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Can orchestral music be EPIC without ostinatos?

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by RobbertZH, Jan 13, 2018.

  1. mac

    mac Guest

    Epic in all senses of the word. The climax at 6 mins gets me every time.

    EvgenyEmelyanov and d.healey like this.
  2. jamieboo

    jamieboo Senior Member

    Jul 11, 2015
    Strange, I find the genre (as it seems to have become) of 'Epic' music to be essentially UN-epic.
    When I think of something that's truly Epic, I think of something enormous, monumental, complex, mythic and - crucially - something utterly untouched by trivial human trends.
    'Epic' music of today is utterly on trend.
    d.healey likes this.
  3. Saxer

    Saxer Senior Member

    Mar 30, 2008
    Epic music (as I understand it as a style) translates rock/pop feeling to the orchestral world. It's based on a division between functions as in a band context. It has a rhythm track (drums), comping patterns (guit, synth), bass parts (basses, power chord guits), pads and melodies or lines.
    Ostinatos do the harmonic comping job done by sequence patterns, keyboards or rhythm guitars. Like in pop world there are tracks without it but most have it.
  4. Mundano

    Mundano Senior Member

    Dec 8, 2015
    @d.healey which relationship has this video "saving private ryan" with orchestral epic music? i don't hear any music there...
  5. d.healey

    d.healey Music Monkey

    Nov 2, 2011
    It doesn't, it was to go with the comment I made that perhaps when you have a scene that is already "epic" the music can do something different (or be totally absent).
  6. aaronventure

    aaronventure Senior Member

    Apr 10, 2017
    The most "epic" piece of music that I know of: 4th movement of Pines of Rome. Here's my favorite performance:

    It just keeps going, and going, and going.
  7. Mundano

    Mundano Senior Member

    Dec 8, 2015
    wooooowww.... perfect!
  8. Tfis

    Tfis Senior Member

    Jan 13, 2016
    Nothing is as boring as "epic" music. Which is loud and repetitive.
    It shouts in your face, that it has nothing to say.
    AlexanderSchiborr likes this.
  9. OP

    RobbertZH Senior Member

    Mar 20, 2013
    Thanks for all suggestions.

    I have it on CD. Respighi is especially interesting for his orchestration.

    You probably mean the trailer-type music based on ostinatos, driving rhythms, etc.
    I agree. Initially exciting, but after a while I find it too much
    For example, a short time ago "Thomas Bergersen - Huge Christmas Mockup" was posted:
    It starts softly, but then gets into trailer music territory around 3:37.
    Mind you, it still requires much skills to create such music, but it is not my cup of tea.

    An epic song from Thomas Bergersen that I do like is "The Hero In Your Heart":

    Another beautiful epic "song" is "Mercy" from the album "Prayer Cycle", as you can listen in the first post of this thread.

    And also other posters in this thread have posted many suggestions for epic music that are not based on rhythmic devices.


    But one question is still unanswered, namely:
    how such music gets its epic and/or soaring feel (when ostinatos and driving rhythms are not used)?
    What techniques can a composer use? What ingredients makes the music epic and/or soaring?
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2018
  10. OP

    RobbertZH Senior Member

    Mar 20, 2013
    Never thought about it this way. Interesting!

    But that is only one subgenre of epic sounding music.
    You can also sound epic without those "rock" aspects.

    Personally I like those rock/pop music (albums, yes ... I am of that age :) that bought and listened (and still do) to complete LPs and CDs) that alternate between busy parts and more intimate and quiet parts, sometimes even within one song. Symphonic rock or progressive rock was especially good at that.
    Saxer likes this.
  11. Perry

    Perry Active Member

    Aug 19, 2016
    Hey Paul: I asked the same question in a Composing class. My Professor was a personal student of the great "Jerry Goldsmith" I had a client that made videos for company's in my area. He wanted me to compose something epic for a video of a company that constructed commercial buildings.
  12. will_m

    will_m Senior Member

    Nov 28, 2011
    Short answer, yes absolutely music can be "epic" without ostinatos.

