Tutorial: How To Study Classical Music as a film composer

Discussion in 'Composition, Orchestration & Technique' started by MichaelBarry, Oct 10, 2018.

  1. MichaelBarry

    MichaelBarry New Member

    Oct 10, 2018
    Hi Everyone.
    I haven't posted here in literal years but here goes nothing...

    I spend a lot of time these days in classical music dealings - in writing and study and performance. I wished to share some of my methods of study with the community through this video.

    I hope some find this tutorial beneficial.

    Last edited: Oct 10, 2018
    aztic, boxheadboy50, Matt and 26 others like this.
  2. ed buller

    ed buller Senior Member

    Mar 23, 2011
    Wonderful. Thanks a lot for doing this


  3. tonaliszt

    tonaliszt Active Member

    Apr 6, 2015
    This is really great Mike, thank you so very much for the time and effort that went into making this.
  4. ism

    ism Senior Member

    Dec 14, 2016
    I really enjoyed this - thanks!
  5. gsilbers

    gsilbers Part of Pulsesetter-Sounds.com

    Oct 5, 2008
    Los Angeles
  6. SimonCharlesHanna

    SimonCharlesHanna Senior Member

    Feb 3, 2012
  7. Paul T McGraw

    Paul T McGraw Senior Member

    Feb 14, 2012
    Thank you for doing this video Michael. Very informative and entertaining.
  8. Massimo

    Massimo Active Member

    Dec 10, 2006
    Many thanks for this great video... All the very best, Mx
  9. synergy543

    synergy543 Senior Member

    Dec 11, 2004
    The Internets
    Mike, thank you for sharing this extremely insightful and in-depth process into your studies. Much appreciated. I would love to see more too, as your approach and experience is quite different from my own and I learn so much from seeing different perspectives. And welcome back, hope to see you around.
  10. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

    Jul 6, 2015
    Los Angeles
    Great video Mike. Thank you!

    What you said at 8:17, about balancing "trading off" sections in the brass, made me think of the end of Wagner's Ring:


    This is a huge moment and Wagner has orchestrated a rhythm in the trombones, twice and then as a bit of a surprise, it is repeated the third time by the horn section.

    Unfortunately due to the differences between the projection of the horns and all the other heavy brass playing in this tutti, the horns can be totally swallowed up unless the conductor really works this moment out in rehearsal.

    Here are some examples of this passage not working as well as the recording above with Solti & Vienna Phil:


    (6:00, another Solti recording. You can even see him trying to bring the horns out)

    (3:56, one of the least successful versions)

    (24:09, totally lost, they might as well not be playing!)

    Of course Wagner was not wrong in his orchestration, he even gave the horns rests to prepare this big moment, it's just that everyone in the orchestra has to understand whether their material is foreground or background at any given moment.

    Initially I thought maybe Wagner should have marked the horns ff instead of f, but to be honest, does it matter? The reality is the rest of the brass players are the ones who decide if this passage works or not: they need to pull back just in that moment to let the horns shine through. Without that, the horns don't stand a chance. It's really a good example of the answer to that age old question "why does an orchestra need a conductor anyway?" They are crucial because of their bird's eye view of the score. A brilliant conductor (like Solti) clearly understands who needs to be front & center in that musical moment.

    (continued in the next post because there's a limit on youtube embeds per post)
    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    onebitboy likes this.
  11. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

    Jul 6, 2015
    Los Angeles

    Recently I've been studying the Rite of Spring to improve my orchestration skills, and it's really eye opening to compare these two recordings conducted by two great conductors.

    Like you said, comparing two or more good recordings of the same music is a great way to learn.

    Mostly I like Rattle's creative decisions better (especially the way he conducts the adagio at the start of the 2nd half) but Solti's decisions are VERY interesting to compare to Rattle's. There are parts where he conducts much slower, faster, or has the instruments playing markedly different dynamics, and initially I thought those decisions were odd, but then I realized that he is making decisions based on what's on the next page, or 10 pages down the road, because the Rite is a series of contrasting episodes. In order for the famous dance in the 1st movement to really have a shocking impact, what comes before has to be slightly quieter than what's marked on the page, for example. Rattle's conducting is bringing out the epicness of each of these amazing orchestral episodes, but Solti is putting them together much more structurally.

    Another important moment in the Rite is when the "Procession of the Sage" interrupts the "Game of Rival Tribes". In Rattle's version the Sage's procession is approaching from far away, and when the trumpets come in they add a whole new level on top of the Wagner tubas:

    (13:00, the game ends at 13:50, trumpets come in at 14:15)

    compare with Solti's version where the tutti is not so much an "orchestral surprise" as the culmination because the Wagner tubas are playing huge from the beginning. I tend to think this version is more correct, why otherwise would Stravinsky ask the horns to switch to WT's for this section? ;)

    (12:04, game ends at 12:53, trumpets enter at 13:20)

    boxheadboy50 and onebitboy like this.
  12. NoamL

    NoamL Winter <3

    Jul 6, 2015
    Los Angeles
    One more post showing some other examples of this passage from the Ring working and not working. (These timestamps just cut to the chase)

    (6:29, it's halfway there)

    (1:13, another total miss)

    (7:17, nope!)

    18:27, this version's more successful than a lot of more famous conductors:

    Last edited: Oct 12, 2018
    onebitboy likes this.

Share This Page