On orchestration

Finished reading Kondrashin’s book on conducting (in simplified Chinese) and Bai’s book on Kunqu.  Watched a kunqu performance.  Watched a 1967 Russian film of Anna Karenina.  Read vocal score of Lady Macbeth.  The most striking are those orchestral interludes.  As is always, the high clarinet sound, the xylophone, the timpani, the snare drum, the William-Tell rhythm and the chorus singing nervous “ha ha ha”  contributes to Shostakovich’s black humour.

Sight-reading Villa-Lobo’s “Prole do Bebe”, a wonderful piano piece, not much Brazilian, but quite Ravel-sound, delicate and naive.   Caesar Franck’s Prelude, Aria and Final and Prelude, Choral and Fugue, quite touching.

*****

Finished re-reading Samuel Adler, finally gone through all examples one by one, though only briefly. It is not possible for me to digest it completely, every time I read it I discover something new, something that I didn’t notice before.

Stages of orchestration:
1. The very first step is to get familiar with the instruments and their roughly range.  Although that’s just “instrumentation”, not yet orchestration.

2. The 2nd step is to know their most effective use and how to combine them in ensemble.  Well, but if you just follow those textbooks, what you usally get is just a “correct” answer, but not necessarily an interesting one.  And most probably, one may try to double the cello with the double bass 8ve below, and use the brass only when it is loud, which are actually not the only way to use the instruments.  This is where orchestration lesson ends.  Textbooks and teachers can only introduce student to this preliminary stage.

3. The 3rd step is to write idiomatically for every instrument, knowing how to use the bowing of strings effectively, knowing what patterns are effective for a pipa to play, etc.  Unlike harmony that has a lot of guidelines (or rules) that one can follow, orchestration is much about experience.  One can only judge whether the orchestration is successful from the outcome of an performance and improve the skill from trial and error.  And this is one of the weakest point of most local composer here, because not many of them are veteran instrumentalist, and not many of them have a lot of orchestral experiences, and there are few chances to perform the new compositions or arrangements too.  Even if a new piece is played, by some amateur groups, the limitation of performing standard and lack of rehearsals often makes the composers hesitate for writing difficult passages.

4. The last step to do is to establish an individual style.  What makes Ravel a Ravel sound?  That’s the goal.

*****

There are lots of books about “orchestration”, but there are very few book about “piano writing”, perhaps because composers are supposed to be pianist, so people don’t think it is necessary to write a book about that.  Or maybe it is indeed difficult to know how to write for piano unless a person has learnt the piano for years.  But there are quite a number of composers who are not pianists too, Berlioz is one of the examples.

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So what is the necessary conditions for the growth of a composer?

1. A composer is better to know at least a “chordal” instrument, whether it is piano, organ, or guitar, any tools that s/he can try out the sound of chords, the spacing.
2. A composer is better to know at least one “melodic” or “bass-line” instrument and has many experiences in an orchestra and chamber ensemble, which helps them to think more about voice-leading, and polyphonic writing.
3. A composer is better to know at least one “rhythmic” instrument, any percussions that helps him to get the sense of rhythm in heart.
4. A composer is better to have the experience of conducting, to understand a score from an executor’s perspective.
5. A composer is better to have an excellent aural skill, that he can transcribe a piece by ear.
6. A composer is better to have a good inner hearing, that everything on a score can be realized from imagination, without a computer playback, without a piano.

Thinking retrospectively, I know that there’s a lot I lack, but I’m not young any more.

2007 Arrangements 編曲

很久沒有整理自己的作品和編曲。
這裏僅列出上一年做過的一些編曲。
若果需要樂譜請和我聯絡。

1874 (String Quartet 版本)
原唱:陳奕迅 作曲/原本編曲:王雙駿 2006 Get a Life 演唱會版本
(原本的編曲非常好!我基本上是默譜,默不到的地方才補充一些)

黑夜不再來 (String Quartet 版本)
原唱:陳奕迅 作曲:陳輝揚 原本編曲:金培達 2006 Get a Life 演唱會版本
(原本的編曲非常好!我基本上是默譜,默不到的地方才補充一些)

在我身邊 (Vocal, 2 Violins, Piano)
原唱:李克勤 作曲:李偉菘 原本編曲:Ted Lo
(原本的編曲非常好!我基本上是默譜,默不到的地方才補充一些)

情義兩心堅-1982神雕俠侶插曲 (中樂團版本 and 中樂小組版本)
原唱:張德蘭/劉德華 作曲:顧嘉輝
(原本的編曲非常好!我基本上是默譜,默不到的地方才補充一些)

我的驕傲 (piano, a bit jazz-like)

