Tag Archive | Ogopogo

Ogopogo II – Percussion Thunder

Well, there you have it. My compulsion to name any kind of follow-on post like it’s a sequel in a action movie franchise. I’d like to think Ogopogo II – Percussion Thunder both sounds like a movie you might want to see, and gives you the clue that I’m looking at the use of percussion in Robert Buckley’s piece Ogopogo in this post.

You can find a link to Ogopogo Episode XVII – No, that’s an Eb flutes, the blockbuster prequel to this post here.

(Ok, that’s most of the silly stuff out of the way, now onto the useful (I hope) content.)

My gut feel, having worked with this piece for a month or so, is that the percussion are like the coming of colour TV in this piece. Without them, the piece will still work just fine, just like you can watch TV just fine in black & white. But having percussion there brings lots of colour and makes the David Attenborough nature documentary much more enjoyable to watch.

Hmm, that just turned into a mish-mash of metaphors. So to summarise:

No percussion = piece still works

With percussion = piece sounds much better.

Details:

The percussion are scored as follows:

Percussion 1 = Medium Tom (or Snare Drum, no snares), Triangle, Bass Drum

Percussion 2 = Suspended Cymbal, Bell Tree, Hi-Hat

Mallets = Bells

Percussion 1 needs two players, possibly even three, percussion 2 could be played with just one player.

The percussion are never independent from the band, and there is no section which is just percussion. Hence why the piece is still playable without any percussion. Instead the percussion are used primarily as a highlight colour.

The opening low brass crescendo figures are reinforced at the end with a bass drum and suspended cymbal hit. I suspect I would have been tempted to add either a suspended cymbal roll or a timpani roll or both to the crescendo. It’s interesting to see a beginner band writer going for subtlety rather than the “everyone hit something” approach.

Similarly the bells are used to just highlight the answering figure in b.2 rather than play the entire phrase. Again I suspect I would have just had the bells double the main melodic line here.

In bar 16 and other similar places the two bar crescendo/decrescendo figure is highlighted with a bell tree and a single note from the bells. Notice the nice blend between a bell tree and the bells. At the end of the piece (b.61-2), Robert uses triangle and bells together. Once again, high, metallic percussion instruments work nicely together.

The tom part essentially reinforces the rhythm of the melody. At b.17-22 the bass drum and tom setup a nice little percussion “groove”. However it remains subtle and reinforcing, not the key driving element.

I read a Sammy Nestico quote once where he talked about the eraser being the arrangers most important tool. The concept was create clarity through removing what was unnecessary. Adding more doesn’t make things better. Instead it generally just clutters and obscures things. This is what I see in Ogopogo. A really well crafted piece for beginner band where unnecessary clutter has been removed. The composer has chosen simplicity and clarity over the seemingly more common “let’s all play, all the time, and loud” approach.

So there you have it, the Ogopogo trilogy and like all good trilogy’s it doesn’t have 3 parts.

Thanks for reading!

PS – yes it’s possible I spent as much time on the silly graphic as on the post, but it was fun.

 

 

Ogopogo

Ogopogo is a great piece for beginner band written by Robert Buckley. Here is my analysis of it…

Key: D Phrygian. Yay! It’s not in Bb Major or in C Dorian (which seems to be the new favorite beginner piece key)

Form: Intro (8) | A (8) | A (8) | B (2+2+2+2) | A (8+2) | A (8) | Intro (8) | Coda (6)

Subtle variations in the accompaniment and the the way the “A” melody is stated prevent the four “A” sections from feeling too repetitious.

Note Range: Concert Bb –> G (i.e. the first 6 notes)

Rhythm: Primarily 1/4 notes. Some use of half and whole notes. very limited use of 1/8th notes. He only ever uses two 1/8th notes at a time, and only one 1/8th note pair per bar maximum.

Dynamics: This piece has excellent dynamic range across sections and within phrases. The dynamics for each section are:

p cresc. f | mp | mf | mf | f | ff | p cresc. f | mf, mp, p

In addition to the marked dynamics, Robert also orchestrates each section to reflect the dynamic marking. He makes extensive use of one bar crescendo and one bar diminuendos, which in turn then becomes an important unifying device.

Motivic Material/Development: The introduction is based on an ascending scale fragment. This concept then becomes the basis for a 2 bar secondary motif that answers the main melody (bars 7-8, 15-16, 23-24, 39-42, 49-50, 57-58). This motif has the cresc./decres. device mentioned earlier. The introduction is then inverted for the coda.

