Friday, March 5, 2010

Things to check out: The Henry Brant and fun with facsimiles edition.

Greetings once again from the back room of the Allen Library.

This week's main obsession is the new (to us, at least) orchestration book by the late Henry Brant*. If you're unfamiliar with his work, do at least check out his orchestration of Ives' Concord Sonata.* It's worth a listen. One of Brant's strengths as a composer was definitely his command of orchestration, and it shows in this book, published posthumously in 2009. Brant had an interest in spatial groupings of instruments as well as standard orchestration. What makes this book unique is that instead of simply showing you ranges and fingerings like some orchestration books, it focuses on creating textures and combining timbres for effect. He also discusses the particular sonorities of specific instruments and what is unique about them, and how to use them to their best advantage. The focus is on combinations of instruments and how to make them work together in interesting ways.

There's an interesting chapter on the Piano as an orchestral instrument, which is something many composers seem unable to use to full effect. There are also multiple chapters on writing for different types of percussion instruments. But what stands out most is that this is a true guide for the orchestrator, discussing all aspects of the craft in methodical detail, including how to make orchestration decisions. You can check out more of Brant's work on DRAM *and Naxos* as well as in the library.

Another fun book that came in to the library this week was received as a gift from a kind patron. Heinrich Schutz to Henry Miller is technically an exhibition catalog for the 2001 exhibition of the Frederick R. Koch Collection, currently housed at Yale University, but we have classed it with the manuscript facsimiles, as it contains examples of many composers' manuscripts. In it you can see the remarkably elegant scores of Maurice Ravel and Jean Sibelius, the artfully crossed-out section of Faure's op. 37, the Nocturne in B-flat major, and, perhaps most surprisingly, a lovely pencil-sketched landscape by Mendelssohn from his tour of Scotland in 1847.

While most of these are only single page examples of the full item, they are interesting examples, and may spark an idea for further musicological research. More images from this collection can be found online at the Beinecke Rare Books Library website.

Well, that's all for now. The next installment of Things to Check Out will focus on some new music education resources we're excited about. More about that when they have all arrived.

*sorry, the Grove Music, Naxos and DRAM links will require you to login to use those resources unless you're on campus. If you're unfamiliar with how to use them, feel free to contact us for help!

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