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Instrumentation: 2222 / 2020 / hp / str

Takemitsu’s score makes heavy use of dissonant chords that do not translate directly from piano to orchestra. Much of the musical effect of the original score results from textures that arise from the resonance of the piano, and my task was to seek ways of recreating this effect with a group of instruments capable of sustaining individual sounds.

My arrangement began with playing through the score myself to gain an understanding of the function of each of the piece’s chords. Though similarly laden with semitone dissonances, it is important to note that each chord is carefully constructed and placed, and it was important to understand the function of each one and how its features might be highlighted. I sought a balance for each chord that either emphasised or softened its dissonance using careful instrumental placement. In b. 3, for example, a horn and oboe carry a minor second built on G and A♭ in both instruments’ middle registers, resulting in in the interval becoming prominent within the texture, whilst later in the piece, strings carry much of the dissonance, removing it from the foreground in many cases.

Next, I sought ways of synthesising certain effects of the piano. Harp allowed me to add attack and decay that resemble that of the piano, but two techniques allowed me to implement a consistent sound world across the orchestra. First, as exhibited in b. 4, for example, where chords are sustained, rather than thinking in terms of ‘blocks’ with chords beginning and ending at the point that the source material says they do, I make use of decrescendo and silence instruments at different points within the bar to mimic the sound of partials fading out at different rates after a piano chord is struck. Second, by observing sustain pedal markings in Takemitsu’s score, I carry chords over into subsequent textures. 

Takemitsu’s score is divided clearly into an ABA format. With such dense textures, only careful handling of instrumentation allows for effective blends between sections of the orchestra, and I therefore chose to keep passages fairly confined to one group of instruments at a time. The B section, during which material reaches a dynamic high point, is set primarily in the strings, whilst wind material heard at the opening is set primarily in the strings—with careful augmentation from brass and winds—is set in the strings too once it is repeated, to lend a sense of development to my setting.   

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