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Orchestral Combinations: The Science and Art of Instrumental Tone-Color Hardcover – March, 2004

4 out of 5 stars 4 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

...the author fulfills the need for a book that is concerned solely with the question of timbre as it relates to the disribution of the orchestral instruments...includes a useful bibliography and an index of instrumental techniques. This book should prove to be a valuable reference to the composer or orchestrator who wants to further investigate the hundreds of instrumental combinations presented in the text. It may also help the musician seeking to understand how a composer creates a certain sound or tone color. (Music Educators Journal, Vol. 91, No. 3 (January 2005))

About the Author

Gardner Read has enjoyed a prolific and varied career as composer, conductor, teacher, and author. He was appointed composer-in-residence and professor of composition at the School of Music, Boston University, retiring as Professor Emeritus in 1978. He is the recipient of many awards for composition and performance. This is his ninth book.
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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Scarecrow Press; First Edition edition (March 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0810848147
  • ISBN-13: 978-0810848146
  • Product Dimensions: 5.7 x 1 x 8.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,639,690 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
NB: from an unqualified amateur cf. professional orchestrator etc

Update of orginal 2006 review - as below I do not own the book so this is recollection from that time.

I loaned a copy of this from the British library on the strength of the title, however, the content of the book is not at all represented by this title - emphasis on the word Science might logically lead one to think that the book contains a significant content in the areas of musical acoustics or perceptual psychology etc. related to instrument combinations (ie. I was expecting things like 'there's no point in combining these because the relative volumes will make such and such inaudible anyway/ X's timbre will be completely masked by Y/ requires a ratio of at least 3 instrument X to every Y etc etc. However, as the author himself emphasises "(paraphrase)... the book is nothing more than a compendium/reference of instrument combinations (usually doublings) from the 'classical repertoire'. eg. "Instrument X is octave doubled with Instrument Y in the work Z". Hundreds of such combinations are cited but in many cases the accompanying comments are no more than a couple of qualitative descriptive sentences and there are no score excepts to allow those with good score reading skills/aural imagination to see/hear how the combination is being used - to really appreciate the character of the cited combination it becomes essential to access a recording/score.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
This book seems to be the latest complementary text to this amazing and prolific author's encyclopedic output of musical reference materials. It sets out in detailed and clear sections examples of important classical (up through the late 20th century) repertoire featuring two-or-more-instrument "orchestral combinations" of interest - i.e., anything from violin and viola to cello and contrabassoon. The most useful examples that Read provides, I feel, are the ones with his comments and insights, which are right on the mark; otherwise, this text is a very valuable cross-referencing resource for the aspiring orchestrator. The only (very slight) disappointment I had regarding this book was that it only deals with orchestral doublings at the unison and at the octave (or multiple-octave), although I suppose that trying to do even more would have required an immensely larger text. In any case, well worth the investment for someone who spends a lot of time writing or analyzing orchestral music.
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This is a much needed compendium of instrumental combinations that composers should have in mind when writing for orchestra. The only thing missing here -for teaching purposes that is- is a CD with the aural illustration of the examples given in the book. I truly value this book.
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Sure... it's a great compendium of instrument doublings through the 20th century... but has relatively little information about what is promised in the title -- which is "art of instrumental tone-color".

I would've found the reference actually "use-able" if the author actually would have described what "tonal colors" are created by combining the said instruments. Instead, he just mentions that these instruments have been used in the past, and usually an example or two (which I love... and IS valuable) -- but then leaves it up to me to dig-up the music example. A reference CD would be a wonderful companion product.

Having harped on it... I will say it must have taken YEARS to compile such a resource, and am grateful that someone has. I would just like to see it taken to the next level, which involves two things I was hoping for:

1) a reference CD library of all the examples sited so I could HEAR the combinations referred to
2) a more useful resource which included recommendations or starting points for the art of tone-color (i.e. If your song needs dark overtones, here are several historical combinations that have worked well in the past).

Although I may refer to this encyclopedia reference in the coming years -- I feel mislead by the title, and would prefer not to even have spent the $80. Kudos to Mr. Read for compiling such a reference... I just wish it were more practical.
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