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#1203207 - 05/21/09 03:18 AM Is transcription work interesting for composers?
theJourney Offline
3000 Post Club Member

Registered: 02/22/07
Posts: 3946
Loc: Banned
Before composers regularly transcribed their work for different settings, e.g. piano duet renditions of symphonic works, etc. There were well-defined reasons related to market demand for doing so, but the transcription process also seemed to be intertwined with the composing process for the composer as works were evolved or even transformed through transcription.

If you compose, do you also transcribe your works for other settings and if so, is this critical to your creative process?

Do you ever transcribe the works of others and if so, is this satisfying to do?

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#1203215 - 05/21/09 03:33 AM Re: Is transcription work interesting for composers? [Re: theJourney]
currawong Offline
6000 Post Club Member

Registered: 05/15/07
Posts: 6021
Loc: Down Under
A piece I originally wrote for voice and piano ended up for voice, piano, flute and viola. But in between I also did a voice and string quartet arrangement as it seemed that was the group we were going to be able to use. When that fell through it acquired its final form, but I'd like to hear it in the SQ version sometime. It's not so much critical to my creative process - it's more a case of it being critical to getting a performance smile. I'm in the process of arranging sections of another of my pieces (originally for voice, piano, flute and cello) for viola and piano, once again because it's more likely to get a performance.

I've done plenty of transcribing/arranging of the works of others - particularly piano reductions of orchestral pieces, but it's mainly been to pay the bills. It is quite interesting, especially as I know by experience what a Bad Orchestral Reduction is like.
Du holde Kunst...

#1203352 - 05/21/09 10:30 AM Re: Is transcription work interesting for composers? [Re: currawong]
MooGoo Offline
Full Member

Registered: 07/12/06
Posts: 244
I often transcribe various old videogame music for piano and it is quite interesting and satisfying.

Given the speed at which these songs are usually played, I often rely on special tools to slow down the song and mute individual channels. As useful as that is, in a way it seems like a crutch. Whenever there is a part I am unsure of, instead of using knowledge of music theory or honing my listening skills, I simply slow the song down to some glacial speed and mute all but one channel.

Obviously for most songs this cannot be done, so I wonder, when you say transcribing, do you mean transcribing from an audio recording of the song, or from a full score? I guess if you are transcribing your own works it would be from the score. But whenever I hear the word transcribing, I always think "Carefully listen to the song, write down each part on its own stave, then once done with that, try to reduce all those parts into 2 piano staves".

#1203371 - 05/21/09 11:02 AM Re: Is transcription work interesting for composers? [Re: MooGoo]
ScottM Offline
500 Post Club Member

Registered: 06/11/05
Posts: 556
Not this one, although I did transcribe an orchestra piece of Debussy's to be played by 5 cellos. That was kind of fun.

#1204491 - 05/23/09 07:41 AM transcription or arrangement [Re: theJourney]
Nigel Keay Offline
Full Member

Registered: 09/04/08
Posts: 134
Loc: Paris
I generally think of transcription as putting into notation something that was conceived in a musical tradition where notation is not the norm, and arrangement where something that is already notated is reworked into a different instrumentation, whether this be greater or lesser forces.

Sometimes the arrangement of a work has been integral to the composition process; one of my works started as a quintet, but during the writing of the second movement things seemed to want to expand vertically, that I let happen as this also coincided with a performance opportunity, so I arrived at a version for chamber orchestra. I then went back and finished the original version for quintet as this was the original conception of the work.

Other arrangements of my own works that I've done have been more necessity-driven; the piano reduction of my Viola Concerto so that the soloist could rehearse the work with piano.

More recently I've done some alternative versions of a work of mine, motivated, as is currawong, by the desire to see it performed more readily.

The transcribing, or putting into notation the music of non-Western aurally transmitted traditions can be valuable and fascinating, in itself a big topic that touches on many issues, including legal and moral pertaining to performing rights.

#1233072 - 07/17/09 05:59 PM Re: transcription or arrangement [Re: Nigel Keay]
adamscottneal Offline
Full Member

Registered: 06/19/09
Posts: 36
Loc: New Jersey
I transcribe other people's pieces here and there, if there is a particular project at hand, but I do not generally do it for fun.

As for my own music, yes I sometimes transcribe it. Some have said that there are two types of composers - those who constantly go back and revise their old pieces, and those who continually move on to the next piece. I am definitely in the former camp. I enjoy most of my pieces but all of them have elements and moments that scream out for improvement. Every now and then I dust one off and rework it.

Sometimes this reworking involves reorchestrating. Usually I do this to help position the piece for more performance opportunities, or sometimes I will do it because I wasn't happy with the instrumentation I had to write for. For example - I am planning to revise a piece ('Travels') for soprano, harp, double bass, and two percussionists into a piece for narrator, piano, and two percussionsists. I love the sound of the original version but it's very hard, and I will still get a good piece out of this new version.

Another piece, 'Gallery,' is originally for flute, clarinet, bassoon, trumpet, horn, trombone, percussion, violin, viola, and double bass. I didn't use the brass all that much because, well, I didn't really hear brass sounds for this piece. Also, my new instrumentation will be closer to a standard chamber orchestra: flute, oboe, clarinet, bassoon, horn, percussion, violin, viola, cello, double bass.
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