The melody in the A section is 8 bars built as 2+2+4. The initial 2 bar idea is repeated and developed in the second 2 bar phrase. This is then answered in the final 4 bar phrase. (Yes, there is some great music theory terminology that describes this type of phrase construction, but right now I can’t remember what it is and can’t be bothered looking it up. I figure the important thing is that I recognize what’s going on.)

The B section is 8 bars built as 2+2+2+2. Essentially a pair of question/answer phrases.The final 2 bars is repeated creating a transitional passage leading us back to the “A” section. This is further reinforced by breaking the one bar cresc./decres. device and instead having a 4 bar crescendo.


Orchestration:

Intro: (m.1-8) 

Low WW’s/Br tutti,  then A.Sx/Tpt/(Fl/Ob 8va) and harmonized by Cl/T.Sx/Hn

Here’s what I find interesting…

  1. He doesn’t include Fl/Ob in m.2, but adds them in m.4. I reckon I would have just orchestrated both bars the same by default. (that’s not a good thing!)
  2. In m.7-8 he leaves out Fl/Ob/T.Sx/Hn. Again, I think I would have just defaulted “everyone in” in a unison tutti passage like this. Leaving out Fl/Ob seems like a colour choice. The Hn. is left out because it would just sit either awkwardly high or awkwardly low. The T.Sx is left out because…well I’m not quite sure why. Maybe because it is generally doubling the Hn. so it makes it more consistent for the students?
  3. In m.2, m.4, m.6 the harmony part is a dotted 1/2, the melody is three 1/4 notes. A simple and subtle way to create interest.

My takeaway: always think about every orchestration choice. Don’t just mindlessly (aka lazily) use the default settting.

Ogopogo Ex.1


A1 (m.9-16)

The melody is Cl/A.Sx. The accompaniment is a single 1/4 note on beat one of each measure, played by the low WW/Br.

A2 (m.17-24)

The melody is played by Fl/Ob in octaves with the Tpt. This is harmonised by the A.Sx/T.Sx/Hn playing a 4th or 3rd below the melody. Apart from creating an interesting harmony, this also puts these instruments in a great “easy” register.

The bassline is similar to A1, but now there is a 1/4 on beat three played by some of the low WW/Br.This is in contrast to beat one which is tutti.Again a simple and subtle way to create interest.

My takeaway: always think about every orchestration choice. Don’t just mindlessly (aka lazily) use the default settting.

Ogopogo Ex.2


B (m.25-32)

In the first phrase the melody is played by Fl/Ob in octaves with the Cl. The accompaniment is played by T.Sx/Hn in 5ths with Tbn/B.Sx /Tba (8vb)

In the second phrase the melody is played by A.Sx/Tpt. The accompaniment now in 4ths played by Cl and T.Sx/Hn./Fl.+Ob. (8va).

Apart from the obvious shift in timbre between the two phrases, there is also a shift in tessitura. (I just wanted show show off a few music theory words…I do remember a few at least!)

In m.29-30 the secondary motif is scored for Cl./A.Sx/Tpt with Fl.8va, the repetition in m.31-32 is full band tutti.

Ogopogo Ex.3.jpg


A3 (m.33-42)

Here the melody shifts to the low WWs/Br. This is punctuated by 1/4 note chords from the rest of the band, again voiced in 4ths/5ths with Cl/A.Sx/Tpt and T.Sx/Hn. The Fl/Ob. double Cl 8va.

Ogopogo Ex.4.jpg


A4 (m.43-50)

In m.43, m.45, m.47 there is a unison statement of the melody by the ensemble. However the note value has changed from a short 1/4 note (+a rest) to being a full length 1/2 note.

There is a similar shift in tessitura in m.44 as occurs in the B section.

My takeaway: This tessitura shift is a great device that I plan on stealing as some point in the future

Ogopogo Ex.5.jpg


Intro (m.51-58)

This is identical to m.1-8


Coda (m.59-64)

The orchestration approach here is the same as for the intro.

Other takeways:

  1. I like his use of the A.Sx , T.Sx in reinforcing the horns. The horns are never left alone. Sometimes it’s reinforced by one sax or the other and sometimes by both.
  2. There are a lot of subtle orchestration shifts and different instrument combinations, yet at the same time it is rock solid orchestration that will withstand the beating that a beginner band gives every piece!

No, I haven’t talked about percussion at all…I’ll do that next time. So just hold off with the beaters for just bit longer…