A Companion to Slug

Frog Peak Newsletter # 17


October, 2011



PEAK PICKS (contents)


*New Members, new Frog Peak scores

*SALE: Collected Scores of Johanna Beyer

*Frogspeak: Harley Gaber; Daniel Goode




Composers recently welcomed to Frog Peak include Mike Winter and John



New scores include Christian Asplund's "Time and Eternity," Warren

Burt's "Repetitive Rant for Peace,"and a beautifully hand-crafted

score by Eric Richards: "Lovers, Loners, and Losers." Other new

additions are listed below, and on our website.


Balungan Volume 11 has been released by the American Gamelan

Institute. The latest issue features articles by Barbara Benary, and

Hardja Susilo among others. Balungan is an international journal that

presents scholarly and artistic perspectives on Indonesian and

international gamelan music and related performing arts; the editor

is Jody Diamond.






Malcom Goldstein

* The Sky Has Many Stories To Tell. Violin, piano, alto flute, cello.

* Darkness Becoming Narrative. String instruments and percussion


David Doty

* Steel Suite. Keyboard.

* Prelude (from Recom III) Javanese or American gamelan.

Michael Winter

* Approximating Omega. Pitched instruments.

* dissection and field. Any instruments.

Larry Polansky

* B'midbar (Numbers). Solo piano and invited speakers.

* Silent Demonstration. Any instruments, any number of players.

James Tenney

* Chorales for Harmonic Piano.

* Blues Canon (from "Listen...!"). Violin, violoncello, contrabass.

John King

* petite ouverture en forme de "mErCE CunninGHam". Piano.

Paul Paccione

* Three Caribbean Song Games. Steel pans and voice.

* Postlude from Planxty Cage. Piano.

Tom Baker

* Shendo No.5. For trio.

* Desperate Messages. Baritone, piano, and cello.

George Zelenz

* For Lydia Davis. A Collection of Succinct Music.



SALE: Collected Scores of Johanna Beyer


Johanna Beyer's scores are being offered in two five-score sets for

$50 each, a 33% discount; individually priced, each score would be

$15. Please mention this newsletter when placing your order.


Johanna Beyer Complete Percussion Score Set. Bey21.

 *Set includes: March for 30 Percussion Instruments, Three Movements

for Percussion, Waltz for Percussion, Percussion Opus 14, and

Percussion Suite.


Johanna Beyer Complete Piano Score Set. Bey22.

 *Set includes: Dissonant Counterpoint, Bees, Gebrauchs-Musik,

Movement for Two Pianos, and Clusters.






Eric Richards on Harley Gaber


Harley Gaber, an American composer, took his own life in Gallup, New

Mexico on June 16, 2011. The body of work he created in the 1970s is

among the most distinctive of post-World War II American music.


Harley began composing music of striking originality while still in

his teens, first as a student of Horace Reisberg at New Trier High

School in Winnetka, Illinois. He continued at the University of

Illinois, Champaign-Urbana, where his studies with Kenneth Gaburo

became more of a relationship of artistic equals than of teacher and

student. Ken and Harley formed a life-long friendship in which they

investigated- and challenged- each other's basic aesthetic

assumptions. This singular relationship came to an end with Gaburo's

death in 1993.


Harley's work manifested his life-long obsession with getting

"inside" the music. He notated minute directions for the attack,

dynamic changes, and other physical characteristics of each and every

note, in ways that, while they might have superficially resembled

some of the serial music of that time, were really his attempt to get

beyond appearances, and slow down the sense of time in the music

through a deeper investigation of the sound itself. This interest was

already present in his early works for solo instruments, including

"Chimyaku" (alto flute, 1968), "Kata" (violin, 1969), and "Michi"

(violin, 1969). "Kata," originally available on an LP produced by

CRI, was included on the New World Records CD Gaber/Hellerman/Zorn

(NWCRL299, 2010).


