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 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 3:12 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

....and with one Mr John Williams playing the Piano in the orchestra, or so I've read in several places (there must be a definitive source for this somewhere).

Interesting! Of course, the piano is not an member of an orchestra. It's a solo instrument. I didn't ever detect a piano in the score, but that doesn't mean there wasn't one there. John Williams was, of course, married to Barbara Ruick who took a prominent role in "Carousel". (Poor woman died at 45 of a cerebral thrombosis!).



While that's technically true of the standard complement of a symphony orchestra, the piano has often been a standard member of studio orchestras since the earliest days of talkies. It was used for "doubling" to make the small orchestras sound larger. In the case of Williams, he may have played piano for pre-recording rehearsals and run-throughs, or as a doubling instrument in the film track.


It's more than "technically" true, it IS true. In fact, it's only "technically true" that a piano was a 'standard instrument' in a studio orchestra since it's not possible for a piano to BE an orchestral instrument.

 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 3:54 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Oh of course it is....the Piano is as much a part of an orchestra as Windchimes, Conch Shells, Vacuum Cleaners, Typewriters, Piccolo Trumpets, Soprano Trombones, Recorders, Anvils, Spoons, Chair Legs, Shot Guns, and so on and so on and so on....

Point is - it's 2013. The "Traditional" Symphony Orchestra is long gone (in general) as far as new writing is concerned...you can write for what the hell you want...and if you are including them in the score then they are part of the orchestra....simple....an Instrument in the orchestra, therefore for that piece it is an orchestral instrument....yes? Good.

...and I have just, as a matter of interest, looked at a dozen scores (most written in the last hundred years), and two thirds of them include a piano as an ensemble instrument (and yes, one of them also includes Vacuum Cleaner).

An example I often use is that I bet you can't really hear the piano part in Williams' "Superman March", but I bet good money you'd miss it if it wasn't there wink

Not a Musicologist....

...but quite well qualified, and with 30 years experience in playing and conducting with orchestras, so - really - I tend to think I know my shit....but always, always learning more.

Oh - and for the record, I tend to consider ensemble Piano as a Tuned Percussion instrument, though it does tend to depend on the piece.

Quintet from WSS - utter work of genius. And "Tonight" itself - the modulations are wonderful...and unusually they step down rather than up...a subtle hint of the tragedy to come...beautiful, beautiful writing.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 4:38 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Such aggression, such profane language, such hostility. Sounds like you're the kind of INSECURE person who needs to shout at others in order to be heard, and who are so PERVASIVE on the internet.

I don't engage with ferals.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 4:56 PM   
 By:   TerraEpon   (Member)

Translation: "La la la I can't hear you everything I say is right and anyone who disagrees with my limited world view is a child"

 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 5:16 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Such aggression, such profane language, such hostility. Sounds like you're the kind of INSECURE person who needs to shout at others in order to be heard, and who are so PERVASIVE on the internet.

I don't engage with ferals.


Baaaaahahahaha...oh my - again, where do I start with this? Tell you what - I'm not going to bother. Shame though - you are spirited! smile ...Wrong, but spirited!

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 7:48 PM   
 By:   Eugene Iemola   (Member)

Is an orchestra like a marching band? Because I know there's no piano in a marching band! Who are you going to get to push it down the street?

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 7:59 PM   
 By:   Mike_H   (Member)

Is an orchestra like a marching band? Because I know there's no piano in a marching band! Who are you going to get to push it down the street?

big grin

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 8:01 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Can there be anything more dangerous in this world than insecure, aggressive males?

 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 8:33 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Is an orchestra like a marching band? Because I know there's no piano in a marching band! Who are you going to get to push it down the street?

If the price is right, you'll find a way!! I've known stranger things happen!


Can there be anything more dangerous in this world than insecure, aggressive males?

Quite obviously, after your previous post, this is a bit of a passive-aggressive swipe at me (and - it does have to be said - a pretty piss-poor one if I'm honest) - clearly stated to try and manipulate a rise out of me (or otherwise, why say it?)...so - I'll repeat myself - I'm not going to bother smile

I like you!

