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 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 3:18 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)

I appreciate all the insights and answers. Seems pretty tough to find composers who compose all of their own scores and then orchestrates and conducts them. Time is certainly a factor. For me composing decent music is the most important factor. Also, I do love orchestrations. Various orchestrations of the same piece of music can affect our reactions.


This is absolutely true, which is why I think it is at times important to point out that in case of composers like Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, the "orchestrator" is not the one who decides which instrument plays what (as the term "orchestration" implies, since it means just that). Just like if I typed a book word for word into a word processor from the novelist's voice recoding, I am not really the "writer" (even if technically I wrote it in the sense that I typed it.)

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 4:14 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

I appreciate all the insights and answers. Seems pretty tough to find composers who compose all of their own scores and then orchestrates and conducts them. Time is certainly a factor. For me composing decent music is the most important factor. Also, I do love orchestrations. Various orchestrations of the same piece of music can affect our reactions.


This is absolutely true, which is why I think it is at times important to point out that in case of composers like Jerry Goldsmith or John Williams, the "orchestrator" is not the one who decides which instrument plays what (as the term "orchestration" implies, since it means just that). Just like if I typed a book word for word into a word processor from the novelist's voice recoding, I am not really the "writer" (even if technically I wrote it in the sense that I typed it.)



It does make me wonder why respected composers like Courage and Morton would take on a menial task that any musically-literate but impecunious copyist could have done smile

 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 5:29 AM   
 By:   Nicolai P. Zwar   (Member)


It does make me wonder why respected composers like Courage and Morton would take on a menial task that any musically-literate but impecunious copyist could have done smile


You'd have to ask them, I am sure they had their reasons. Though I would not call their task "menial". Orchestrators are obviously highly skilled. However, they were the first to admit that orchestrating Jerry Goldsmith's music was not a creative task and have stated so in interviews. But it's nevertheless a task that requires a high level of skill and musical understanding and gets paid (hopefully) well. It's not as if everybody can do it... in fact, most people certainly cannot. :-)

As you said, you need to be musically-literate and skilled to know orchestration, so it is not a job anyone can do. And it's a good job, you don't have to wreck your brains about how to score something, you can just write it down and take home the cash. Why don't orchestrators write their own music? Well, sometimes they do. Arthur Morton and Alexander Courage both composed their own film music as well (and ironically used orchestrators then :-) ), so it's not as if they did not have a creative outlet. But not everybody wants to be a film composer all the time anyway. If you are good at orchestration, I guess orchestration is a pretty good way to make money without having to be creative.

It may be interesting to note that really not everybody wants to go into the labor and pain of having to come up with new film score compositions all the time, discuss this with directors and producers, etc., so I think orchestrating scores for others is a good way to get paid for something you do well without burning yourself out.

Last but not least, not all orchestration is just jotting down notes. It depends on the composer. There are composers who can write music but are unskilled at large scale orchestration who rely on orchestrators to bring their music into form. That can range from somebody like Danny Elfman, who knows exactly what he wants and how and has basic skill in orchestration, but needs someone to "spell check" and fine tune it so all the musicians can read it, to someone like Irving Berlin, who had basically just good ideas and relied on orchestrators to bring them into shape and form. There are also composers who are skilled at orchestration who nevertheless welcome and encourage input from orchestrators. So it's not cut and dry.

I'm not saying that orchestrators never do anything creative -- they often do. Just when working with composers like Jerry Goldsmith they usually do not.

There is the funny anecdote that in the 1950s, when Jerry Goldsmith started out, Goldsmith did not know how to shorthand scores and just turned in complete scores to the orchestrators . :-)

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 6:53 AM   
 By:   Tall Guy   (Member)

A far more comprehensive response, Nic, than my casual comment deserved smile

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 8:21 AM   
 By:   Paul MacLean   (Member)

There are those occasions when even the most accomplished composer will look to an orchestrator to enhance things. According to Jerry Goldsmith, Arthur Morton arranged about half of the choral writing for The Omen (as Goldsmith was, by his own admission, "rusty" in that regard).

John Williams sometimes called upon Angela Morley to "spruce up" some of his string arrangements when he wanted that old school "British string sound".

James Horner usually provided complete sketches, though in the case of Cocoon's big band cues, Horner had no experience in that kind of arranging, so he called on Billy May for help. Conversely, John Williams needed no help with "Swing, Swing, Swing" on 1941 since he'd had enormous experience in jazz and big band arranging.

According to Nic Raine, John Barry didn't always give the woodwinds much to do, so Raine would double some of the other parts with woodwinds. On the other hand, Mark McKenzie thought Barry's "Buffalo Hunt" could be improved so he added some embelishements -- which Barry promptly crossed-out when he received the orchestrated cue.

Elmer Bernstein encouraged his orchestrators to take initiative in their contribution (even though Bernstein was fully capable of orchestrating). He would then inspect their finished cues and keep what he liked and cross-out what he didn't.

 
 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 8:44 AM   
 By:   joan hue   (Member)

Nicolai, love your in-depth educational post about orchestrators. Also, enjoying Paul's stories about various composers and how they used orchestrators.

 
 Posted:   Mar 15, 2019 - 10:11 AM   
 By:   Mr. Marshall   (Member)

Goldsmith certainly had arrangers assist him with jazzy scores like FLINT. Something Barry or Schifrin wouldn't need.

Nobody does it ALL!*
BRM

* With the possible exception of Tall Guy

 
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