This focus was continued in his seminal string music of the 1970s:

"Sovereign of the Centre" (four violins, 1972/1974)and "The Realm of

Indra's Net" (four tracks of recorded violin, 1974); recordings of

these were released on CD in 2010 by Edition RZ (1022), Berlin. The

first recording of "The Winds Rise in the North" (string quartet,

1974, rev. with added violin, 1975) was on an LP produced in 1976 by

Titanic Records in Germany (Ti 16 and 17); the original recording was

later remastered by Edition RZ (4008-9), and released on two CDs in



In these pieces for strings, Harley wanted to actually create the

illusion of suspending time and consciousness by letting the kind of

minute events and gestures that had been "composed out" in the

earlier works now be formed through the use of often unpredictable

bridge harmonics. These seemed to almost spontaneously build up in

intense aggregations of sound that unfolded extremely slowly as in

the earlier carefully notated works, but now in their intensity

seemed almost emotionally unbearable for some listeners. For Harley,

however, the music reflected "undefined moods and states" often

influenced by, or parallel to, feelings expressed in Eastern poetry

and philosophy.


Gaber, increasingly uncomfortable in New York in the late 1970s,

moved to La Jolla, California in 1978. He held a job for a long time

as a restaurant manager, and spent a great deal of his spare time

playing tennis, which had increasingly fascinated him in his last

years in New York. He devoted more and more time to the visual arts,

first to painting, and then to a large-scale project that gradually

consumed all his energies. He created a massive, large-scale series

of literally hundreds, if not thousands, of drawn-over archival

photos and graphics from the Weimar Republic and Nazi Germany, and

called it "Die Plage." At one point the drawings filled a

hanger-sized building in Newport, Oregon, where Harley spent an

increasingly large amount of time. "Die Plage" was mounted a few

times as an installation in California and Oregon, but it had nowhere

near the impact that Harley had hoped for.


Harley had been fascinated with the music and art of

twentieth-century Germany since he was young. He became increasingly

preoccupied with an idiosyncratic view of the Holocaust as a metaphor

for the ambiguous relationship between Good and Evil, art and real

life, and oppressor and oppressed. This viewpoint was explored again

many years later, in 2008, with Harley's return to composing.


This was occasioned by a request for a new piece from Harley's oldest

and closest friend, William Hellerman of the Downtown Ensemble. The

result was "Webern's Gambit," a multi-media work for film and cello

that juxtaposed disturbing film imagery, including old German footage

and recordings, with a live performance of a cello part derived from

pitches in a movement of the Webern "Piano Variations."


While Harley had been reworking and re-editing music by others in the

previous few years-more as an exercise in learning GarageBand than

anything else-this first foray into original composition after so

long proved quite traumatic for him: he simply had not been used to

working with others for almost 30 years. This ultimately led to his

decision to concentrate on a series of tape pieces, in what would

become the last few years of his life.


The realization of these pieces was due in no small part to the

emotional support and practical acumen of Philip Blackburn, the

director of Innova Records. Blackburn had been a student of Gaburo's

for many years at the University of Iowa, and intuitively understood

Harley's artistic and emotional needs. Blackburn was instrumental in

realizing and producing Harley's last two CDs: first, "I Saw my

Mother Ascending Mount Fuji" (tape and processed violin, 2009),

followed by "In Memoriam" (tape, 2010), the latter released two weeks

before Harley's death.


These works really represented a new attempt by Harley to deal with

many different aspects of his life and music. He superimposed music

by other composers (Gaburo, Paccione, Blackburn, Verdi, and others)

upon natural sounds he created in GarageBand, to create an

emotionally somewhat less charged, more varied landscape than the

intense string music of the '70s, but with those qualities that

characterized all of Harley's art-careful attention to detail, and

going deeply below the mere surface of things-in Melville's words,

one of "those men who dive" and come "up again with blood-shot eyes."


Eric Richards

August 2011




Henry Brant's "Textures and Timbres: An Orchestrator's Handbook."

Carl Fischer, 2009.


A review by Daniel Goode.


