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This is not super-novel, but if you are stuck compositionally, just take two measures (or four or more) and repeat them transposed at a different interval.  Grieg does this all the time in his Lyric Pieces!

Up or down a fourth/fifth if you want to be tonal, up or down a third/sixth if you want to be a little more adventurous, up or down a 2nd if you want to blow minds...  You may have to do a little soldering work to clean up the joints or sand down the accidentals, but it works pretty well as a pure crafting tip.

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John,

I found your orchestrations of Grieg's Lyric Pieces for piano on soundcloud (https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/sets/norwegian-dreams). Left me breathless. They're so good they sound like they're the original by Grieg and someone else wrote (comparatively poor) piano reductions. They're all really excellent but, in my extremely humble opinion, especially "Evening in the mountains" seems like a particularly extraordinary orchestration to me. I went on youtube to hear piano versions and they really pale in comparison to your orchestral version. I thought that was the case with all 8 pieces that you orchestrated. Did you do it because you particularly love Grieg's music, or because you sensed his lyric pieces were just begging to be orchestrated, or some other reason? If you don't mind sharing.

About the topic you brought up (repetition of a few measures in different keys, a kind of sequencing), do you think it's a technique that CAN in principle be used widely, or does it only work with specific types of melody? I tend to think the latter, but I'd like to know what you think.

Hey Manfred,

Thanks so much for listening and for the kind words.  I like Grieg, but I'm definitely not a Grieg fanatic by any means.  I started the project more as an exercise, to get to know my relatively recently purchased Spitfire sound library.  However, once I got started, the different pieces started to click in my mind as a set and right now my plan to make a suite out of them (adding a few more to the ones that are currently up on Soundcloud).

There is something special about "Evening in the Mountains"--something more deeply felt than most of the other Lyric Pieces (I would say the outburst is almost Mahlerian).  One funny thing about doing that orchestration is that I had initially planned the extended opening solo for clarinet, but I then found a critical edition which noted that Grieg wrote in his manuscript "quasi corno inglese".  So English Horn it had to be!  I guess it also shows Grieg may have been thinking *orchestrally* while he was writing many of these...

I think sequencing like Grieg does can be used pretty broadly--to give clear tonal structure without necessarily being bound into a set of traditional harmonic progressions.  I think what struck me about the Grieg was how I didn't *realize* I was listening to so many sequences until I actually started pulling the music apart (while orchestrating it).

Thanks again for listening.  I'll link the new ones on here as they I post them on SoundCloud.

Cheers,

John

I guess I should add that I deliberately picked ones that I thought would adapt well for orchestra (not all of them would, IMO!)

The almost Mahlerian outburst was not there in the piano versions I heard on youtube. That's why I thought your orchestration of that one ("Evening in the Mountains") was especially fantastic. Of course it doesn't hurt that the original piece itself is so brilliant. I love Grieg's music.

About the sequencing, what I meant is that I don't think that "trick" can be pulled off on just any melody. It seems to me that it's the nature of some of his melodies to want to be repeated in echoes. Other melodies want to develop and we couldn't get away with just echoing them. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Incidentally, "quasi corno inglese" is Norwegian for "clarinet". Too bad you didn't know, but it sounds good as English Horn too.

I can barely believe you did this just as an exercise. This sounded to me like the dedicated work of a year's worth by a top orchestrator.

I hope in not too long you will post these on youtube. You will get a lot of listens there, I think. Hats off to you!

Hey Manfred, I completed two new ones this week, if you're interested:

https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/grieghomeward

https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/griegcradle

Cheers,

John

Manfred Goop said:

The almost Mahlerian outburst was not there in the piano versions I heard on youtube. That's why I thought your orchestration of that one ("Evening in the Mountains") was especially fantastic. Of course it doesn't hurt that the original piece itself is so brilliant. I love Grieg's music.

About the sequencing, what I meant is that I don't think that "trick" can be pulled off on just any melody. It seems to me that it's the nature of some of his melodies to want to be repeated in echoes. Other melodies want to develop and we couldn't get away with just echoing them. But perhaps I'm wrong.

