Goltigami The effect then becomes incomparably more powerful and beautiful. The brilliant effect produced by military bands in some streets of large cities supports this statement while appearing to contradict it. Unrelated modulations soon appeared in great works, and led to effects that were as felicitous as they were unexpected. Symphonie Fantastique1st movement, bar and following; 3rd movement, bar 3 and following; overture to King Learbar 38 and following, bar and following; overture to Benvenuto Cellinibar and following; Romeo and Juliet2nd movement, bar 81 and following; overture Le Corsairebar and following]. Great importance seems to be attached nowadays to this art of instrumentation, which was unknown at the start of the previous century; sixty years ago, many who were regarded as true friends of music tried to hinder its development.
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The art of instrumentation consists in using these various sound elements and applying them, either to colour the melody, harmony and rhythm, or to produce effects that are sui generis whether motivated by an expressive intention or not , independently of the part played by the three other musical forces. From a poetical point of view, this art is as little susceptible of being taught as that of inventing beautiful melodies, fine successions of chords or rhythmic forms that have originality and power.
One can learn what is suitable for the various instruments, what can or cannot be played on them, what is easy or difficult, and what sounds well or not. One can also say that one particular instrument is more suitable than another to produce certain effects or to express certain feelings. As for grouping them together, whether in small or large ensembles, and the art of combining and blending them so that the sound of some is modified by others, or in order to draw from the ensemble a special sound that none of them could produce in isolation or when combined with instruments of the same family — for that the only viable approach is to draw attention to the results obtained by the masters and indicate the methods they used.
These results will probably be modified in a thousand other ways, good or bad, by composers who adopt them. The purpose of the present work is therefore first to indicate the range of some essential parts of the mechanism of the instruments, then to proceed to the study, hitherto much neglected, of the nature of the timbre, the peculiar character and expressive potential of each of them, and finally to that of the best methods known of combining them in an appropriate manner.
But to try to go beyond this would be to trespass on the territory of inspiration, where only genius is capable of making discoveries, because genius alone is able to range over it. Table of contents Stringed instruments The violin […] The tremolo, played on one or two strings by massed violins produces several excellent effects; it expresses anxiety, agitation, or terror when played piano, mezzo forte or fortissimo on one or two of the G, D, or A strings and when pitched no higher than the middle B flat.
It has a stormy and violent character when played fortissimo on the middle range of the A and E strings. But it becomes ethereal and seraphic when used in several parts and is played pianissimo on the higher notes of the E string.
One may mention here that the usual practice in the orchestra is to divide the violins into two groups, first and second, but there is no reason why they should not each be subdivided further into two or three parts, depending on what the composer is trying to achieve. The effect produced by such sustained chords is very remarkable, if the subject of the piece calls for it and it integrates well with the rest of the orchestral writing.
I used them for the first time in three parts, in the scherzo of a symphony [ Romeo and Juliet , Queen Mab scherzo, bar and following], above a fourth, non-harmonic, violin part which consists of a continuous trill on the lower note.
The extreme delicacy of the harmonics is enhanced in this passage by the use of mutes; with the sound thus reduced the notes come from the highest regions of the musical scale, which could hardly be reached by the use of normal violin sounds. Mutes are normally used in slow pieces, but they are no less effective for quick and light figuration when the subject of the music calls for it, or for accompaniments in an urgent rhythm.
The resulting sounds produce accompaniments which singers appreciate, as they do not cover their voices. They can also be used to excellent effect in symphonic music, even in vigorous passages, whether played by all the string sections together, or by only one or two parts.
Here is a delightful example of the use of pizzicato in the second violins, violas and basses, while the first violins play arco. In this passage the contrasting sounds blend in truly wonderful fashion with the melodic sighs of the clarinet and enhance their expressiveness Example : Beethoven, 4th symphony, 2nd movement, bars [ For accompaniments pizzicato figures played piano are always graceful in effect; they relax the listener and when used with discretion give variety to the orchestral texture.
It is likely that in future far more original and arresting effects will be produced with pizzicato than is the case nowadays. Since violinists do not regard pizzicato as an integral part of the art of violin playing they have hardly studied it.