It's always good news when the craft and art of orchestration is

brought up-to-date by a significant composer-practitioner. If you

think about it, what an orchestration book is-is a labor of love for

a composer, who might better spend the time actually composing and

orchestrating. Such texts have been, traditionally, odd combinations

of lists of important trivia (like the ranges of instruments) and

real hard-earned practical experience in the use of these

instruments, sometimes with innovative ideas from the composer's own

compositions (viz. Berlioz). Brant's handbook, begun when he was a

teenager in 1932, is an outlier in some ways. It doesn't do either

the basic manual task, or a grand synoptic view of contemporary

orchestration. It is an unusual book. There is nothing quite like it.


You can count on three fingers such recent examples of

composer-written orchestration books. Walter Piston's useful, compact

Orchestration (1955 by W. W. Norton and Company), Larry Polansky's

New Instrumentation and Orchestration: An Outline for Study (1986 by

Frog Peak Music). This one is a course outline with all the important

categories, but not the examples or commentary. And now Henry Brant's

"handbook." One might use a fourth finger for books-neither manual

nor guide-like composer Robert Erickson's 1975 Sound Structure in

Music, an important analytic study of timbre and texture in

contemporary music. Other specialized books for jazz or avant-garde

and experimental music are not by important composers, though some

are certainly useful guides for students.


The hard demographic truth is that few young (or even any) composers

unless in a privileged conservatory setting, are going to have the

full palette with which Brant quantizes his results. For example

Brant often lists: 18 violins, 2 bass clarinets, contrabass clarinet,

and so on. Where will you find these outside of a well-stocked

conservatory, or in a movie city with movie budgets to hire any

number and types of instrumentalists?


So trying and testing Brant's examples is going to be out for most of

us. We'll have to trust Brant until and unless our own use of his

precepts fails in some way. Particularly in the "American system," it

can be hard to test orchestration ideas because there is limited

access to expensive instruments. With aggressiveness, a young student

composer in a conservatory might have the moxie to bring together

these instrumentalists, cajole, or otherwise lean on enough levers of

instrumental power to try out Brant's extravagant combos-or even

invent his or her own. But most students will not be able to do this.


By definition, orchestration books are "how-to" manuals, practical

and not theoretical guides. This is hugely true of Brant's handbook.

In his manual, published posthumously in 2009 a year after he died at

95, he makes absolutely no mention of the significant 20th century

advances in acoustics (like formants), or psychoacoustics (like

auditory streaming).  He doesn't analyze the noise-to-pitch

continuum, nor even, perhaps most significantly, give us any inkling

of his vast knowledge about spatial separation of instruments and

instrumental groupings, and how this would affect orchestration. That

he omits any mention of his self-proclaimed life work, spatial music,

seems strange at first. But read on! There is, I believe, an



But (a big but!) this doesn't make Brant's handbook any less

important. It is vastly so! My message is this: whatever I say as

critique of his handbook, you still must read it if you use

orchestral instruments in your music.


Let's take two case studies from Brant's handbook:



Composers, arrangers, and transcribers create unisons among

instruments as routinely as Moliere's character speaks prose and is

amazed when told that he has always done so. Brant would have us be a

little more amazed and reflective when we assign the same note or

line to two or more instruments. Normally it's crude practicality

that governs the choice of unison: we have just these instruments

available when we either need or think we need a unison sound.

Sometimes it's as simple as: let's give a player something to do for

a while. The only question we need ask ourselves in this instance is

can they do it. If we've thought about unisons theoretically at all,

it might be with these things in mind:


-The Balinese practice of tuning pairs of instruments just off the

unison, which gives that famously brilliant shimmer to Balinese

gamelan music.


-The not-quite unison texture called heterophony found in religious

chanting and much experimental music. In the former it is pitch and

rhythmic discrepancies of "untrained" voices on the same melodic

line-which we usually find beautiful and moving for complex reasons,

musical and cultural.


-The fascinating psycho-acoustical study that found the "just

noticeable difference" in frequency which can turn a perceived unison

of two tones into the experience of two separate tones.


