Music and Video

Colours and Textures in Sketches

Jan 14th – Anyone having a peek at my “Sound Sketching” page may have noticed that almost all of them carry this fairly generic moniker: “Sketch”. The simple reason for that is that my purpose to doing these little sketches is sort-of all about trying instruments and sound. To be honest, I tend to get a bit stuck into playing with, say, the sound of a single flute, or a group of flutes, or flutes in one register, and then another, or the combination of flutes playing the same notes as the violins… well, you get the idea.

There’s just so much to explore!

And then, there’s features of the DAW itself: in this case, Reaper. This software is incredibly powerful and yet it’s actually not that difficult to get a reasonable sound. A great sound? another matter entirely.

One of the big drawbacks to writing music for orchestra when you’re a bit of an explorer of sounds and not a musician is: not having access to an actual orchestra. One could suggest that’s what the DAW is for – but the point to make is that is actually crucial to be able to sit in or very near the players whilst they are playing to imprint in one’s mind what the real deal actually sounds like. A bowed instrument, for example, can be played in quite a number of ways: this is commonly referred to as “articulations”. However, that’s only the very basic aspect of how they play. It’s not just loud and soft, but dynamics, tension, attack, and expression. Getting the DAW to bring those aspects into the music is really quite involved and requires skills I’m still truly at my infancy in learning.

Is it fun? Oh, yes indeed. The surprises never stop. It’s like when I first started getting my head around French back in the day when I lived in France and sort-of started to catch on to what the people were actually saying. It’s a clever and often humorous language, is French.

And music, as one gets into it, can literally take your breath away. Well, good music can. Mine, not so much.

Jan 23rd – a few more observations… think I might have identified a problem with Sketch 9 (and some of the other stuff as well) and that is: the music is too complicated, conflicting, doesn’t sort-of work well side by side. For example, this bit:

Overly clever trumpet

The ear can’t make out what’s going on, here. Busy-busy-busy, it sounds like the trumpet’s off doing his own thing. The change was this: have the whole brass section – including the trumpet – play pretty much the same thing:

Part-of-the-team trumpet

Now, the trumpet has not only joined the brass section, but it’s doing the “clarion call” colours of that motif. Valuable lesson: less is more. In this genre (sort-of classical) I only want to add contrasting textures if I’m sure that they won’t clash with existing ones.

This is generally how these little sketches evolve. I’m currently “studying” Rimsky-Korsakov’s definitive work on orchestration particularly for that period: Principles of Orchestration. It’s uphill work. Far more approachable are the YouTube videos by Thomas Goss of OrchestrationOnline. Given the amount of material to digest, my creativity has been paused a wee bit.