4 Dimensional Texture

Grand Canyon Sinfonia (movement 2) by Eric Ewazen – brass ensemble sheet music not currently available
Arranged from the composers trombone octet version with his permission
Performance by the Boulder Brass from Landscapes and Portraits

This blog is a way to collect my thoughts and ‘ship em.’ This is modeled after the blogging philosophy of Seth Godin (one of my daily affirmations) who sometimes publishes books which are a collection of his blog entries. That also means that I’m creating a structure on which I’ll develop more substance as this evolves.

It’s also how I arrange  – kind of. None of what I’m writing is cast in stone and it certainly isn’t the definitive end all of arranging. On occasion, I’ll find a piece that just screams some particular way to exploit the brass ensemble that is in conflict with the SATB approach I’ve already discussed. And I’ll scurry to the computer and enter the concept before I can forget (ie a feature tune for a particular instrument, or some early jazz).

I also get stuck. A lot. I’ll get the notes entered and start to move things around, and then get depressed about the time I’ve wasted doing that. That chart goes into the “works in progress” folder on my backup drive.

But here’s the cool part (we may have different ideas about the word cool).

I’ll open up that folder every once in a while, look at one of those unfinished charts and it will get interesting again. I’ll open it up, click yes when the computer asks to convert to the latest version of Finale (sigh…), make modifications to basic Finale elements that have evolved since the file was first created, and then wade in again.

I will start to edit, adding tempo marks, rehearsal letters, dynamics, and phrasing (smart shapes), from the beginning. The phrasing and dynamics begin to suggest colors to me, and I start moving notes around; the process snowballs and I’m neck deep in another chart. I have about 15 or so Brahms keyboard works in that “works in progress” folder, and this is the hope for all of them.

I love Brahms. There is not enough Brahms in the world.


Today’s skeletal structure – 4 basic textures of writing for brass

  • Writing for the whole group. Finding those moments in your arrangement when you make certain everyone is involved. Many inexperienced arrangers think the entire group must be involved all the time. Sub texture – whole group playing fortissimo vs. whole group playing pianissimo.
  • Writing for a family within the group (i.e. trumpets, trombones, horns, tubas)
  • Writing for the species within the whole group (i.e cylindrical, conical, high brass, low brass)
  • Writing chamber music for any collection of instruments smaller than 11 (or whatever number your ensemble comprises) using a combination of instruments, families, and species.

See what I did there?

August 5, 2017 – Mike Allen

2 thoughts on “4 Dimensional Texture

  1. In addition to his keyboard works, some of Brahms’ choral motets are crying out for arranging for brass. Some of these are amazingly polyphonic…lots of fodder for interesting textures.

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