Orchestral strata

October 24, 2014

the composer/arranger

We sometimes hear about orchestral, or harmonic, strata. As so often happens, in any field of endeavour, seemingly obscure and complex ideas actually exist all around us.

The idea is this: by treating large groups of sound as collections of smaller layers we not only achieve a more controllable method (especially of combining instrumental sections) but also introduce subtle changes in effect.

There’s nothing new in this. Take the simplest form of writing for an eight-piece brass section in the jazz orchestra or ‘big band’. It simply comprises one four piece ‘block’ harmony, trumpets, above another, an octave lower, from the trombones. This simple scheme, along with a few less obvious forms, was dealt with in more detail in a previous post:

http://composerarranger.wordpress.com/2013/09/19/the-brass-section/

Theoretically, it requires little further justification; it really works.

When, as frequently happens, we open up the trombone harmonies and/or use more active trumpet work above…

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