GARRITAN INTERACTIVE
PRINCIPLES OF ORCHESTRATION
by Nikolay Rimsky-Korsakov



Chapter IV
COMPOSITION


Lesson Notes:
This lesson discusses
crescendo and diminuendo, diverging and converging progressions, and tone quality as a harmonic force.



Crescendo and diminuendo.

Short crescendi and diminuendi are generally produced by natural dynamic means; when prolonged, they are obtained by this method combined with other orchestral devices. After the strings, the brass is the group most facile in producing dynamic shades of expression, glorifying crescendo chords into the most brilliant sforzando climaxes. Clarinets specialize in diminuendo effects and are capable of decreasing their tone to a breath (morendo). Pro-longed orchestral crescendi are obtained by the gradual addition of other instruments in the following order: strings, wood-wind, brass. Diminuendo effects are accomplished by the elimination of the instruments in the reverse order (brass, wood-wind, strings). The scope of this work does not lend itself to the quotation of prolonged crescendo and diminuendo passages. The reader is referred, therefore, to the full scores:

Professor Belkin Comments: As mentioned in a previous chapter’s comments, the percussion add numerous resources for dynamic gradations: some instruments can go from the softest whisper to the loudest climax, others work especially well to crown a climax. One important principle: In a big crescendo, SAVE something for the final accent. Often this will be a percussion attack.
References :
Sheherazade, pp. 5 - 7, 92 - 96, 192 - 200.
Antar Section 6, Section 51.
The Christmas Night Section 183.
Sadko Section 165-1661.
The Tsar's Bride Section 80-81.

Many examples of shorter crescendi and diminuendi will be found in Vol. II.


Diverging and converging progressions.

In the majority of cases, diverging and converging progressions simply consist in the gradual ascent of the three upper parts, with the bass descending. The distance separating the bass from the other parts is trifling at first, and grows by degrees. On the other hand, in converging progressions, the three upper parts, at first so far distant from the bass, gradually approach it. Sometimes these progressions involve an increase or a decrease in tone. The intermediate intervals are filled up by the introduction of fresh parts as the distance widens, so that the upper parts become doubled or trebled. In converging progressions the tripled and doubled parts are simplified, as the duplicating instruments cease to play. Moreover, if the harmony allows it, the group in the middle region which remains stationary is the group to be retained, or else the sustained note which guarantees unity in the operation. Below, the reader will find double examples of both descriptions. The first pair represents a diverging progression, 1. piano, in which the human voice takes part; 2. a purely orchestral crescendo. The second depicts two similar diverging progressions, firstly a gradual crescendo, secondly dim., during which the strings become more and more divided as the wind instruments cease to play. Ex. 258 accompanies the apparition of Mlada, Ex. 259, its disappearance. The atmosphere and coloring are weird and fanciful. The third pair of examples forms instances of converging progressions. In the first (Ex. 260) Princess Volkhova relates the wonders of the sea. Then in the middle of a powerful orchestral crescendo the Sea-King appears (Ex. 261). Both examples include a sustained stationary chord of the diminished seventh. The handling of such progressions requires the greatest care.

Professor Belkin Comments: Note that as long as the COLOR (timbre) does not change much, and as long as the middle parts are fairly close together, the voice leading of the internal voices coming and going is not of great importance, as long as one avoids too much doubling of active notes in the harmony.


Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 256. The Tsar’s Bride, Section 102

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No. 257. The Tsar’s Bride, Section 107

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References :
No. 258. Mlada, Act III, Section 12
No. 259. Mlada, Act III, Section 119



No. 260. Sadko, Section 105


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No. 261. Sadko, Section 119


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Other References :
Sadko Section 72 (cf. Ex. 112).
Sadko before Section 315.
The Christmas Night, beginning (cf. Ex. 106)

No. 262. Antar, End of 3rd Movement


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Note. A sustained note between the diverging parts does not always allow the empty space to be more completely filled up.


