Though technically distinct from timbre, orchestration is a closely related field of concern; most timbre scholars also study orchestration. These readings are some of the best for understanding orchestral music.

Week 4 (Feb 5)

Reading due Tue, Feb 6

Dolan 2013, Rehding 2018

Discussion leaders: Sara Brannon, Judith Rautenberg

Assignment due Fri, Feb 9

In Files on Teams, go to the folder Week 4 musicxml files. There you will find several orchestral scores in MusicXML format. (I downloaded these from MuseScore and didn’t have time to rigorously investigate each of them, so be aware that there may be weirdnesses/mistakes in these scores. Nevertheless, I think this homework will be instructive!)

Go to Orcheil, a tool developed to create orchestration visualizations like Dolan’s. Choose one of the orchestral pieces available in xml format, preferably one that you know well. Generate a visualization using Orcheil by uploading the musicxml file (note that it may take several minutes for the visualization to be created). Experiment with the settings regarding dynamics and register, and see which combination of settings yields the most instructive graph for you and your piece.

Take a screenshot (macOS, Windows) of your favorite graph and add it to a document. Write 250–500 words analyzing the graph like Dolan might.

Save the document (writing + image) as a PDF and upload to your homework submit folder.

Week 5 (Feb 12)

Reading due Tue, Feb 13

Wallmark 2019, Reymore 2021

Discussion leaders: Zijing Wang and Bolun Zhang, Clem Pearson

Assignment due Fri, Feb 16

Write ~500 words in which you compare the results of Wallmark’s and Reymore’s studies. Where do they align? Where do they diverge? And how do these studies reflect your own musical experience?

Week 6 (Feb 19)

Reading due Tue, Feb 20

McAdams et al 2022

Discussion leader: Carrie Benkert

Note that the ACTOR project has a helpful summary of examples related to this article.

Assignment due Fri, Feb 23

Prepare for the analysis symposium (instructions below!)

Week 7 (Feb 26): Analysis Symposium

This week, we’ll have no new readings. Instead, everyone will collaborate on an analysis project. We will analyze one of my favorite orchestral pieces, Rite of Spring by Igor Stravinsky (1913). Materials are available on Teams in a folder titled Analysis Symposium materials.

I’ve selected two movements for us to focus on. I’d like groups to work together on the following movements:

  • Groups 1, 2, and 3: Introduction
  • Groups 4 and 5: Spring Rounds

You’ve each been assigned a group and put into a channel on Teams with your other group members. Please collaborate with one another on your analyses before our class discussion on Tuesday—share notes, bounce ideas off each other, etc.

Note: This is much less structured than the analysis symposia I've run in Analytical Techniques (MUSI 611). I want to give you ideas but I don't have super-specific requirements or a grading rubric. Note that unlike in Analytical Techniques, this analysis symposium is not a separate part of your grade; I will count this as your homework and participation for week 7.


The only broad requirement I have for you is that you somehow apply the methodology of one of our readings so far. I have more ideas about how that will work below.

I also encourage you to bring your particular expertise into the discussion (especially orchestral instrumentalists and conductors; less applicable probably for pianists and vocalists).

Please listen extensively to both movements and to the whole work. While your analytical focus should be on your assigned movement, you should know the whole piece well.

By class time on Tuesday, please submit some kind of written work in your homework submit folder that represents your preparation for the discussion. Note that this is a different deadline than normal homework submissions. This will count as your homework submission for Week 7.

In class on Tuesday, I hope we can have a robust discussion of what you all found and how you were able to use the readings to help you. I will be paying special attention to everyone’s participation in this week!

How you might apply each of the readings so far

I’ve ordered this from easiest to to implement (in my estimation).

  1. McAdams et al 2022
    1. Parse the score into auditory streams and annotate the score to show these streams
    2. Label the annotated streams with any orchestral grouping effects at play. I imagine that concurrent effects (blend or non-blend and its subcategories) will be most interesting, followed by segmental effects, then sequential. But follow your instincts.
  2. Dolan 2013
    1. Identify orchestral gestures Dolan defines through Haydn: premier coup d’archet, slow openings, use of solo/concertante writing versus orchestral tutti, thematic growth, thematic variation via orchestration, and anything else you’ve extracted from the reading.
    2. Use Orcheil to create a layer graph (or create your own from scratch, if you’re brave!).
  3. Reymore 2022: Identify moments of surprising orchestral pairings or contrasts and use the Euclidean distance measurements and/or the timbral trait profiles to attempt to explain the contrast/pairing and why it is (or isn’t…? dare you criticize Stravinsky?) effective.
  4. Eidsheim and Whelden 2018: Research the cultural context for this piece, especially Stravinsky’s “primitivist” style and the riot at the piece’s premiere. (Please be sure to use scholarly sources; if you are unsure you can evaulate this properly, please don’t choose this activity). Imagine the experience of the premiere, and analyze the dissonance between listener expectations and what they were presented with at the premiere, in a way similar to the authors’ analysis of Bobby Caldwell.

(You could engage the other readings too if you have a good idea of how that might work, but I personally am not immediately coming up with ideas…!)