Work: ‘Them Wolves’ by Nigel Westlake
Performers: Melbourne Symphony Orchestra
Album: Babe: Orchestral Soundtrack (DewABC Classics, 2015)
Excerpt length: 1’38”
Discuss how the performers use dynamics and blend of instrumental voices to achieve expressive outcomes. The initial expressive outcome of tranquility is created through a unified blend of instrumental voices. Instruments play with warm, resonant tone colours. Particularly lower brass and strings create a unified bled through use of similar pitch (mid to low). This is complemented by soft dynamics. Flute and upper strings have a unified bright, shimmering tone colour which is a lowed to blend with the warmer colours due to very soft, restrained dynamics. As the pitch rises the blend is increasingly less unified which changes the character to more excited, anticipating. The range of tone colours increases and there is more use of harsher tone colours in the brass playing with more force and shimmering, bright tone colours of the upper strings playing at a higher register with firmer pressure on the bow. This also results in a louder crescendo that mirrors the rise in pitch. The gong also increases the energy with reverberant, ringing tone colour. This crescendos as the reverberation increases and is allowed to decrescendo as it rings out. Strings playing insistent notes on repeated down bows heralds a new character of menace and louder dynamic as a result. Again, the blend is less unified. Upper strings use tremolo and dissonant intervals to create a brighter, more piercing tone colour that contrasts greatly with the cutting, resonant snare and penetrating, booming lower brass – played with great force at a low register. The greater variety of tone colours and less unified blend creates a much louder dynamic at this point. The contrast and lack of blend, therefore continued unsettled character, is further emphasised through the call and response between instrumental groups. While the dynamic is much softer due to much thinner texture – the orchestra tutti drops out and is replaced by interaction between distinct orchestral sections. Bright, clear strings played at a comfortable register contrast with rumbling, reverberant brass at low register, bright, clear piano and tuned percussion played with gentle attack contrast again. The excerpt finishes with a unified blend once again and a return to a tranquil mood. Resonant, pure tone colours blend due to being played at a comfortable mid to high register with legato articulation. The dynamic is an unforced mf which contributes to the tranquility of the closing of the work.