Up till now they have only used the thumb and the index finger for plucking, and the result is that they are unable to play passages or arpeggios involving more than semiquavers in common time and at a very moderate tempo.
But if they were to put their bow aside and used the thumb and three fingers, with the right hand supported by the little finger resting on the body of the violin, as is done when playing the guitar, they would soon be able to play with ease and at speed passages such as the following, which at the moment are impossible. The double or triple repetition of the upper notes in the last two examples is made very easy by using in succession the index finger and the third finger on the same string.
Tied grace notes are also feasible in pizzicato playing. Example : 5th Symphony, 3rd movement, bars The effect then becomes incomparably more powerful and beautiful. In such a case when the violins are playing in unison the composer may want to increase their power even further, and has them doubled by the violas playing an octave below them. But this doubling in the lower part is too weak and out of proportion to the upper part, and the result is a superfluous buzzing sound, which tends to obscure rather than enhance the vibration of the higher notes on the violins.
If the viola part cannot be written in a distinctive way it is better to use it to add volume to the sound of the cellos by having both parts written in unison and not an octave apart as far as the lower range of the instrument permits. This is what Beethoven has done in the following passage Example : Symphony no. They possess the greatest expressive power and an unquestionable variety of timbres.
The violins in particular can express a vast range of nuances that seem at first sight incompatible. A violin section has power, lightness and grace, it can express sombre or joyful feelings, reverie and passion. It is just a matter of knowing how to let them speak. There is incidentally no need, as there is for wind instruments, to calculate the duration of a held note, or to provide them with pauses from time to time.
The composer can be sure that they will not run out of breath. Violins are faithful, intelligent, active and tireless servants. Slow and gentle melodies, which too often are given to wind instruments, are never better expressed than by a mass of violins.
Nothing can compare with the penetrating gentleness of the E string of some twenty violins in the hands of experienced players. An imperceptible movement of the arm, an unsuspected emotion on the part of the player, might produce no noticeable effect when played by a single violin.
But when multiplied by many instruments playing in unison, it results in magnificent nuances and irresistible surges of emotion that penetrate to the depth of the heart. The viola is as agile as the violin; its lower strings have a peculiarly penetrating quality; its higher notes are distinctive and have a sad and passionate intensity; in general its tone has a quality of deep sadness which distinguishes it from all other stringed instruments.
And yet for a long time it has been left idle, or used mostly for the lowly and pointless function of doubling the bass part an octave higher. There are several reasons for the unjust bondage of this noble instrument.
When they were unable to think straightaway of a few notes to fill in the chords they quickly fell back on the inevitable indication col basso, and did so in such a careless way that the result was sometimes an octave doubling of the bass line which was incompatible either with the harmony, or with the melody, or with both at once.
Then it was not possible at the time to write for violas distinctive parts which required from the players a normal degree of proficiency. Viola players were always recruited from among rejected violin players. When a musician was not capable of performing adequately a violin part, he turned to the viola.
As a result viola players were incapable of playing either the violin or the viola. I must admit that in our time this prejudice against the viola part has not been completely eliminated, and that even in the best orchestras there are still players who have not mastered the art of viola playing any better than that of the violin.
But the drawbacks of tolerating this state of affairs are becoming increasingly obvious, and gradually the viola, like other instruments, will cease to be entrusted to any but competent hands. Its tone quality is so distinctive that it is not necessary in an orchestra to have exactly the same number of violas as of second violins. The expressive qualities of its tone stand out so clearly that in those very rare cases when composers of the past have given it a prominent role the instrument has never failed to live up to expectation.
Nowadays violas are often divided into first and second. It should be said that the majority of violas used in contemporary French orchestras do not have the right dimensions; they have neither the size nor consequently the tonal power of real violas, and are more or less violins fitted with viola strings. Musical directors should ban completely the use of these hybrid instruments, whose weak sound drains one of the most interesting parts of the orchestra of much of its colour and energy, especially in the lower notes.
When the cellos are playing a melody, it can sometimes be very effective to double them in unison with violas. The tone of the cellos then acquires a very rounded and pure quality without ceasing to predominate. Example : Symphony no. Nothing has such voluptuous sadness as a mass of cellos playing in unison on the A string, and nothing is better suited to expressing tender and languorous melodies. The cello excels also in melodies of a religious character; the composer must then select the string on which the passage should be played.
