one of the joys of music is how a given piece can be performed in such variety. Using the original instrumentation, a piece can sound so many different ways under the baton of different conductors. Then there's the more drastic change that you're talking about, Rodney, where even instruments extremely unlike each other can be interchanged, and with enough finesse given to the process, the results can be great.

    As a MIDI kind of guy for so long now, auditioning different instruments on MIDI tracks is always an exciting part of the process. I often use just solo piano when I'm in the composing stage, because what I'm coming up with isn't dependent on a particular sound/instrument. Like my current post in The Listening Room, "Overview," was initially just piano. I knew I would probably be using lots of brass, woodwinds, maybe strings, but while writing the actual music, the notes, I wasn't concerned with how the various parts would be assigned - that all came later.

    And so, speaking hypothetically, yet from the kind of experience I'm talking about, I think it should always be possible to create new versions of compositions by changing instrument assignments. I suppose the process would increase in difficulty in proportion to how married we are to our original instrumentation choices - Like if we really only thought of a particular line as being played on an oboe, it could possibly be disturbing to be faced with the challenge of adapting that line for a saxophone.

    But, I still think that this kind of morphing, re-thinking, changing instrumentation doesn't need to be thought of as a "sacrifice," but just an opportunity to hear the same composition in new ways.


  4. #4
    Senior Member Tom_Davis's Avatar
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    Aug 2005
    Ellendale, ND

    Re: Would You Sacrifice Colorful Instrumentation for Your Piece to be Published?

    I have frequently re-orchestrated pieces for clients. Most commonly for commissioned works for school organizations that suddenly were without a specific instrument they had when the piece was originally requested. That to me is not so much an artistic issue as it is being able and willing to work with a client.

    On the other hand, I would consider it an artistic issue if I had completed and submitted a work for publication (especially a large orchestral work) and the publisher wanted changes that would indeed change the entire timbre of the piece. I’m not sure on that one.

    But SATB to strings (for example) has been a common practice since forever. It’s a matter of getting the music heard.

    Just my 2 cents worth.


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