No. 263. The Golden Cockerel, before Section 106


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Tone quality as a harmonic force.

Harmonic basis.

Melodic design comprising notes foreign to the harmony, passing or grace notes, embellishments etc., does not permit that a florid outline should proceed at the same time with another one, reduced to essential and fundamental notes:



If, in the above example, the upper part is transposed an octave lower, the discordant effect produced by the contact of appoggiaturas and fundamental notes will be diminished; the quicker the passage is played the less harsh the effect will be, and vice versa.

Professor Belkin Comments: As a general rule, the farther apart in register two dissonant notes are placed, the less pungent the effect. In closer registers, certain timbres sound MUCH harsher than others, e.g. a minor second between two trumpets will always grate more than one in the strings.

But it would be ill-advised to lay down any hard and fast rule as to the permissible length of these notes. There is no doubt that the harmonic notes, the thirds of the fundamental one (E) are more prominent from their proximity with the notes extraneous to the harmony. If the number of parts is increased (for instance, if the melodic figure is in thirds, sixths etc.), the question becomes still more complicated, since, to the original harmonic scheme, chords with different root bases are added, producing false relation.

Nevertheless, for the solution of such problems, orchestration provides an element of the greatest importance: difference of timbres. The greater the dissimilarity in timbre between the harmonic basis on the one hand and the melodic design on the other, the less discordant the notes extraneous to the harmony will sound. The best example of this is to be found between the human voice and the orchestra, next comes the difference of timbres between the groups of strings, wood-wind, plucked strings and percussion instruments. Less important differences occur between wood-wind and brass; in these two groups, therefore, the harmonic basis generally remains an octave removed from the melodic design, and should be of inferior dynamic power.

Examples of harmonic basis in chords:


Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 264. Pan Voyevoda, Introduction

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Other References:
Legend of Kitesh, Introduction (cf. also Ex. 125 and 140).
Mlada, Act III Section 10.

The harmonic basis may be ornamental in character, in which case it should move independently of the concurrent melodic design.



Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 265. The Tsar Salton, Section 103-103

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No. 266. The Tsar Salton, Section 128, Section 149, Section 162-165 (cf. below).

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Chords the most widely opposed in character may be used on a simple, stationary harmonic basis, a basis, founded, for example, on the chord of the tonic or diminished seventh.

Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 267. Legend of Kitesh, Section 326-328 - Wood-wind and harps on a string basis.

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No. 268. Kashtchel the Immortal, Section 33

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Examples:

No. 269. Kashtchel the Immortal, Section 43

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No. 270. Mlada, Act II, before Section 17, Section 18, Section 20

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Examples:


No. 271. TheGolden Cockerel, Section 125 - Chords of the diminished seventh, on arpeggio basis (augmented fifth).

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The effect of alternating harmony produced between two melodic figures, e.g. one transmitting a note, held in abeyance, to the other, or the simultaneous progression of a figure in augmentation and diminution etc. becomes comprehensible and pleasant to the ear when the fundamental sustained harmony is different.

Professor Belkin: This is another way of saying that PLANES OF TONE affect the way harmony is perceived.


Score References & Musical Examples Using GPO:



No. 272. Tsar Sultan, Section 104 - Wood-wind and harps on a string basis.

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No. 273. Tsar Sultan, Section 162

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Examples:

No. 274. Tsar Sultan, Section 165 (cf. also Section 147-148).

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Other references:
Legend of Kitesh Section 34, Section 36, Section 297 (cf. EX 34 and 213).
Russian Easter Fête, before Section V.

The whole question as to what is allowed and what forbidden in the employment of notes extraneous to the harmony is one of the most difficult in the whole range of composition; the permissible length of such notes is in no way established. In absence of artistic feeling, the composer who relies entirely on the difference between two timbres will often find himself using the most painful discords. Innovations in this direction in the latest post-Wagnerian music are often very questionable; they depress the ear and deaden the musical senses, leading to the unnatural conclusion that what is good, taken separately, must necessarily be good in combination.