    All genres have their staples though (a 12 bar blues for one example). If you listen to a genre that you are not that familiar with I think you tend to hear only these staples, it may also sound very similar. You mention metal using a relentless high tempo double bass drum but there are many metal bands that rarely use that technique. Every genre has people that will use a tried and tested formula and every genre also has people who innovate inside and outside of those restrictions.

    You seem to be saying that an ostinato is an easy way of creating epic music and that somehow makes it less valid. One of the more famous ostinatos in film music is John William's ostinato from Jaws, it's just two notes, it couldn't be easier but does it have the desired effect? Most people would say yes.
  13. Replicant

    Replicant Senior Member

    Jul 16, 2016
    Alberta, Canada
    Ostinatos are probably so pervasive in "epic" music because it's born from writing for samples.

    and even now, plenty of sample libraries only contain "long note" and "staccato" note. Like symphobia/orchestral essentials.

    With such limited articulations, staccatos are basically the only way to get any real "rhythm" going in the track.

    It's also a shortcut to "easy realism" because you don't have to be concerned with how the notes start and end because a staccato sample is pretty straightforward.

    That being said, here are some live orchestra and sampled orchestra tracks I consider "epic" that don't rely on ostinato string patterns.

    Note that in both cases, the rhythm of the track consists of many different note lengths. Effortless for live players.

    Can be a struggle with samples if you don't have marcatos and such.

    EDIT: Further, I would say that the real "epic" in most epic tracks comes from the percussion more than anything.
    I like music likes this.
  14. Tempfram

    Tempfram Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    Does anyone know an answer to this question?
  15. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

    Jul 4, 2017
    Intention & drama. Even 'The Pines' by Respighi wouldn't sound 'epic' if it was played in a galant light-headed smug manner as demanded by e.g. a Mozart symphony. It would be terribly boring if they did. Also, people in time of Mozart would call our modern day 'epic' music loud rubbish with little thematic development and a total absence of frivolous ornaments. They'd hate the total lack of their beloved bel canto in epic music.

    Early predecessors of 'epic' style could be found in many Italian Baroque music and again after the classic period with the German Sturm und Drang, folowed by the wider spread Romantic period style.
    angeruroth likes this.
  16. Tempfram

    Tempfram Member

    Mar 16, 2014
    I asked because this pertains to my recent thread. Can you define these in more technical terms since we are talking about performance?

    Thank you.
  17. lux

    lux Senior Member

    I always found this to be absolutely epic

    calebfaith and Jerry Growl like this.
  18. I like music

    I like music Senior Member

    Oct 26, 2015
    Can't go wrong with Cutthroat Island. The whole thing is satisfying yet so tiring. So full of energy, the composition as well as the performance. Definitely epic.
    calebfaith likes this.
  19. Jerry Growl

    Jerry Growl Senior Member

    Jul 4, 2017
    Emotional involvement in musical peformance, that's what I mean for sure.

    Usually you'll find an indication at the top of a score: Con fiocco (Feuerig), Agitato (Bewegt), Tempestoso... there are tons of direction indications that demand a performer's emotional involvement to a level beyond the usual. Why? Because the composer had the intention in mind and needs the performer to adapt to this or the whole thing comes apart. It would be like reading a suspense novel in a dull muttering voice.

    Combined with a tonal and harmonic and dynamic build-up in structure and orchestration it creates suspense, a sense of urge, etc...Drama!

    Contrast, that helps. But the drama as a whole and as the big picture is put central. All the rest to it is clich├ęs, fashion and taste.

    For instance:

    Now for that other thing:

    As opposed to 'epic' this one may be self-explanatory I hope :

    There may be slight anachronism problem with the drummer in this one;), but I couldn't get a better sketching example for what I mean. :cautious:
    In a nutshell: the old french 'Style galante' tried to abstain from emotional involvement and for many decades and all through early 'Classical' period music had to be performed precise and emotionless .
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2018
  20. I like music

    I like music Senior Member

    Oct 26, 2015
    Your teacher's teacher was Goldsmith? That's amazing.

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