Enter Henry Brant with Chapter 9: Unisons. Actually let's briefly

step back to another account of unison texture, that by Walter Piston

in his 1955 orchestration text. He gives wonderfully subtle analyses

of D'Indy, Beethoven (his 9th), Stravinsky (Symphony in Three

Movements), and Debussy examples. But Brant at the head of his

chapter, using his own created examples (as are all of his examples)

immediately puts us off balance by exemplifying the misuse of

"accidental" unisons; then he proceeds to "passing unisons" and their

cost to "harmonic balance." The whole discussion is on a level of

acoustic detail that must be unique in the published literature. One

of his distinctions is between the "expressive unison" with hybrid

tone-quality, and the "functional unison" with "nondescript

character...well-blended..." Altogether he has six categories-of

great interest and observational clarity. Chapter 10 continues the

discussion logically with "octaves and double octaves."


But unison pedagogy keeps cropping up in other chapters as well:


-"Three-way Unisons: Definite Pitched Percussion and Piano" (p. 156)

in Chapter 33, Piano as an Orchestra Instrument. This whole chapter

is an important contribution in looking at our familiar piano in an

analytic way as just another member of the  orchestra. Take the

middle range of the piano-the range of the solo and jazz repertoires.

This is the least valuable for the orchestral piano; the outer ranges

(low and high) are most valuable, says Brant. This could be a

modernist tick of his, but probably is statistically true, since

piano in the orchestra is a modernist addition.


-Harp and harpsichord unisons (p.165) in Chapter 34: Pizzicato

Timbres. Brant is persuasive in treating all pizzicato instruments as

the useful category, bypassing the usual division into different

"families" of strings and of keyboards.


-"A Single-Line Melody Played by One or More Unison Sections" (p.196)

warns that full string sections tend to cancel out the nuances

possible to solo string performers-a really good lesson for many of

us composers who want whole string sections to "fiddle" as would a

solo folk fiddler.


-Unison strings (p.213). This long, 26-page Chapter 38 is devoted to

Bowed Strings. It is the counter-part to the pizzicato chapter. At

the end he gives a formula for the best unison groupings for

delineating "outer parts." He also claims that unisons of muted and

unmuted strings are "non-mixing and of poor resonance." I'm not sure

I would accept such a generalization, though I don't discount it

either.  Since strings are the core of the modern symphony orchestra,

his account repays close attention. It contains, for example a

discussion of "fullness and thickness."


This "thickness" (which also means harmonic thickness or density) is

a characteristic of most of the examples composed by Brant for this

book. It could be said that this is a stylistic property of his music

in general. To coin a word: his "choralizing" textures are something

you can notice throughout his oeuvre. The advantages of composing

your own musical examples in a book of this kind are obvious: first

it saves time scouring the literature for exactly the right

orchestral moments to use from thousands of compositions of many

eras. Second, the examples can be tailored exactly to the point at

hand, without extraneous distracting musical contents. On the other

hand, examples sought out in great music impress the point more

forcibly because their whole message is served by inspired

orchestration. But Brant's composed examples are not routine either.

By about a third of the way through the book, one notices they are

becoming ever more detailed, longer, complex and rich in sonic

qualities. It wouldn't be wrong to actually play many of them as

short compositions on a concert program. He almost encourages this in

his important Foreword-which has his many disclaimers of what the

book doesn't do-when he says: "Examples of three bars or more are

regarded as expressive [compared with shorter ones he calls

functional], indicating one or more complete musical statements."


Bowed Strings (chapter 38) gives us a chart (p.190) of how different

sized string sections should ideally apportion the number of

instruments among the five sub-sections: violins through

contrabasses. He says that centuries of experimentation have

standardized these proportions so that progressively fewer low

instruments are needed: because "longer vibrations" (he must mean

wavelengths) of the lower pitched strings "need fewer players for the

sound to carry adequately."


Unison mixing of strings and winds (p.222): "To produce an 'enriched'

string timbre, the wind component should seem to 'disappear' in the

total amalgam." This is done my marking the winds at a lower dynamic

than the strings. And by omitting wind vibratos. The issue of

independent dynamic markings for different sections of an ensemble

moving together in time is fraught. Some would argue that the

conductor should make micro adjustments to the dynamics in the

context of performance. Brant and many other modernist and even late

Romantic composers choose for very knowledgeable reasons to do this

kind of micro-marking themselves.