 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 9:35 PM   
 By:   Sigerson Holmes   (Member)



I guess what I resent most about inflammatory posts is that they sometimes have the effect of obliterating some genuinely interesting knowledge-sharing. One tangent that didn't get very far in the arguing above is the question of whether the Hollywood studio orchestra might have developed differently, historically speaking, because of certain technical needs of the film medium, specific uses of the piano which don't figure into the symphonic music world in general.

I was reminded of the piano part in "Superman" by this old clip from the great movie music episode of PBS's "Previn and the Pittsburgh."



Williams gets a spirited rendition out of the Pittsburgh Symphony. The pianist is heard, but never shown, and the instrument itself is indeed some distance from the podium.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 10:26 PM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Sigerson, I want to avoid venal posters with "issues" who want to vent these on the internet. Having seen these types all too often before, I can now identify them much more quickly!!

You make interesting points about the development of the orchestra for the film music world. I think the orchestra still mostly derives from the traditional, though still very much alive, symphony orchestra in that this is the one which will present suites such as those of John Williams for "Star Wars" and other such works. These scores continue to require the resources of the traditional orchestral configuration. Other ensembles are quite interesting also, such as that used for Williams' less traditional score for "Catch Me if You Can".

(I'm sure the members of the Vienna Philharmonic - some of whom actually lived near my apartment in Vienna - would be unhappy to know that their kind of orchestra is extinct. Prof. Dr. Clemens Hellsberg, their excellent Director, certainly doesn't think so - neither do the taxpayers of Austria!)

When I presented a lecture quite recently on the orchestrations of Conrad Salinger for MGM, I found that most of the music was played by very high quality dance bands up until about the mid 50's when the rise of stereophonic sound required the resources of a larger orchestra - and, at that time, some of these musicians came from the LAPO. The playing for films such as "Oklahoma" and "Carousel" (just to name two) was incandescent, IMO.

The whole subject of orchestras for film music could be the subject of a PhD thesis all on its own!!

 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 10:58 PM   
 By:   Mr Greg   (Member)

Sigerson, I want to avoid venal posters with "issues" who want to vent these on the internet.

Oh please...again, directed at me...go on then - point to a specific place where I "vented issues"...*sigh*...


...the question of whether the Hollywood studio orchestra might have developed differently, historically speaking, because of certain technical needs of the film medium, specific uses of the piano which don't figure into the symphonic music world in general.

I think the answer is certainly yes...in fact I think the impact is actually far more wide-ranging than perhaps many realise, but that's a whole other thread...but consider for example the need for a scratch orchestra to be pulled together at VERY short notice, and be expected in quick-smart time to be able to sound like a cohesive orchestra and play music that no-one has ever heard before. Most orchestras have troublesounding cohesive after 10 years solid rehearsal....often these guys and girls have less than 10 hours to become cohesive, rehearse, and start recording. This, I think (among many other things) is one way that the world of "Film music" has impacted upon more modern music - and musicians...and is one of the reasons modern music can be much more complex...I'm not suggesting that Gabrieli for example can't be complex, but the way has been paved for a complexity beyond what might have been imagined even 100 years ago...sure the increased demands on - and abilities of - musicians have something to do with this, and equally sure this has more than something to do with the demands placed on some by playing in film score orchestras.

Of course the Piano has been associated with cinema for far longer than Orchestras have (and listening to those old reels, I find the talents of the Pianists to be absolutely staggering...I can improvise a decent trumpet solo for 32 or 64 bars...they did whole damn movies...incredible)...and there may certainly be an element of traditionalism in keeping the Piano involved, but at the same time it is not peculiar to film music...far from it (well, for at least 80 years anyway) but film music may have been instrumental in embedding that sound...another level to the fundemental need to communicate...

Fascinating subject...I wonder what a Session Pianist's view would be?

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 29, 2013 - 11:04 PM   
 By:   Octoberman   (Member)

"Such aggression, such profane language, such hostility. Sounds like you're the kind of INSECURE person who needs to shout at others in order to be heard, and who are so PERVASIVE on the internet.
I don't engage with ferals."



Sorry to butt in, but I do not see where Mr Greg did anything of the sort in his posts.

 
 
 Posted:   Jul 30, 2013 - 1:37 AM   
 By:   manderley   (Member)

Just out of personal curiosity, I did a random Google search of a few orchestras---
THE NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA, THE LONDON SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, THE CHICAGO SYMPHONY ORCHESTRA, THE PHILADELPHIA ORCHESTRA, THE ST. LOUIS SYMPHONY, and THE LOS ANGELES PHILHARMONIC ORCHESTRA.

