Entry #8-Trom. Concerto – Jennifer Higdon

October 13

I have just finished orchestrating the short score; this means I’ve
decided who plays when and where.  When choosing which instruments need
to play each line, I have to carefully weigh the fact that there is a
soloist standing at the front of the orchestra.  I like a lot of drive
in my music…kind of a punch… which means I don’t want the orchestra too
thin, but I don’t want to
cause the soloist to have to struggle against the orchestra when the
orchestra is supposed to be accompanying. This is an extremely delicate
balancing act. I also tend to have a lot of musical lines going at
once, so that automatically will mean more instruments (and more

And then there are other things to consider, such as: what if I
want a line to sound “heavier”? Maybe the 2nd time it’s played, it
needs to have the feel of a different weight. So perhaps I’ll double a
line, but make the new instrument that is entering play much softer, in
order to change the sound, but not the overall loudness of that passage.

The thing that is tricky is that every orchestra and every hall is
different, and it’s hard to know how things will resonate. I’ve had
pieces that sound completely different from one hall to the next. So
part of my trust comes in the musicians to listen and balance (not an
easy thing with a new piece) and to have the conductor constantly
working like a traffic cop, moving everyone through the intersection
safely (and shaping the music as it goes along).

I have also just completed the formatting of the score, which means
that I’ve decided on the full score’s page size and decided how many
measures will fit on each page (the number actually changes from page
to page…the music needs to be readable, not too squished together, but
shouldn’t cause the conductor to have to turn the page every 2-4
measures). I have to do this before adding all of the dynamics, because
it’s easier to place the dynamics correctly without having to go back
and adjust each dynamic (hundreds of them).

Since I finished the orchestration, I am now at the point where I
will add those dynamics and phrase markings and articulations over the
next couple of days. I have been making notes in my short score as I’ve
been composing, and I have a whole lot of information stored in my
head. As soon as I look at each page, I know the exact dynamic for each
instrument. This is a tedious task…there can be upwards of thousands of
pieces of information to put on the page along with the notes.

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