IMRO workshop with Jeff Atmajian

An inspirational weekend; I was fortunate enough to attend Jeff Atmajian’s masterclass at IMRO on Saturday, 25th of May.  He provided us with real-world scores and source sketches to study and he shared his thoughts on every aspect of the orchestration process as well as his philosophy and approach to orchestration and to life.

The techniques he described included a detailed demonstration of the use of motion within the string section that may only be implied in the composer’s sketch, the use of string effects and articulations (and how articulation may have to be adjusted depending on the room for recording), finger tremoloes to create subtly different textures, getting weight and volume in an orchestra by scoring individual instruments where they themselves sound best and by using instruments to match the overtones of other instruments, and how to use colour, and the shifting of colour, as a compositional element – to plant a seed early in the score that will bloom as the score, and the film, reaches its apex.

More broadly, he spoke of how the setting of a film scene affects the scope of an arrangement (how an outdoor scene might be scored differently to an indoor scene), how the use of melody as an unseen third character is sadly no longer as relevant as it used to be, the limitations of blending in sample libraries, and, most importantly, the gulf between composer’s vision and the finished product; the arena where the orchestrator must trust both eye and ear and be faithful to the intentions of the composer, implied and explicit.

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