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Topic: This new process of writing for orchestra

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  1. #1

    This new process of writing for orchestra

    I have, for a long time, been primarily a song writer. I have written a fair amount of praise and worship songs, 5 children's musicals and the occasional choral work. So I am used to writing in song forms that usually last about 3 - 4 minutes.
    http://www.broadjam.com/artists/home...&artistID=9022

    Now I am working on my Lilly Endowment funded 1.5 year project that includes writing an approximately 45 minute orchestral work that will serve as a soundtrack for a DVD full of Indiana rural images.
    http://charlesmoman.smugmug.com/

    I am using Finale with GPO as I compose - later I will do final rendering live in Digital Performer using EWQL Platinum Orchestra (and some GPO!). The DVD will have a number of sections - broad landscapes, macro work, some time lapse scenes, structures, funky yard art, cemeteries and headstones, etc. I have not laid out a sequence of images yet, but I know what is in my Aperture images library (15,000 +) - so in the back of my mind I know what I will be using.

    This new writing process is a lot of fun for me, but I struggle at times to extend the movements. I am not used to developing themes for longer periods of times. Or doing many variations. Right now I have roughed out 4 "movements" or sections that last 5 - 7 minutes each. I will be revisiting the first section or two and do some variation work, I think. I believe I will end up with 7 or 8 sections and that should work well within the DVD.

    I have a BME and MS in music, but never had a lot of training in orchestration. That is my weakness, but I am finding that my ears tell me what works. I do refer to other music as a guide - Ken-P's works and some film composers - James Horner, Mychael Danna, John Williams and Aaron Copland (met him once long ago - college choir concert with local symphony). Paul Gilreath's MIDI Orchestration text is great too.

    Any of you made the transition from song writing to symphonic works?
    Any words of wisdom?

    btw - GPO is really a great product at such a low price - excellent work Gary and crew! Looking forward to the Steinway.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  2. #2

    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    I find it can be helpful to compose the harmony first. You might decided first how long a section is going to be, then come up with a good harmonic progression that fills up that time, then go back and add melodic parts that fit your harmony.
    Dan Powers
    www.danielpowers.info

    "It's easier to be a composer than it is to compose."
    --Ray Luke (1928-2010)

  3. #3

    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    I'm working through a similar problem in my own writing and I think it comes down to consciously breaking out of the traditional forms that we've grown so accustomed to and which have become a crutch of sorts. As you say, let your ear be your guide, and don't be afraid to go where your ear wants to go. So what if you end up with an eleven bar phrase? If it stands on its own merits, go with it and see where it goes next. Let your knowledge of theory and harmony work to support this exploration and not direct it. The science fiction author Ray Bradbury was once asked about how he went about writing his stories, and the question of was put to him about structure and outlining ahead of time. I've always remembered his response, partially because it's so vivid to me. He said, "No, I don't formulate it ahead of time. When the monster goes charging down the hall, I'm right behind him with my typewriter waiting to see what he does next." I think, to a degree, that applies to composing music as well. In your case, you'll have some specific guidelines enforced by the images you're using, so work within that framework and enjoy your newfound freedom.
    Paul Baker
    Baker's Jazz And More
    Austin, Texas, USA
    www.bakersjazzandmore.com

  4. #4
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    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    Well, are these moving images of Indiana or still images?? If still images, you may want to set up a photo animation where each image lasts on the screen for a certain amount of time... Find all the images that are related, that you're going to make a statment with... I mean, there must be some rhyme and reason to all these images that you're writing to right???

    Anyway, once you have your image animation, time it... Find out how long it is... As you look at the images, see what kind of tempo you would ike to score this to... Now you have an idea of how long to make a piece and at what tempo... Now it's just a matter of filling up that space with the appropriate piece of music..

    Writing for images is not like writing regular music... You can make a great statement with you 45 seconds worth of music, or take people on a journey with a whole 4 minutes, depending on the scene... But your visuals should decide what music you're going to write and not the other way around... anyway, hope this helps...

  5. #5
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    I admire a person who can work at what he or she loves and you certainly fit the bill! I cannot answer your request yet I would like to ask, when you have your finished product would it be out of line to ask if you might post a few snippets?
    I would love to hear your work especially with GPO and I am sure other members would love to as well.
    Best of luck to you with deep respect.
    Styxx

  6. #6
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    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    Quote Originally Posted by danpowers View Post
    I find it can be helpful to compose the harmony first. You might decided first how long a section is going to be, then come up with a good harmonic progression that fills up that time, then go back and add melodic parts that fit your harmony.
    Or indeed the other way round. Melody followed by harmonic structure. Either way.

    Aaron Copland could really orchestrate! Great composer - worth studying. I would look at Hoedown from Rodeo and the way he puts it all together. I just received that score recently. Great talent and original.

  7. #7

    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    I have a vast library of images - more than I could ever use in this one DVD project. They are still images (Nikon D70 and D300) and I already have a handle on how they will be grouped.

    For example, I have a group of cemetery/headstone images that I will be writing for starting today. This will be the easiest one to start because I am basing it on a couple of older hymns, one being "This is My Father's World".
    I know I want this section of the DVD to be about 5 minutes - maybe a little less.

    So though I have not laid out the order of images, I know where I am going with them. I will be using Final Cut Studio - so I will do some limited special effects and some routines using Motion.

    I am writing as I go. I decide on an opening, and just keep adding. Sometimes I have a clear view of where I am going, other times I just experiment and see where it leads. The Ray Bradbury quote is similar to what I do much of the time. Without Finale, GPO and my Mac Pro I could not do this - a great time to be a composer.

    I take breaks now and then to clear my head and also to listen to some favorite orchestral samples to remind me of choices I could use for textures and orchestrating.

    I am on spring break this week, so I am hitting it hard while I have long stretches of time. As many of you know, hours can go by and you might have 1 or 2 minutes finished. I am now at the halfway point in terms of the music time frame for the DVD. I really hope to be done by the middle of May (ok, it will never be done - I will stop tweaking at some point). Then I can start assembling the final project, wind it up by July and start on the musical. That deadline is June 1, 2009. But at least I will be back to writing songs again. Well . . . and for the pit orchestra too.
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  8. #8

    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    I will post some samples at my Broadjam site eventually.
    I will let you know when they are there.
    Maybe I will post versions with GPO and with EWQL Platinum to see the difference that makes.

    I am usually melody-led, but sometimes the harmonies run my show when composing. Writing is such an intriguing process. I may not float everyone's boat, but I am happy making music that works for my ears.

    The past few years I have had an abundance of blessings with my music and Lilly fellowship projects - and I do not take it for granted.
    I know where all good things come from.

    Charles
    MacPro 2.66 - Tiger & Snow Leopard / 16GB RAM / several TB of HD space/ Garritan Libraries / EWQLSO Platinum PLAY / Omnisphere/ Kontakt 2 & 3 / Finale 2010 /DP5/ a VERY patient wife!

  9. #9
    Senior Member Styxx's Avatar
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    Re: This new process of writing for orchestra

    Awesome! Looking forward to hearing your work.
    Styxx

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