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Hugh Robjohns Orchestra Technologia

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Hugh Robjohns Orchestra Technologia

Postby Suntower » Tue Nov 28, 2017 4:14 am

As a composer who has been trying to organically integrate a rock band with a traditional chamber orchestra for many years I read this article with great interest and sadly I have to agree with most all of Hugh's points.

In some ways, people had it -easier- before DAWs because in the age before computers you quickly learned to orchestrate according to the laws of psycho-acoustics. ie. Unless yer a few cards short of a deck, you quickly realise -why- the masters use certain combinations of instruments--not just because they sound -great-, but also because they can be -heard-! The right combination of instruments get you the right timbre -and- the right mix. Woo hoo!

Pity the poor kid now who can layer 16 Flutes to balance against the 8 horns he has in the background inside his computer. (Because it sounded so good in a Hans Zimmer movie.) He learns -nothing- about real orchestration.

Worse still (at least to me), he/she has no realistic chance of taking such music to the stage.

When I started doing what I'm doing, I worked me -arse- off to be constantly aware of the balances needed to have 'rawk' and 'classical' players working together, not just in terms of volume, but also in terms of rhythm.

And then there's the problem of -acoustics-. The long decays that make an orchestra hall sound so great with strings, create great loads of MUSH for rock instruments.

Most of the challenges we've met by finding the right players (listening is a big deal) and orchestrating as much as possible by not -fighting- the psycho-acoustics. We use mics to give the singers a small boost, but none otherwise. We do use Perspex screens on the drums and amps.

I can't imagine -composing- any other way. More specifically, I can't imagine composing as Hugh describes in the article--writing music that can only be properly realised inside a recording studio even though (supposedly) the end goal is to 'perform live'. To my mind, the performance he describes should've been worked out so that it sounded great live and -then- recorded to CD. That would've solved both problems in one go.

If you're going to compose for the stage, you have to compose for the stage.
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Re: Hugh Robjohns Orchestra Technologia

Postby Hugh Robjohns » Tue Nov 28, 2017 10:59 am

Good points, and I'm glad my Sounding Off struck a chord. The original article I wrote was a considerably longer rant! ;-)

There's another thread discussing this topic here: ... 44#p533544

I went to see/hear Mozart's Requiem two weeks later and sat in the same place. The orchestra's string section was slightly bigger, percussion and brass sections a more normal size, and a chorus of 120. No mics, and a conductor who knew who to balance his forces... and it sounded absolutely sublime.

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Hugh Robjohns
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Technical Editor, Sound On Sound