Principles of orchestration and the analysis of musical gestures
Meyer, Renier Jacobus
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Composing or arranging for orchestra is a skill which is hard to learn and hard to teach. Literature on orchestration is comprehensive in terms of rules of thumb and these heuristic tools are sometimes called principles of orchestration. However, a study of the literature on orchestration revealed that these 'principles' are not theories about the outcomes and effects of specific decisions made by composers. An exception is the work of George McKay who does indeed establish principles of orchestration to some extent. Granting a few exceptions, literature on orchestration takes as point of departure recommendations about techniques of orchestration and illustrates these techniques with analyses of existing compositions for orchestra. In this study I invert the approach followed in the literature and take music analysis as a point of departure for my study. I used an existing and conventional analysis of Claude Debussy's Syrinx for solo flute from the book Sonic Design: The Nature of Sound and Music by Robert Cogan and Pozzi Escot (1976) as context for my own analysis of Syrinx in which the less familiar type of analysis – the analysis of musical gestures and musical forces – can be understood. This analysis formed the basis for my orchestral composition titled Ananke which is based upon musical gestures from Syrinx. A reinterpretation of Cogan and Escot's analysis of Debussy's Syrinx enabled me to identify the musical gestures I used as a basis for my orchestral composition. Musical gestures are understood in this dissertation in terms of the theory of musical forces by Steve Larson. The objective in composing Ananke, based upon material from Syrinx by Debussy, is to explore different ways in which the musical gestures can be orchestrated in order to amplify the three musical forces namely musical gravity, musical magnetism and musical inertia. This process of composing the orchestral composition enabled me to construe principles of orchestration concerning musical forces and the different ways in which musical forces can be amplified. I found that the approach I followed in this study can indeed be employed in order to investigate and construe principles of orchestration, taking music analysis as a point of departure. This new approach to the study of orchestration opens up new possibilities in teaching and learning orchestration, as well as in composing or arranging for orchestra.
- Humanities