Each has a regular pianist within its orchestral playing staff---all of whom appear to be regular-salaried musicians, not casually-featured star players.

In the case of the New York Philharmonic, the orchestra is broken down into 5 sections of musicians---The Strings, The Woodwinds, The Brass, The Timpani and Harp, and KEYBOARD.
As with the other sections, the "Keyboard" category is further broken down---this one into "Harpsichord," "Piano," and "Organ"---each represented by a regular-staff paid musician.

The London Symphony Orchestra lists the individual members of its musical staff under their respective instruments---First Violins, Cellos, French Horns, etc---and has the final category, once again, as "Keyboard," naming the pianist in this category.

The Chicago Symphony Orchestra breaks its players into 4 sections---Strings, Woodwinds, Brass, Percussion and Keyboard (a category which includes Timpani, Percussion, and Piano).

In addition to all the regular sections in The Philadelphia Orchestra, there are two sections devoted to piano. One is called "Piano and Celesta," covered by one player, and the other is called "Keyboards," covered by 2 players, one of which is an organist.

The St. Louis Symphony includes a category "Keyboard Instruments" in its roster of regularly- staffed musical sections.

The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra lists "Keyboards" as one of its sections, and that is filled by a regular on-staff musician.

Curiously, the Melbourne Symphony Orchestra does not have a section for "Piano" or "Keyboards", and the Sydney Symphony Orchestra groups "Piano and Harp" together, but does not have a regularly-staffed Piano position, only Harp. The Sydney Orchestra site even makes a somewhat apologetic statement about this omission: "The piano and harp are relative late-comers to the orchestra, heard most often in music composed since the 19th century."


 
 
 Posted:   Jul 30, 2013 - 2:09 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

Hi Manderley,

Yes, the bigger orchestras could have a pianist on stand-by but during the whole season/year in Vienna I saw a pianist on stage for about 25 minutes for the Prokofiev Suite from "Romeo and Juliet" (in a splendid performance by Chicago Symp/Muti. Don't tell me they paid his airfare from Chicago to play for 15 minutes!!!). They can be called in, like extra singers in a choir, to augment any performance but are not regular orchestral musicians in the true sense. Same with the organ - there's no way anyone would regard the organ as part of a 'standard' orchestra. No organization can afford such a luxury anyway. Cameron Carpenter is "organist in residence" of the Berliner Philharmoniker but he does mostly solo gigs, and occasionally I guess he'd play the Saint-Saens or Handel, or any other concerto requiring a large or small organ. He wouldn't regard himself as a member of the orchestra - I'd mortgage my house on that!! He's a solo virtuoso.

Prokofiev knew, as did other composers, that the piano is the percussive instrument par excellence but it never belongs in the "percussion section". Various other little bibs and bobs that can be struck or smashed together (like cymbals of blocks of wood, al la Berg's 3 Pieces for Orchestra - or tinfoil for Brett Dean's piece - name forgotten) usually occurs in the percussion section. The addition of a piano almost always requires a part-time musician to come in for the rehearsal or the night, and these people are seldom, if ever, part of the ensemble per se, even though they are quite rightly acknowledged as musicians on those instruments when the opportunity arises for them to play with the orchestra. As you said, composers didn't write for the piano in orchestral music until comparatively recently and, even then, you could count those works on the fingers of one hand. This was most probably the case because composers themselves did not regard the piano as an ensemble instrument beyond the "chamber" genre.

I have been to a vast number of concerts, mostly internationally, and hope to do so again shortly.

 
 
 Posted:   Aug 3, 2013 - 5:12 AM   
 By:   Regie   (Member)

I found this documentary on the making of "West Side Story" (in the late 80's) with Leonard Bernstein conducting an all-star cast. By God, he's carrying some weight!!

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rjxWKL6jhC4

He had only about 3 more years to live when this was made.

 
 Posted:   Aug 3, 2013 - 5:38 AM   
 By:   CH-CD   (Member)


If you are facing an orchestra on stage, the right hand side is always referred to as "the Cello side".

The left hand side is always referred to as "the Piano side".

 
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