There are probably many more references to "unisons," (see Appendix

4: Expanded Unisons) throughout the text, as well as musical examples

using unisons. This is not an easy book to use. There is no index to

look up "unisons." We should all write the publisher to ask for a new

edition with an index-and be sure to add, when you write, that the

musical examples should also be indexed throughout the book wherever

they show the important concepts (like unisons) at work.




Perhaps Brant's boldest idea, one most dismissive of convention, is

this disassembling of the traditional categories of  "instrumental

families:" woodwinds, strings, brasses, percussion, and their

recombining in new categories. Here is his text on wind instruments,



Wind Timbre 1: flute family, clarinet family, bassoon (top octave

only), strings (in harmonics only), horn (restricted range, fiber

mute only), pipe organ (flute stops only)


Wind Timbre 2: muted trumpet and trombone, horn (hand-stopped or

metal mute), all double reeds, clarinet family (bottom fifth only),

pipe organ (reed stops only), accordion


Wind Timbre 3: open horn, trumpet and trombone "open in hat" or

equivalent, muted tuba (all in restricted ranges), all saxophones

(top two octaves only)


Wind Timbre 4: open trumpet, flugelhorn, trombone, tuba (full range),

horn (full high range), all saxophones (full range)


In an important addendum to this list (p.54), he gives his idea of

what the model or prototype instrument is for each of these four

groups, respectively: flute, oboe, horn, trumpet, the latter two

without mutes.


As you can see, he mixes up traditional families, even including

strings in Timbre 1. His justification for doing so is repeatedly

shown in examples. A lot of the reasoning has to do with what I might

call "thick" and "thin" tone qualities. And also, complexly, with

overtone structure, but he never explains anything acoustically, so

this has to be our own analysis.  Another favorite word of his for

certain textures is "nasality." In the body of the text he does

exquisitely detailed annotations for these textures which account for

the different strengths and loudnesses of the instruments in their

various registers. We can see even in the outline above that he uses

mutes (e.g. "fiber mutes") as a tool to match brasses in their

groupings with other instruments.


This classification of wind timbres is ear opening if you can imagine

them. And counter-intuitive simply in the idea of breaking down hard

walls among the traditional "families." You may want to resist, as I

did at first, because of his orchestral abstractionism: for example,

he combines string harmonics with muted horn (Wind Timbre 1).  I

wanted to rebel because of the concrete gesture needed to play these

sounds puts them in different worlds. Perhaps Brant, as a world-class

orchestrator who made recorded sound tracks for films, thinks only of

the sound coming at a distance to the listener: a massed, blended

sound from within the orchestra coming through large theater

speakers. I, on the other hand, picture his combos as if I were

sitting listening to a live ensemble.


Another reservation to Brant's re-configurations occurred to me when

thinking about an audience's experience of a large orchestra.

Imagine, for example that you are listening to a beautiful chord

played by members of Brant's Wind Group 1, say a flute, a harmonic on

violin(s), pipe organ, and muted horn. What do you think the effect

will be on blending when these instruments are modulated by the large

physical spaces separating them? I think it will greatly affect the

blend, unless you are listening on the radio, or are very far back

and high up in the concert hall. Now hold that thought, because I

want to remind you that earlier I noted, incredulously, that this

composer of "spatial music" has absolutely no place in his handbook

for physical separation in any of his conceptual mappings,

categories, and musical examples. The reason, already hinted at

above, is that Brant, the expert Hollywood orchestrator, assumed the

studio-produced result that blends and mixes down recorded

instruments into a film's sound track.


In a live concert hall rendition, the listener will experience my

imaginary Wind Group 1 (above) as a kind of spatial dissonance.

Something like "sonic athleticism'-each sound reaching across space

to its brother and sister sounds, or perhaps in another image: the

cantilevering of a sound bridge between and among the various sound

sources. This is indeed a stimulating pleasure of large orchestra

music from Berlioz, through Mahler, and continues in our own new

music styles of early Modernism to the present. But ironically, it is

not a part of spatial-composer Brant's way of treating orchestration.

