Spies! for Orchestra

Hello Colleagues,

I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' Forum member Stephen Lines liked it well enough to arrange it for orchestra and I think it worked out pretty well. Here's Stephen's arrangement. Comments as always invited >

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  • Yes, Greg - there are possibilities but I've kept it tight because that's the way I see it (arranger's prerogative). The score is appended, so if you're that enthused by the idea why not supply an example of what you're alluding to? I'd find it interesting to see where you'd take this. I think there's a danger of employing a second percussionist just because it's possible. All the big band work I've done has included just one guy on the drum kit (as much for the reason of minimising costs as any other), but of course it's easy to incorporate cow bell or woodblock on the kit - or even rototom(s).

    Greg Brus said:

    Writing for musicians vs writing for notation software :)

    Although I agree with the remark about letting the drummer do their thing. Just give them a good idea of what the groove is about, and they'll fill all the ghost notes and other juicy bits better than you ever would. This works well.

    However! My initial comment wasn't about the drum kit guy, but rather about the 2nd and 3rd percussionist - you know, the ones playing your timpani, gongs, xylophone, temple blocks, wind chimes, glock, world percussion... all the *cool* stuff. Those players don't exist in your score at all. Perhaps they should? Lots of incredible possibilities here. Even if all you do is punctuate the drive that's already established in your winds, you still bring a lot of flavor to the music.

    Stephen Lines said:

    There are restrictions with Sibelius regarding drum kit and it’s lack of flexibility - even the tom-toms are difficult to bring to the fore. (...)

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…
  • As a young French horn player I was 'volunteered' to be the drums man in our small dance band. At the end of each gig we played the (British) National Anthem which is preceded with a long snare-drum roll - there were so many bones in my roll that people got up and started dancing again - I went back to playing the horn pretty soon after that!

    michael diemer said:

    Great job, both of youse guys. The thing that bothered me was not the snare, but the bass drum. Perhaps it was a bit too loud? Or just maybe too much of it. Percussion is that hardest thing to get right, isn't it? That's why I barely bother with it... Anyway that's all this really needs, some better behaved percussion. At least, that's my story. And I'm sticking to it.

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…
  • May I ask about the choice of key Stephen?

  • Off course you may, Kevin. What do you want to know?

    Kevin riley said:

    May I ask about the choice of key Stephen?

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…
  • Why the sharps? I am sure that it would be more comfortable all round up a semitone.

  • Why not? I’m looking for effect, not comfort. Would you like to play the 1st trumpet part up a semitone?

    Kevin riley said:

    Why the sharps? I am sure that it would be more comfortable all round up a semitone.

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…
  • It would only go up to E flat and in the Big Band world that is not that high. I have this thing about sharps and wind players. G major would be my limit with a purely wind ensemble with more than a few players. But that is just me!

  • 01%20-%20Full%20score%20-%20Spies%21.pdf

    Just thinking something like this key, surely has to be easier to play in?

    https://storage.ning.com/topology/rest/1.0/file/get/8608590691?profile=original
  • I’m sorry you have a ‘thing’ about sharps and brass instruments - perhaps if you were an orchestral player you’d have a different view - I personally don’t see this as a problem - more of a solution to creating the effect that I consider Spies requires.
    You also appear to have a ‘thing’ about ‘making it easier to play’ - all the keys are available and all have a different feel to them - are you suggesting that anything beyond f major is too difficult for brass players?

    I don’t think there’s the slightest chance we’re going to agree on this matter so let’s leave it there shall we.


    Kevin riley said:

    It would only go up to E flat and in the Big Band world that is not that high. I have this thing about sharps and wind players. G major would be my limit with a purely wind ensemble with more than a few players. But that is just me!

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…


  • Stephen Lines said:

    I’m sorry you have a ‘thing’ about sharps and brass instruments - perhaps if you were an orchestral player you’d have a different view - I personally don’t see this as a problem - more of a solution to creating the effect that I consider Spies requires.

    Stephen I have played in all types of ensembles over the years. It is not a problem as such but in all the many big bands I have played in sharps are not as popular.  In orchestra they are mainly used to satisfy easier playing for the strings as you well know.


    You also appear to have a ‘thing’ about ‘making it easier to play’ - all the keys are available and all have a different feel to them - are you suggesting that anything beyond f major is too difficult for brass players?

    I agree that all keys are there. I am not sure that getting your alto saxes to play in 5 sharps will make the piece sound any different to playing in C for them. Why create a problem for your players when you don't need to?

    I don’t think there’s the slightest chance we’re going to agree on this matter so let’s leave it there shall we.

    True but sharing thoughts is how we can progress

    Spies! for Orchestra
    Hello Colleagues, I recently posted a piece here for solo piano called Spies!, along the idea of a mythical spy movie theme song. Fellow Composers' F…
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