The two lower strings, the C and G strings, have a smooth and deep sound which is admirably suited in such cases, but their low register means that they can only be given a bass line that is more or less melodic, while the true singing parts must be reserved for the higher strings. In the overture to Oberon Weber with rare felicity makes the cellos sing in their upper register, while two clarinets in A playing in unison sound their lower notes underneath. The effect is novel and arresting.
This has serious disadvantages. Double-bass players who are lazy or who really cannot cope with such difficult parts immediately give up and concentrate on simplifying the passage. This buzzing chaos, full of strange noises and hideous grunts, is completed or compounded by the other players, who are either more dedicated or more confident of their ability, and who labour in a fruitless attempt to perform the passage entirely as written.
Composers must therefore be very careful to ask from the double-basses only what is possible and where there is no doubt that the passage can be correctly played. This means that the old system of double-bass players who simplify their parts, a system widely adopted in the old instrumental school and exposed to the dangers we have indicated, is nowadays completely rejected.
Provided the composer has not written anything that is unsuitable for the instrument, the player must perform the music as written, neither adding nor deleting anything. Such is the case with the passage from the storm of the Pastoral Symphony, which conveys so well the suggestion of a violent wind charged with rain and of the dull rumbling of a squall.
It should be noted that in this example and in many other passages Beethoven has given to the basses low notes which they cannot play, and this suggests that the orchestra for which he wrote included double basses which could reach down to C an octave below the low C of the cellos, which are no longer found today.
Example : Pastoral Symphony, 4th movement, bars [ The notes, chords and arpeggios that they project across the orchestra and the chorus have exceptional splendour. There is nothing that is more appropriate for the idea of poetic festivals or religious celebrations than the sounds of a large number of harps when deployed in an imaginative way. When used in isolation or in groups of two, three, or four, it is strikingly the timbre of horns, trombones, and brass instruments in general that marries best with them.
The lower strings except for those at the lowest end of the range, which are loose and dull in tone have a veiled, mysterious, and beautiful quality, but have hardly ever been used for anything but bass accompaniments in the left hand. This is a mistake.
Admittedly harp players are not anxious to play whole pieces in these lower octaves; they are rather far from their bodies, force them to lean forward and stretch their arms, and thus to maintain a rather uncomfortable posture for some length of time. But this was probably of little consequence as far as composers were concerned.
The true reason is that it had not occurred to them to make use of this special timbre. But the player must never attack them with force, as they then produce a dry and hard sound, rather like the sound made when breaking a glass, and this is unpleasant and irritating.
Harp harmonics, especially with several harps in unison, are even more magical. Virtuoso players often use them in cadenzas and in their fantasias, variations and concertos. The sounds of the second octave can be very suitable for pieces of a joyful character, and the whole dynamic range can be used. The upper notes played fortissimo are excellent for violent and shattering effects, as for example in a storm or in a piece of a ferocious or infernal character.
Example : bars The sound of the two piccolos comes out an octave above and therefore produces sequences of elevenths, the harshness of which is extremely appropriate in the context. No one before had suspected the peculiar affinity between two so very different instruments when used in this way. The effect has a stabbing, lacerating quality, like a dagger blow.
It is very characteristic, even when only those two instruments are used, but the impact can be increased by a sharp stroke on the timpani together with a brief chord on the remaining instruments. These and other examples I might mention seem to me altogether admirable. Beethoven , Gluck , Weber and Spontini have thus used the piccolo in a manner which is at once imaginative, original and sound.
But when I hear this instrument used to double three octaves above the melody of a baritone, to utter its shrill cry in the midst of religious harmonies, to add power and incisiveness to the upper part of the orchestra, from the beginning to the end of the act in an opera, and all just for the sake of noise, I cannot help finding this style of instrumental writing flat, stupid, and in general worthy only of the melodic style to which it is applied.
The piccolo can be effective in quiet passages, and it is a misconception to believe that it can only play very loud. The timbre of the middle and upper ranges does not have a strongly defined expressive character.
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