I think it's a deficit in his whole project. In reality, music is

spatial or on a spatial continuum. Timbral combinations are always

"modulated" by physical placements in space and architecture, and

then heard in relation to the listener's place in the hall.




What follows is a collection of comments on specific points about,

and examples from the Brant text, with a few of my general

reflections which the book stimulated.


The long (54 page) section titled "General Premises" is a must to

understanding the handbook. For example, Chapter 3, Harmonic Balance



"Much of the discussion in this book concerns procedures for

obtaining balanced harmonic textures."


Each "chord" must sound as "one unit," and no notes "protrude,

disappear, or seem foreign..." Though I've noted Brant's

"choralizing" tendencies which this premise readily lends itself to,

he does have some really interesting short chapters which do not

relate to "balanced harmonic textures." Just a few of them are:


Vibrato (Chapter 14)


The Termination of Long Notes (15)


Joints and Separations (16)


Extreme Registers (17)


The Piano as a Pitch Guide in Preparing Musical Materials for

Orchestration (44): "The piano cannot, however, be expected to

provide an accurate forecast of the impression of vertical pitch

relationships...if the texture is intentionally heterogeneous..."


Equivalents of the Piano's Damper Pedal (20)


Percussion Timbres (25): His primary categories pre-empt the usual

first division of percussion into definite pitched and indefinite (or

unpitched) instruments. His two types are:


Instruments producing staccato attacks only


Instruments that have a quickly decaying "carry-over" to the initial



Yet his percussion examples often use vibraphone which with its

damper and motor are just about fully sustaining instruments.


The Roll (30): He warns that all definite-pitched percussion

instruments "gain in distinctness at low dynamic levels" when rolled.

Soft-headed mallets increase the clarity. He takes up rolls of 2, 3,

and 4 pitches.


Nineteenth and Twentieth Century Tendencies in Orchestration

(Appendix 3).


I don't think Brant thought or cared for a moment about who would use

this book. It is impersonally addressed. This makes for a big

disconnect with the younger generations of musicians and composers

who easily use in combination: live and electronic sounds and

timbres, sampled sounds, notation systems like Finale and Sibelius

which come with their own library of orchestral (sampled) sounds,

computer produced sound. He's off the hook at least in the sense that

his Foreword has this disclaimer: he can make "no assurance" that

these kinds of sounds will "produce the same or equivalent results"

as the combinations of acoustic instruments he writes about. Again, I

must note the class issue here. Young, unconnected composers will not

necessarily have access to the high-end, expert players of acoustic

instruments.  So of course, these young or unconnected musicians will

find substitutes in the form of samples, synthesizers, processers,

computers, recording and playback devices.


Harmonic Imbalance: Though he wants to discourage this state (at

least when the orchestrator wants balance), one of his key examples

is interesting and tempting to use. He has (p.9) four flutes marked

forte on their low C and three trumpets with the same marking playing

the G, C, E above (p.9). He says the flute "will scarcely be

audible." But interestingly the low C will be reinforced by the

difference tone, C, produced by the G-C-E, an octave below the flute

C. Sure softer, but what an effect! I want to hear it.


A composer friend once commented that one of my ensemble pieces

(Tunnel-Funnel) was "about orchestration." But everything is about

orchestration. Some of the most exciting moments in both 19th and

20th Century scores are "awkward" or off-kilter balances that just

happen to work. Look at Stravinsky, Varese, Janacek, Mahler. Of

course there are also plenty of examples of Brant's "choralizing"

textures, too. Folk bands may have "unresonant" combos that simply

force the issue of blending through expressive playing, or an

intimate understanding of the idiom. For example the Cape Breton

fiddling accompanied by guitar was originally used if no piano was

available, but became an acceptable sound in its own right.

Brant addresses the problem of balancing a progression where chords

vary in number of tones (p.32) by asking the orchestrator to get at

least an approximate equality of players on each tone of the chord,

resulting in harmonic balance, but varied "thickness." He doesn't

mention that this could produce a kind of "tone color" melody of

thickness or thinness, related to Schoenberg's tone color melody,

famously found in his Five Pieces for Orchestra, Op.16.


