Within the documentary collection “Glenn Gould Performs Bach,” the virtuoso pianist discusses the appropriateness of performing Johann Sebastian Bach’s music on the fashionable grand piano, an instrument that technically didn’t exist within the composer’s time. To Gould, the notion that Bach’s keyboard music should essentially be carried out on a harpsichord or a clavichord is absurd; he argues Bach was much more involved with an inward exploration of course of and formal construction in his music, and far much less desirous about attaining particular timbres or tone colours.
This give attention to kind and course of really lends Bach’s music a transcribable high quality; his compositions are frequently carried out on devices and in ensembles far past his preliminary intentions. Bach’s Passacaglia and Fugue in C Minor was initially written for organ however has been organized for symphonic band (by Donald Hunsberger) and for symphony orchestra (by Leopold Stokowski and Ottorino Respighi, amongst others). The keyboard preludes and fugues of “The Properly-Tempered Clavier” have been orchestrated for a lot of chamber ensembles: brass quintets, saxophone quartet, trombone trios, woodwind quintets and so forth. As a soloist, I’ve incessantly “borrowed” Bach’s repertoire for solo string or woodwind devices — notably the Cello Suites and Flute Partita in A Minor — to carry out on tuba.
This isn’t to recommend that timbre and sound high quality don’t matter; when the instrumentation of a musical composition is altered, the listener perceives a transparent change. Think about you’re sitting in The Capitol Theatre proper now; a YSO live performance is about to start and the orchestra is tuning. You first hear an oboe play a live performance A, then the opposite devices within the woodwind part chime in, adopted by the brass and the strings. As completely different devices enter, you discover the “colour” or “taste” of the sound change, owing to the completely different acoustic properties of every instrument. To place it one other means, if we think about the angle of somebody with synesthesia (who can see sound as colour) that tuning pitch could look “blue,” however the particular shade of blue will change relying upon the instrument(s) taking part in.
This precept applies to harmonies and melodies as effectively; distinctions in instrument selection are efficient instruments for composers and arrangers to attain musical selection and expression. The identical chord or melody can tackle a dramatically completely different character relying upon the instrumental forces that current it. Take into account a easy composition like “Glad Birthday.” This piece sounds fully completely different when sung a cappella versus being performed on a grand piano. A string quartet or orchestra iteration could have a extra vibrant, heat, expressive high quality. A brass ensemble rendition will demand the listener’s consideration with a superb, ringing sound.
One solution to perceive the flavour and colour of music is thru a medium everyone knows and love: meals. A lot as composers and arrangers generally reinterpret music for brand spanking new ensembles and performers, you resolve the best way to interpret a recipe when making ready a meal. If you happen to’re lacking onions and add shallots as an alternative, the dish would possibly tackle a subtler taste. When you’ve got a tender spot in your coronary heart for cayenne and assume each dish wants slightly kick, your last product might need a brighter, stronger presence than the unique.
In music and in cooking, substitutions might be made to change the colour or taste with out essentially altering the piece/dish. These alterations could make the outdated seemingly new once more, engaging audiences and preserving them coming again for extra.
• David McLemore is principal tuba for the Yakima Symphony Orchestra. He and different symphony members write this weekly column for SCENE. Be taught extra concerning the YSO at www.ysomusic.org.