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Summarizing cliche orchestrations for the laymen


Ren
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I'm reworking my film music curriculum. For those of you who don't know I teach middle school music and chorus. The students in the general music class are from all sorts of backgrounds- band drop outs, chorus kids, kids who don't like music, violinists/pianists, rock band enthusiasts....

So it's my job to get them thinking about music in a way that doesn't take years of previous music studies.

I have been having them using their GarageBand program to create an unwritten, fairly improvised score and foley track for a 30 short story that is suspenseful and is open ended. Creating the "sound of fear" by sustaining long low bass strings, descending half and whole steps, crescendos and decrescendos. As well as a high, violin half step trill.

After years of doing this assignment and tweaking it here and there I really realized that the students enjoyed recreating the sound of something. We started looking at cartoon clips and describing certain cliche sounds. Such as a falling object in slow motion would have them playing a descending woodwind line in a way where they were just wiggling their fingers on the keyboard.

What sort of cliche moments or thematic recreations would you aim to include? I have -

fanfare: trumpets, triplets, leaps.

Falling: descending woodwind line, free fall down the keyboard with fingers.

Fear: trill, high pitched violins.

Fear: low sustained strings.

I'm looking to include love theme, action music, etc.

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For action, big drums, string ostinati, minor-moded brass harmonies, fast runs in woodwinds/strings/keyboards, harp arpeggios.

Lovey-dovey music is all about the melodic minor-sixth leap, violins, violas, and celli in octaves, swelling harps and trembling inner strings.

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Western Music : major key, rapid string runs, octaves, and ostinati, horn and trumpet solos, doubling woodwinds, and punctuated brassy fanfares, all played to a galloping or straight tempo. (Use Hoe-Down from Aaron Copland's "Rodeo" Ballet as an example).

Jungle Music: An eclectic mix of pitched and unpitched percussion instruments played in synocapted beats (e.g. Marimba, kalimba [i.e a finger piano], guirro, bell tree, optional bongos)

Spy Music: Saxophone solos, muted trumpet harmonies and solos, unison flutes in the lower registers, bongos, shakers, and brush kit (Optional: piano, muted electric guitar, and/or muted bass guitar), all played with a quiet intensity with rises and falls in the dynamics.

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These are all very detailed. Maybe I should make a list of excerpts for them to listen to and identify with.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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Use this instrumentation cautiously, as it is an example of how to avoid writing music which is culturally offensive by today's standards.

Chinoiserie: high-register woodwinds, muted trumpets, pizzicato strings, xylophone, woodblock, finger cymbals, gong

Basically, "Asian sounding" music that one would find in old Looney Toon cartoons.

...

Death Music: Chopin's Funeral March Sonata in B flat minor, Op. 35

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Spy Music: Saxophone solos, muted trumpet harmonies and solos, unison flutes in the lower registers, bongos, shakers, and brush kit (Optional: piano, muted electric guitar, and/or muted bass guitar), all played with a quiet intensity with rises and falls in the dynamics.

... plus vibraphone with slow motor on and snare rimshots. In terms of harmony: minor/Major 7ths and 9ths and the melodic minor scale in general.

Film Noir: Bold unison brass, melodramatic strings, timpani pedal point, plenty of tritones, the minor 6/9 chord, smoky trumpet and alto sax solos, piano used for swanky jazz improvs or percussive rumbling.

For Westerns, 6/8 or 9/8 time or additive 4/4 rhythms (123-123-12) and the Cowboy Cadence (bVII->V->I in a major key). For post-60s/post-Leone Westerns - textures like harmonica, electric guitar + spring reverb and various folk instruments - all became more common.

Edit: *Reads thread title properly*

*Sees 'orchestrations' and no mention of 'harmonies'*

*'I'm an idiot'*

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We talk about the old Sam fox music which I have. They listen to some and we talk about why it's 1. Not "racist" and 2. Wasn't even deemed to be politically incorrect. So those are good points. Thank you for these ill make a spread sheet and share so you can see it a bit clearer.

Examples of these cliches about which we are talking?

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Well, I pointed to "Hoe-Down" from Copland's Rodeo Ballet for Western Music.

Here's an example of Chinoiserie (even though it's portrayed in a satirical, self-flagellating context):

We talk about the old Sam fox music which I have. They listen to some and we talk about why it's 1. Not "racist" and 2. Wasn't even deemed to be politically incorrect. So those are good points.

I guess I'm confused. How exactly is early 20th Century musical portrayals of Asian culture (Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and Yellowface comes to mind) not racist or politically incorrect?

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The definition of racist is generally characterized as assumptions of a race that deem it inferior or superior. Early film music such as in 1908 was not choosing "Chinese sounding" music as a reflection of their ethnic inferiority, rather a generalization of a culture of music that could be easily identifiable so to accurately portray a storyline without shooting on location or with many words. Back then the tolerance level of stereotyping was very high compared to now. And that's ok, so when teaching about early film history you talk about how the silent film composer needed to get across to a wide audience the general concept of a scene and how that stereotyping is considered unacceptable by today's standards. It is definitely NOT racist. That is a term that is thrown around incorrectly.

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