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Unusual Orchestral Ensemble Question

Per Lichtman

Senior Member
Nearly two decades ago in high school (before I knew anything about orchestration, etc.) I mocked up a piece on a friend's computer with GigaSampler/GigaStudio and Miroslav that used an unusual approach:

- I had short sustained triads played with every note doubled on every instrument that could double the note in question.
- Every instrument played every note of the triad that was in its range (as in 8-9 piccolo parts at the same time, for instance).

Obviously, this was totally unrealistic in terms of the sounds of a concert orchestra but there were certain things I liked about the sound of it A LOT (like layering those 8-9 piccolo parts with the 10 concert flute parts) to the point that the sound still plays in my head at times even though its been years since I lost that original recording.

My question is: is there any real-world scenario in which a composer would have access to those orchestral forces? I've never scored for a live large wind ensemble but would that be a viable way ensemble to go looking for if I specifically wanted a truly massive (8-9 piccolo parts and 10 flute parts) flute section? Or is there another place to look or another way to go about it? Or is this a sound that I will have to relegate to the virtual world?
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
Nearly two decades ago in high school (before I knew anything about orchestration, etc.) I mocked up a piece on a friend's computer with GigaSampler/GigaStudio and Miroslav that used an unusual approach:

- I had short sustained triads played with every note doubled on every instrument that could double the note in question.
- Every instrument played every note of the triad that was in its range (as in 8-9 piccolo parts at the same time, for instance).

Obviously, this was totally unrealistic in terms of the sounds of a concert orchestra but there were certain things I liked about the sound of it A LOT (like layering those 8-9 piccolo parts with the 10 concert flute parts) to the point that the sound still plays in my head at times even though its been years since I lost that original recording.

My question is: is there any real-world scenario in which a composer would have access to those orchestral forces? I've never scored for a live large wind ensemble but would that be a viable way ensemble to go looking for if I specifically wanted a truly massive (8-9 piccolo parts and 10 flute parts) flute section? Or is there another place to look or another way to go about it? Or is this a sound that I will have to relegate to the virtual world?
That particular impetus has been seen in some very accomplished composers. Mahler often treated Winds as if they were oscillators on a synth. I think he got up to at least 7 on a single part in the 3rd symphony. 4 flutes+3 clarinets (or oboes?) Same with Alex North or Bernard Herrmann (16 fr horns) and Hans Zimmer, with various instrument and/or sample doubling.

It’s not done for showy effect but in search of the resultant sound. Hank Mancini once responded to a question of mine about the big fat horns on his title to Night Wing. He explained that he recorded a pass with a healthy section of them (baritone horns) and then had them de-tune and double their parts. Just like you would do on a mini moog in de-tuning the oscillators.

Anything goes and ultimately it’s whether you have a successful musical or psychological result. Bold experimenters tend to be the ones who go down this road so maybe you’re cut from that particular cloth.
 

JJP

I put dots and lines on paper.
Even in a wind ensemble you're not going to have 8-9 pics and 10 flutes unless it's a big marching band or some big festival band like at a U.S. state high school or college band convention. Most of the time nobody wants to hear that many piccolos. Dogs start howling for miles around. :faint:

However, you will sometimes find pieces written for large flute ensembles that are performed at flute conventions.
 

Dave Connor

Senior Member
JJP answered the main thrust of your question about “real world ensembles” which I ignored because it is extremely rare unless like Charles Ives you hire your own orchestra. My point is about the general concept of layering numerous traditional instruments far beyond their traditional numbers which has been done with great success and with someone footing the bill. As far as multiple piccolos - I agree that one is plenty.
 

mikeh-375

old school
...... Hank Mancini once responded to a question of mine about the big fat horns on his title to Night Wing. He explained that he recorded a pass with a healthy section of them (baritone horns) and then had them de-tune and double their parts. Just like you would do on a mini moog in de-tuning the oscillators.
Priceless Dave. Of course I absolutely hate you now for having met a hero of mine (just joking). Mancini was a genius - favourite song for me is The Shadows of Paris, but I'll take anything by him. I would have loved to be a session muso with him, playing those great parts.
 

halfwalk

Member
My question is: is there any real-world scenario in which a composer would have access to those orchestral forces? I've never scored for a live large wind ensemble but would that be a viable way ensemble to go looking for if I specifically wanted a truly massive (8-9 piccolo parts and 10 flute parts) flute section? Or is there another place to look or another way to go about it? Or is this a sound that I will have to relegate to the virtual world?
If you've got the means, do it. The only thing preventing this is "tradition," which is a useful guide, as opposed to a set of rules.

I'm sure someone at some point, said to Hans that 4 french horns is plenty, and any more would just be overkill. And now we have 12+ horn sections in all kinds of cues. All because someone essentially decided, "screw tradition, let's get weird."

Take a bold step, be the first. Maybe an 8 piccolo ensemble sounds bad? I'm not sure, but I'd wager it would certainly sound unique. There are thousands of people who will tell you not to do that, but it's entirely possible all that means is: you are brave (or foolish, but in a creative field, is there a discernible difference?) in a way they are not. If anything, just call it contemporary and people will be all about it.

That said, I don't really have an answer to your question. Sorry for off topic.

I'll keep an eye out for Spitfire Per Lichtman Composer Toolkit in a few years time, with larger-than-life contemporary woodwind ensembles. ;)
 
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TimCox

Active Member
Forget Hans (Hans I love you though), Bernard Herrmann's unused Torn Curtain score was 16 Horns and 12 flutes and it's...MASSIVE! You can do anything if you have the means just be mindful of almost certain intonation issues in the winds!

 
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