Incidentally, "quasi corno inglese" is Norwegian for "clarinet". Too bad you didn't know, but it sounds good as English Horn too.

I can barely believe you did this just as an exercise. This sounded to me like the dedicated work of a year's worth by a top orchestrator.

I hope in not too long you will post these on youtube. You will get a lot of listens there, I think. Hats off to you!

Again, delightful!!  I love comparing the piano versions to your orchestrated versions.  If I got it right, you are not adding any notes to the original.  Am I correct?  Though you sometimes add percussion, right? For example, really well placed drums at 2:16 of Homeward. I loved so many details. For example the cello solo towards the end.  

Now, I confess I was expecting you would pick the Wedding Day at Troldhauen next! :) These two pieces you worked on seem to me as children's pieces. Homeward has none of John Denver's country roads grand feeling, it sounds more like a kid running home from school at the end of the day, looking forward to having butter cookies. It's childlike joy, despite the insertion of a little section that sounds "reflective" and a little melancholy but still (to me) a childhood feeling. Of course, that's fine! But your skills come out more in the more serious pieces, I think. 

Thinking back at the Evening in the Mountains and the grand "mountain peak" of emotion that can be heard in your orchestral version... In the piano version, do you think it is possible to create that feeling? It seems to me that it is not. I think maybe there aren't enough notes to pull it off, it would require big chords in a Beethovian sort of way. The funny thing is that I feel that the melody implies that "mountain peak" but the way it's written for piano doesn't achieve it. But I think it's not necessarily a failure by Grieg. Because it achieves something different (IMO, this is all IMO...). The subconscious perceives an emotional "mountain peak" but the piano does not bring it out. And so what this achieves is a very specific type of melancholy, a feeling of powerlessness, of failure. I feel it when I hear the piano versions. With the orchestration, you don't have to add more notes (chords) you can just add more instruments and crank up the volume, and you realize the "mountain peak" in sound. There is no feeling of frustration, there's a feeling of grandeur and, well, of having reached the peak. It's almost a different piece! It's a better piece, IMO. But they're both valid versions, IMO, with different results.

Thanks so much for sharing. I could never do what you do. 

Yeah, no added notes, though I sometimes will change the octave and some other fine tuning to make the music less pianistic and more orchestral.  The only percussion is timpani, but I try only to reinforce notes that are already there.

These are definitely happier songs, but as this is going to be a 30 minute suite, the listener will need some breaks from the pathos!

BTW, I had deliberately avoided the Lyric Pieces that Grieg had orchestrated as part of his Lyric Suite, but I recently found out that Grieg actually orchestrated a few others as standalones.  One of them is "Evening in the Mountains", which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/VziLzLERrUs and the "Cradle Song": https://youtu.be/qK9Zt_X5drY

I don't know the story behind these, but he orchestrated them for string orchestra with solo oboe and horn, which makes me think they were probably written for a particular ensemble. What's interesting is that he actually *does* add stuff (especially in the Cradle Song, where he adds whole measures of music and a repeat(!) that doesn't exist in the original piano version).  Of course that's his prerogative, though my self-imposed limitation has been to realize his original piano works as closely as a I can.  I'm also not consciously trying to evoke Grieg's orchestral *sound*, but make my orchestration decisions based on what I think is most effective within these constraints.

Anyway, I do agree there is an inherent grandness to Evening on the Mountains that is hard to achieve on piano.

Thanks again for listening!  I only have a few more of these to do (and then I have to work on the scores--sigh...)

John

Hey, I just took a quick listen to the Evening in the Mountains orchestrated by Grieg. There's the mountain peak alright! Not as good as yours (and your descent from it is also cooler IMO). Thanks for noting that he was probably working with a limited orchestra, probably for a particular ensemble. What a shame. Otherwise this would've been a unique opportunity for comparison!!!

Maybe there exists a recording of Grieg himself playing the piano version. It's worth googling it. Unfortunately today is a busy Sunday for me and I won't have any time.

Good luck with the rest of the lot!

I just can't stop... Two more and now I take another break...

