In Episode 12 of the Art of Composing Podcast, I talk to Samuel Adler, author of one of the most popular books on orchestration, The Study of Orchestration.
There is an issue with my itunes feed right now. I am working with apple to get it fixed, but it will probably be a day or two before it’s corrected.
What is in this episode:
- The most beneficial activities for composers learning orchestration.
- Samuel Adler’s thoughts on getting published when you’re young.
- Golden nuggets from some of the greatest teachers and composers of the twentieth century.
- Why you should copy great composers like Bach and Hindemith.
- Why the composition teacher is like a midwife.
Support the Podcast!
Tips from Samuel Adler
- Composers should play an instrument.
- Learn to sing.
- Start as early as possible. This includes the study of harmony, counterpoint, and analysis, as well as your instrument.
- Get a teacher as early as possible – this subject is too complicated and too complex to learn completely on your own.
- Get familiar with the main corpus of music that has been created, as far back as medieval times.
- Listen to and read a much music as possible.
- Get into an ensemble.
- Play chamber music on the side.
- Keep writing and keep learning.
What are characteristics of good Orchestration?
Let the orchestra choirs sound so that it doesn’t all sound like a big mish-mosh.
The American’s knew how to orchestrate better than anybody.
Thoughts on Walter Piston
He wasn’t the best teacher because he taught by sarcasm.
Thoughts on Hindemith
You had to write a new piece for every single lesson. He would then rewrite it. You ended up writing what he would like.
I wrote like a little Paul Hindemith for a very long time.
Thoughts on Copland
He was the best teacher because he would point out there was something wrong with your piece, but he wouldn’t tell you exactly what.
He would show you – identify some kind of weakness, or mistake, or wrong chord, or something like that. And instead of, like Hindemith putting the right chord, he would say, “Go home and do it.” And you learned more by worrying. He said “Somethings wrong,” so something must be wrong, and you tried very hard to correct it. And this was a terrific way of teaching.
On teaching in General
The composition teacher is like a midwife. He can’t have the baby but he can help along.
Always try to live into the music or style that the student is writing.
Samuel Adler’s Thoughts on Technology
I can tell, by looking at a score, whether that composer has composed with the computer. You have delete on the computer and you have repeat on the computer, and much of the minimal music is not as good as Philip Glass, or any of the great composers of minimal music.
Samuel Adler’s Process of Composing
He starts with sketching.
He always completes his short score before orchestrating.
Orchestration is treated as a 2nd composition.
Why he wrote The Study of Orchestration
He wrote the book by default, because the books they were using didn’t actually talk about orchestration – just instrumentation. It challenges you to think about the orchestra.
Resources and Links Mentioned in this Episode:
Samuel Adler’s Books