Paul McCartney Liverpool Oratorio (movements 4, 8, for choir with piano and organ)
(other movements are arranged by Livia, NWH, Patrick, TLY)

兩首俄羅斯民歌:Katyusha, Tum Balalaika (Cellos and Double Basses)

[audio:http://licheong.com/music/2RussianFolkSongs-1_Katyusha.mp3]
1. Katyusha 喀秋莎
樂譜(PDF) , 電腦Demo(MP3)

[audio:http://licheong.com/music/2RussianFolkSongs-2_Balalaika.mp3]
2. Tum Balalaika 三角琴之戀(大陸譯名)
樂譜(PDF), 電腦Demo(MP3)

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咖啡之緣

感謝 KHQ !
今天沒料到參與做了臨記,有趣。
看看 camera 怎樣加上軌走動,原來是要人肉推動的,不容易啊。
戶內戶外兩種環境拍 MV,先在戶內錄音,
再在戶外拍攝畫面,拍攝時播著錄音,便可以和聲音 synchronize。

看他們用一對 Neumann KM184 咪,stereo 收五件樂器。
頭三 take 因為咪比較近中間幾件樂器,高低音不突出。
第四 take 只是把咪稍為後移,音色立即 balance 了許多。
學野學野。

還免費吃了 cheese cake,加一杯咖啡。
很漂亮的 cafe ,還是新開張的。
做一個簡簡單單的節目,原來已經這樣不容易。
四分鐘的音樂,用了四個小時拍攝。

******

我的音樂知識比較窄,及不上我的幾位朋友認識廣闊。以前沒有留意北歐。這幾天聽左幾隻 BIS 的 recording,覺得瑞典的音樂真的很強勁!不單有幾隊強勁的管弦樂團和合唱團 (Swedish Radio Symphony Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Orchestra, Swedish Chamber Choir),整個音樂環境相信也很好,從他們演奏很多當地新作曲家的新作品就知道,高難度但又超好聽。

Oystein Baadsvik (Tuba)Swedish Wind Ensemble 的 CD Prelude, Fnugg and Riffs”真係超勁,Baadsvik 的 Tuba 非常厲害,幾首新作品也都令人耳目一新。CD 裏不少都是七十年代出生的年輕作曲家,Turnage 的音樂有一點 jazz 的元素,Nelson 的 Metallephonic 自稱是自己在聽 Beethoven,鄰居卻在播 heavy metal ,因此得到創作靈感。(這和 John Adams 創作 Chamber Symphony 的故事非常近似,John Adams 是自己在聽 Schoenberg 的時候,兒子在看卡通片而得到靈感。)

看來年輕一輩的作曲家都開始回歸到聽眾層面出發,不再走上一輩的老路。假如 Stockhausen 代表了一個世代,我相信信 70-90 年代出生的作曲家將會帶動另一個世代。創新是沒有盡頭的。在 tonal 和 atonal 之間,在發掘奇怪的聲音效果以外,還有很多東西可以發掘,每種文化的音樂都已經很不同。

BIS 的唱片資料是非常詳細認真,連錄音的時候用的是甚麼咪、甚麼 mixer,以及每一張照片和 artwork,每一個工作人員的名,全部都有紀錄。相反,有些公司連每首曲的長度都可以寫錯,明明書上是五條 track,CD 上卻是一條 track,這樣的 CD 真是棄之不可惜也。

******

恕我老實,有時聽見香港很多演出很馬虎,可能不過是兩次排練就上台,甚至「上台見」。以前聽見走音、錯漏百出,心裏就很難受。但到了今時今日,我竟然已經習慣了,好像演出核突是正常的,演出完美是意外…經朋友一提,我才驚訝幾年之間我對演出水準要求跌了很多,我對自己的作品的要求也低了很多。當有些朋友一日千里的時候,我的琴技就更加不用說,絕對是一落千丈。我覺得很驚…不要賴有 full-time job,不要賴自己工作忙,正如有朋友說,事在人為。我空閒的時間在做甚麼?上網,浪費光陰(正如現在這樣)?又或者我太多東西想學想試,結果邯鄲學步,把最根本的自己忘記了?

香港音樂環境最可怕的地方,不是沒有工作做,不是沒有錢生活,剛剛相反,這裏商業蓬勃。但香港可怕在於太快,甚麼事情都是快來快去,每天都有很多演出,但只是量多,生活的 distraction 多得排山倒海,大家都很忙碌很努力地做兼顧很多的事,但質就很難說了。假如演出團體越來越交行貨,以為觀眾沒有要求,其實是自己對自己沒有要求。

能夠遇上認真對待音樂的人,是很難得的幸福!