Erotik (strings only)

https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/griegerotik

Little Bird (winds only)

https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/grieglittlebird

John,

     What you are doing I would compare to colorizing old black and white movies.  The purist will faint but most audiences will love it.  It takes discipline and attention to detail to stay true to the style of the original.  But I wouldn't be afraid to add chords or percussion.  What can two hands cover?  Ten notes in two or three octaves.  A full orchestra chord covers 7octaves.  If you have piccolos and tubas you will need big percussion like snare, timpani and bass.  Why not add harp or xylophone?

     When I was studying Beethoven I was true to his style and orchestration, but the forum thought it was boring and pastiche.  It was old fashioned.  Beethoven could be updated by adding big brass, percussion, piccolo etc.  What will the purist say?  Sacrilege, abomination.  Given the choice I believe audiences would prefer a modern version of old music.

     There seems to be a misconception among the powers that be that tonal music is over, that all the best tonal music has been written, and that anything new must be atonal.  When old music is jazzed up by new orchestration that mistaken notion is easily dispelled.  People prefer the latest sound over what was considered  "perfection" in the past.  If audiences are given a choice they will choose new orchestrations over old and tonal over atonal.

     Keep up the good work and don't be afraid to expand.

    

Thanks for listening and commenting, Lawrence. 

I made a deliberate choice to keep the orchestra minimal, but that was not out of any deference to Grieg.  I am perfectly OK with blowing up the classics and I agree several of these might be best served with a slightly larger orchestra (or at least some more percussion).  

But since this series was primarily an exercise for my personal benefit, I set these limitations so that I really had to reach to find varied colors within a more basic paint set.  (BTW, there is no tuba--just two horns and a solo trumpet.)  I did displace octaves in a few places, though I would say, despite the miniature nature of these pieces, Grieg made pretty good use of the full range of the piano.  In fact, looking at Grieg's own orchestrations of his own music, I think he sometimes relies a little too heavily on octave doublings.  It gives the music a "Grieg" sound, but it is also quite heavy (and a bit old-fashioned sounding, IMO).  

I am, of course, writing other music, too, much of which is for a larger orchestral forces.  But I can tell you, having worked through these Grieg pieces I now have a much more specific sense of intention when I choose an instrument(s) for a particular passage.  Plus, it was fun!

Hi, Lawrence.

For fun, try comparing the two orchestrations of Grieg's "Evening in the Mountains":

     Grieg's orchestration:  https://youtu.be/VziLzLERrUs

     John's orchestration:  https://soundcloud.com/driscollmusick/griegevening 

John wrote this some days ago:

BTW, I had deliberately avoided the Lyric Pieces that Grieg had orchestrated as part of his Lyric Suite, but I recently found out that Grieg actually orchestrated a few others as standalones.  One of them is "Evening in the Mountains", which you can listen to here: https://youtu.be/VziLzLERrUs and the "Cradle Song": https://youtu.be/qK9Zt_X5drY

I don't know the story behind these, but he orchestrated them for string orchestra with solo oboe and horn, which makes me think they were probably written for a particular ensemble. 



Lawrence Aurich said:

John,

     What you are doing I would compare to colorizing old black and white movies.  The purist will faint but most audiences will love it.  It takes discipline and attention to detail to stay true to the style of the original.  But I wouldn't be afraid to add chords or percussion.  What can two hands cover?  Ten notes in two or three octaves.  A full orchestra chord covers 7octaves.  If you have piccolos and tubas you will need big percussion like snare, timpani and bass.  Why not add harp or xylophone?

     When I was studying Beethoven I was true to his style and orchestration, but the forum thought it was boring and pastiche.  It was old fashioned.  Beethoven could be updated by adding big brass, percussion, piccolo etc.  What will the purist say?  Sacrilege, abomination.  Given the choice I believe audiences would prefer a modern version of old music.

     There seems to be a misconception among the powers that be that tonal music is over, that all the best tonal music has been written, and that anything new must be atonal.  When old music is jazzed up by new orchestration that mistaken notion is easily dispelled.  People prefer the latest sound over what was considered  "perfection" in the past.  If audiences are given a choice they will choose new orchestrations over old and tonal over atonal.

     Keep up the good work and don't be afraid to expand.

    

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