Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices

Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices

Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices

Thesaurus of Orchestral Devices

Excerpt

Nothing seems to date more quickly than an orchestration text-book. New instruments are added to the symphony orchestra, others become obsolete, ranges are extended, techniques improved and expanded--and one more tome on instrumentation becomes itself outmoded. It is a regrettable fact that at this time there is not in existence a single completely thorough, reliable, or up-to-date text on even the basic technique of orchestration, including the correct ranges for the standard instruments. Such volumes as the Berlioz-Strauss Treatise on Instrumentation and Rimsky-Korsakoff's Principles of Orchestration have historical interest and significance, but are assuredly not adequate as methods of scoring for the modern orchestra. And certain more recent books, such as that of Schillinger, are not only full of popular (but erroneous) clichés and such informative gems as [sic] "There is an unwritten international code of ethics by which composers limit themselves to the written 'g' of the second octave [for clarinet]," but they also still largely indicate the restricted ranges of the eighteenth-nineteenth-century orchestra. We must await with patience the appearance of Arthur Cohn's monumental Art and Science of Orchestration, which gives promise of being the ne plus ultra in instrumentation treatises.

To show the orchestration student in particular how much standard texts on the subject disagree in the simple matter of ranges alone, a Comparative Table of Ranges has been compiled from sixteen well-known orchestration books, new and old. These are arranged not alphabetically but in order of date of first publication, so that the chronological expansion of the instrumental ranges may be better observed. The Table is completed with what is hoped is the final word (as of 1951) on ranges for the standard orchestral instruments: first, for the professional, major symphonic orchestra; and second, for the non-professional or semi-amateur group. After all, it is one thing to score a work for possible performance by the Boston Symphony Orchestra or the New York Philharmonic-Symphony, and quite another for a high school or college orchestra. The sooner the young orchestrator learns this simple and incontrovertible fact the sooner is his work likely to be performed.

Preceding the Table of Ranges will be found the customary Nomenclature of the orchestral instruments. For the sake of completeness all the names commonly used for each instrument have been given in the four basic score languages--English, Italian, French, and German. Beneath most of the instrumental names are the conventional abbreviations as used in printed scores. It will be seen, however, that apparently composers and publishers do not always agree with each other as to the proper abbreviations, and that as yet there exists no standardized procedure in this respect.

Finally, there is given a chart showing the evolution of the modern symphonic orchestra so far as general balance, number, and make-up of the instruments are concerned. Beginning with the Festmesse of the early Venetian composer, Benevoli, composed in 1621, and ending . . .

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