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Topic: Epic orchestration

  1. #1

    Epic orchestration

    I please want to test some opinions here. What do you think make an epic orchestration? We have all heard scores being called epic and have often used that term, but what, from a composers viewpoint makes an epic score?

    The dictionary decribe an epic as any long poem, usually associated with historic or legendary facts. That does not help me much, as that could include anything from a 30 minutes lullaby to a thunderous 60 minutes Bach symphony.

    To start off, let me try to say what I think it is and maybe you can tell me if I am wrong. In the common sence, I think any dramatic music today is often describes as epic. It usually seems to have dominant percussion (timps and cymbals), lush strings with fast movement and blaring brass, especially the oh-so-ever-favourite-but-overused french horns spiced with trumpet stabs.

    To my ears, the score of Don Davis (Matrix) sounds more epic than Stones' LOTR, even though I would put LOTR also in this category.

    Any comments?

  2. #2

    Re: Epic orchestration

    You touch me because of the title of my :


    I called it Epic fanfares exactly because it was a sonic experiment of finding the hollywood sound of "epic" soundtracks. This is also the source of the clichè (far from original) melody and harmony.

    But plese let me know: are you a musician, or a philologist? Are you working on a new Dictionary edition?...

  3. #3

    Re: Epic orchestration

    Hi Fabio

    Thanks. Yes I agree that is a fabulous example of an epic orchestration. Great work. Was it all done with GPO?

    I am a musician. I score short films. My question relates to my scoring in a way that I want to test my boundries a bit further. I have done stuff that I would considder "epic" but want to try and learn more and add new edges to what I am doing.

  4. #4

    Re: Epic orchestration

    This is an interesting question. My opinions may come off as too strong, but no offense is intended.

    First, Bach never wrote any symphonies. Bach's music was so early in orchestration and a lot of the instrumentation during that time was listed as player 1, 2, 3, etc.

    When it comes to big orchestration, you can look at film scores, but the only ones that will stand the test of time so far are John Williams and Aaron Copland. If you really want to hear what could be defined as epic orchestration listen to Wagner, Berlioz, Strauss, and especially Ravel and Mahler. Listen to anything by 20th century plus composers. Stravinsky's Firebird and Rite of Spring. Bartok's Concerto for Orchestra. Schoenberg's Survivor from Warsaw (to me his greatest work and one of the greatest works of the 20th century).
    Jess Hendricks
    DMA Student and Teaching Asst in Music Theory/ Composition at the University of Miami
    Personal Website

  5. #5

    Re: Epic orchestration

    Jess. Thanks for the correction. Off course you are right.
    (I am not properly schooled in classical music)

    I love some of Ravel's works. As far as classical (modern classical?) goes my favourite piece I would regard epic is the Planets from Holts (Mars being the most obvious IMO).

    John William's scores are great, but he did not fall as much in the cliche trap as for example Spiderman (was that Elfman?).

    I love the Don Davis stuff mainly because he has such a distinct style that even if he writes Hollywood style epics, his own style still overules. I want to listen to the Bartok piece you mention. I can not now offhand bring that one to mind. It will definitely be on my shopping list for tommorow.

  6. #6

    Re: Epic orchestration

    Then it's a serious query...

    Yes, you already found the key of this style (fast strings, rithmic base, bass lines and brass&horns fanfares or chorals passages).

    But what really is important IMO is to keep the tension high, with emotional evocations: the fast change of sound and timbre over a "ostinato" rithmic base is a way, and the little episode melodic and romantic, quickly broken by the main theme recall is another.

    John Williams is a master: Star Wars is the clichè, but what about Back to the future "incipit"? and the totally different "last of Mohicans" celtic theme?

    And when you think that it's exausted, you find the Jurassic Park theme...(and you understand why this man is rich and famous...;-))

  7. #7

    Re: Epic orchestration

    ...but I have an Italian important sample to citate:

    What about Ennio Morricone? His western style sound is a legend, but I find his masterpiece in the Untuchable", but mainly in "Mission" main theme...it's simply incredible the way a slow choir/strings fade out in a rithmic indios choir and accompainement...all with the sweet melody of Gabriel's oboe in background...simply genial.

  8. #8

    Re: Epic orchestration

    Fabio thanks. I appreciate your comments there. Theemotional content is very important and as you say - tension.

    Sorry, my comment about John Williams was meant in the possitive way. You are right that the Starwars theme has become cliche, mainly becasue I have heard it too many times. My kids have the whole range and you know how many times they can watch a film!!

    Jurasic park as you mention is great and just think of how he made Jaws one of the most recognised themes in modern film history. Believe it or not, I still love Heidi!!

  9. #9

    Re: Epic orchestration

    I believe it . I love Heidi too...

  10. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Nov 2004
    between this place and that place

    Re: Epic orchestration

    Epic well then it's the orchestration style, Large brass covering the strings, with Wind swirls abound and Timpini Roaring in back ground and it's just well...Epic? Truly it's state of feeling from the orchestration. Wider voicing between instruments to cover the whole Range, louder Dynamics, and all instruments playing to create this epic feel. I think Epic is just a personal opinion really. have everybody doing octaves and fiths underneath a string passage as it cressendos and 'er epic.
    Epic must have come out of the Romantic Period

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