作曲的比喻

友人說,聖桑曾說過作曲就像果子熟了,自然會掉下來。

我說作曲像生仔,要十月懷胎,要辛辛苦苦擠出來的,是仔是女是正常是畸型生出來才知道,有時會雙生,有時會難產,有時會早產,有時是自己忍不住墮胎。

其實作曲更像…,我有一個很臭的比喻,也就不必多說了,你有更好的比喻嗎?

作曲一定要寫樂譜嗎?

看見朋友的文章,討論作曲是否一定要樂譜。

這年來在教一間中學的電子音樂班,發現學生們原來真的不用看譜,猶其是喜歡玩結他的。要作旋律, click 進去電腦就可以了,就算打進去發現音高、節奏不適合,可以之後再搬高搬低。雖然這樣很慢,但是他們一邊打、一邊聽著 playback ,也鍛練了自己的耳朶,很多時他們不明白為甚麼那個和弦合適,是 trial and error 試出來的,但竟然可以整到一個 V/V chord 出來,這不也是一種方法嗎?如果真的要他們先學樂理,他們可能己經悶死左,但現在他們很有成功感。

作完以後,要叫另一個拉小提琴的學生演奏,他也不看譜 (suzuki method?),帶著耳筒一邊聽一邊嘗試拉。原來這樣也有個好處,如果他聽不清楚,他便要停了音樂,再播過,這樣反而逼使他反覆練習。

這著實令我懷疑,寫樂譜、看樂譜是不是最好的創作模式?猶其在今天可以透過電腦作曲的時候,製作音樂,可以直接演奏、錄音、製作成光碟,樂譜已經不是一個必然的環節。而以前中國拉二胡的、非洲打鼓的,也絕對不需要樂譜。當然,若不是有樂譜的發展,也不會有交響曲那種極度複雜的織體出現。但是,我總覺得學習樂譜有困難的人,未必沒有音樂感,反而自小看著樂譜練習的人,卻不一定有音樂感。這並非說不用學習樂譜,只是覺得把學習樂譜當成學習音樂,只會是本末倒置。很可惜的是,在另外一個班裏面我正是這樣教的,也真難怪悶死一班學生。

一位朋友學習書法的經歷也讓我大開眼界。以前中小學我們學習毛筆字的時候,都是臨摹字帖,一筆一劃的跟著寫。這一位老師卻不是這樣教,他並不以臨摹字帖開始。他教導學生先練習「方塊字」,即是說,每一筆、每一劃都一樣粗細,自己寫,而不是直接學習楷書。這樣一寫出來,你才會發現,你以為很簡單的方塊字,一樣可以寫得漂亮、寫得醜陋。原來字的整齊與否、字與字之間的空間疏密、每個字的構圖和線條佈局比起甚麼都重要。我們平常太著重事情的支節了,忘記了這才是一手字漂亮與否的關鍵。例如一個「三」字,你會讓那一橫長一些,會較有趣味?各種字體的不同之處,可能正在於強調不同的地方,假如你夠膽破格,便可以創出另一種字體出來。這樣一說,真是當頭棒喝,讓學生看到一個從沒有看到的境界。這不正是華山劍法和獨孤九劍的最大分別嗎?

想起達摩和弟子們的故事。達摩希望傳位給弟子,要每個弟子嘗試解釋佛法的要旨。眾弟子都嘗試用語言去解釋,達摩的回答是:你們只得到我的皮和肉。到了慧可,他只是鞠了一個躬,達摩歡喜讚嘆:你已經得到我的精髓。每個學藝術的人都應問自己一句,到底甚麼才是精髓所在?

Extinguish 熄滅

written in 2000
LI Cheong, Piano
Lee Hysan Concert Hall, CUHK
Bauhinia Concert (Oct, 2001)

[audio:http://www.archive.org/download/Extinguish_piano/extinguish.mp3]

Score (PDF)
Recording (MP3)

This piano piece is written during July and August 2000. This piece is much improvisatory in its content. Unrelated, fragmented themes are often juxtaposed successively. Phrases are often incomplete, interrupted by sudden switch of mood. Two extremes of emotions are prevailing in the piece: one is violent, despairing and frustrating; the other is nostalgic and sorrowful. A heavy cluster is played with arms at the end, symbolizing the extinguished hope.

這首鋼琴曲是作者在二零零零年七、八月間寫成的。作者寫這首作品時,只是隨心而寫,比較即興。作者故意將一些不相關的主題拼在一起,最初還是完整的,到了中段已變得支離破碎。主題很零碎,但大致上是兩種情感:一種是悲憤的、煩躁的;另一種是無奈的、回憶的、嘆息的。很多時一句未完,情感便突然改變,而且越到情緒越來越急和亂。最後一下以手臂重擊低音的琴鍵,意味著希望的熄滅。

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