Homogeneity is a constant concern of his. He says (p.59) that it is

decreased by putting dissimilar timbres adjacent to each other in

harmonic textures. It is also disturbed in Wind Group 3 (see above)

by vibrato (p.78), though he also admits that vibrato adds "resonance

and expressiveness" as it does to a string quartet.


Some of his examples are just eccentric and fascinating, so, for

example he's pointing out a horn on F above middle C, at a piano

dynamic will be soft and "thick" while the piccolo three octaves

above on D, at a forte dynamic will be loud and "thin" (p.10). Are we

taking such things in, dear composer-orchestrators?


Juxtaposition of different timbre groups (p.11), he considers better

than "enclosure" or "interlocking" because there are fewer "intervals

of contact" [between notes of different Timbre Groups].


In horizontal (contrapuntal) writing (p.12), he recommends that each

strand keep its respective timbre even if it causes interlocking or

enclosure. This seems to preclude pointillist orchestrators like

Webern, or even Mahler. So, a conservative moment in Brant. Like Max

Reger was among the 19th Century innovators.


Dissonance. That's the title of Chapter 7 (p.13), another first for

Brant, in that he treats it at all. He tells us, for example, that to

emphasize the dissonant intervals, keep them within the same timbre

group- a forward-looking moment to open up dissonance to the same

status as consonance in the project of orchestration.


Composition finally, definitively merges with orchestration (p.17)

when he shows how to impart "rhythmic motion to static harmony," and

how to "produce contrapuntal motion upon tones of static harmony."

This last example has an elaborate chart where lines are divvied up

using groups of flutes, clarinets, and violins.


Brant shows how to add octaves-pairs in a contrasting timbre (p.23),

which allows the higher of the pair to be played at a lower dynamic

level. This is subtle and canny knowledge.


A triadic assumption (p.24) leads him to say that widely spaced

groupings should be unified vertically (harmonically) by using the

same timbre. Knowing his assumption  allows us to disagree with this

as a hard and fast rule.


Uniformity in Articulation is a short, pungent chapter (13), which

has an ingenious solution to a problem you never knew you had. Where

there are common tones in the same voice in succession, and you want

to keep uniform articulation among the voices: instead of creating

long notes or tied notes, exchange parts so each voice always has a

new attack (p.34).


Chapter 17, Extreme Registers, points out that auditory perceptions

in these registers becomes more difficult at fortissimo dynamics, but

is very good at lower levels (p.42).


"Accordion in Wind-Group 2 Textures" (p.75-76): A detailed section on

accordion may also be a first for orchestration books. He shows, for

example, which accordion stops intensify the effects of the other

winds by putting octave duplications outside their ranges.


"Non-Harmony" (p.135) raises the seldom-discussed fact of the

non-blending of dissimilar attack transients in different kinds of

indefinite-pitch percussion instruments like: snare drum, maraca,

ratchet, tambourine, castanets, wood block. Simply coordinating

attacks among instruments that produce tones in different ways is

difficult. But his point is that even with a simultaneous attack, a

blend will not occur. Once more we see his value of homogeneity put

above its opposite. For some composers the non-blending might be

quite acceptable, even desirable.


I would generalize the point to say that in any vertical (harmonic)

array of instruments, blending is decreased by dissimilar attacks.

Sometimes when I'm sitting in a concert hall, a harmonic progression

familiar to my mind seems very strange when passed through the actual

instruments. A really interesting study of blending, homogeneity,

separateness could be to look at say, Mozart, Mahler, and Messiaen

textures in actual performances in their acoustic spaces. What is the

intention and what is the effect?


This important book, exhausting and also exhaustive in some ways

while inadequate theoretically in others, ends with his "Epilog

[sic]...To those everywhere who originate sonorous combinations

rewarding to the nervous system and describe them accurately, I wish

every success. -Henry Brant, Santa Barbara, California, 2007"




The title of this newsletter is from the text of a Shaker song.

"Slug" is one of many Shaker monikers for the Devil.