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  Instruments  Team Gaughan at 11:11 on 06 March 2009
 

I had a very interesting conversation recently with another composer about which instruments we enjoy writing for and those we dont, same with ensembles (string quartets, brass quintets etc etc etc......) and those instruments we find hard to write for.

Would be interested in the opinions of people here too, so to start off I rather like mid-pitch instruments such as oboe d'amore, clarinets, horn and trombones & violas plus the piano and harp, sometimes get bored with percussion heavy pieces too and think sometimes percussion is best used with a subtle effect which makes it even more striking. I also like the paino and harp as well as mandolin in an orchestral setting....

  Re: Instruments  MartinY at 16:39 on 06 March 2009
 

When Prokofiev's big orchestra in Romeo and Juliet goes down to just 4 mandolins for the little piece entitled Aubade the effect is amazing. I was just thinking about the mandolin and guitar pair in an orchestral context over something else, i.e. what clef do orchestral guitars like. One must be careful not to add to the 'inaudible' genre in plucked instrument scoring though.


Of course I like silly ensembles like 4 unequal lutes, (treble D, alto A, tenor G and bass D say, or even better treble A, alto G, little bass E and bass D). Drives you mad trying to get them together, finding someone who can play the part and knowing what notes are being played.

  Re: Instruments  Team Gaughan at 14:13 on 07 March 2009
 

yes the mandolins in Romeo and Juliet are amazing. The scoring for my viola concerto included a group which was paino, harpsichord, guitar and harp. I write all my scores in c and then transpose for the part so the guitar parts are often in bass clef. I love writing for the guitar within the orchestra.

Lutes now there is a challenge!!! Never tried it. I once wrote a piece for harpsichord, 2 recorders, bass viol and theorbo but never lute, it seems fiendish, I have a friend who would like a new piece for lute so am planning on taking up the challenge soon!!!

Harp parts are often not heard in big orchestral pieces too, I played the harp for a while, we hate glissandi as well!!!! Unless its something interesting or an unusual tuning!!!

<Added>

Yes the mandolins in Romeo and Juliet are amazing. The scoring for my viola concerto included a group which was piano, harpsichord, guitar and harp. I write all my scores in c and then transpose for the part so my guitar parts are often in bass clef. I love writing for the guitar within the orchestra.

Lutes now there is a challenge!!! Never tried it. I once wrote a piece for harpsichord, 2 recorders, bass viol and theorbo but never lute, it seems fiendish, I have a friend who would like a new piece for lute so am planning on taking up the challenge soon!!!

Harp parts are often not heard in big orchestral pieces too, I played the harp for a while, we hate glissandi as well!!!! Unless its something interesting or an unusual tuning!!!

  Re: Instruments  MartinY at 09:36 on 08 March 2009
 

Because I play guitar I can compose for guitar without difficulty but when I wrote a banjo piece I was unduly influenced by my knowledge of the tuning of the strings and did not exploit the instrument properly.

It is probably best to ignore the strings and just take advice over say keys, resonance and which keys allow the use of open strings and which do not. A basic but not inviolable rule is 5th tuned instruments like chords in open position, i.e. made of fifths and sixths, rather than thirds, but fourth strung instruments can do either open or closed chords.

Then the parts will need to be looked at by a player because lutes and guitars physically cannot play everthing without changing chords, maybe dropping a note or two etc. It has even been known for CDs to be made using secret double tracking as it is physically impossible to be doing a trill at fret 1 of the bottom string at the same time as playing high notes at fret 12ish.

Like the harp to play bar x on the guitar you have to have prepared it in bar x-2 so to some extent sight reading is impossible. However it is possible to sight read page after page if the piece is well behaved. I am sure it is possible to write a part which is easily playable but nobody in the world could sight read it because of the 'pre-knowledge' problem.

Modern software allows lutes to be less of a problem than before because you can write as though it was a guitar in G in staff notation and then paste the part into a lute tab part and you get a part which is 95 percent playable instantly. Even though I am a lutenist I tend to compose that way because trying to write counterpoint in tab seems impossible to me. I can compose an impressionist piece straight into tab though. In the past lute composers must have used a lot of working out and memory because you get all these transcriptions of madrigals where the originals were published not in score but in parts. Very few original sketches survive but a few non-representative ones do.

What is interesting about lutes is how they feel quite different when they are only one tone apart and this was exploited in the historic repertoire. When you have duets for lutes in A and G the A lute seems more trebley than it ought to. The resonances are for the A maximum in A and G for the G in F and G so we have a resonance inequality, left F, gereral 2 x G, right A, which I think helps differentiate the two instruments. Anyway as it is coming up to summer school season I will need to be thinking about these things and getting on with writing.....


  Re: Instruments  Team Gaughan at 08:46 on 09 March 2009
 

Fasinating.

I do like writting for the guitar, I am only a basic player but do enjoy its sound. I like the pieces by Britten, Max Davies and Tippett as well as Henze. I have written one solo piece but also like its sound and texture in chamber sections of an orchestral work, as I said I am very fond of a guitar, harpsichord, harp, piano maybe celesta combination within a large orchestra.

The lute would be wonderful to work with, I really love the sound of the Theorbo, so rich and dark, wonderful, has anyone written new music for the lute like they have for the harpsichord?



<Added>

Tab is also fasinating, I get the basics but a full understanding is a way off yet for me. I have a dowland score with both notation and tab which is cool to follow.

  Re: Instruments  MartinY at 10:25 on 09 March 2009
 

Modern Pieces for Lute

There has been a bit of modern composition for lute. Someone wrote a whole collection of serial pieces but I can't think of the name at the moment. There is a web site which gives some entry into modern lute music at:

http://www.modernlutesongs.com/

It is interesting about Britten's Nocturnal. He also planned to write Bream a piece for lute but it never happened, so this is one of the 'lost' lute pieces of all time.

Big lute ensembles were very popular in the early 17th century, (even up to 20 lutes). The sound of 20 lutes is quite amazing, much more vocal than you would expect and not twangy at all. Of course in the 17thC they often played walking around in theatrical things like maskes or intermedii so it must have been quite a visual spectacle. It is quite hard to walk with a bass lute but it is easy enough to design concealed attachments to clothing which make it possible.

I remember saying why do lutes need staff notation, but it is really necessary to read a few notations for proper musicality, and very interesting as they all have advantages and disadvantages. But of course having normal notation as well means harps and other plucked instruments can play the lute music also. From the baroque there is an enormous amount more of lute music surviving than harp music.