Kyle Vanderburg April 28, 2012 MUTH5863-Advanced Orchestration The Power of Orchestration in Ravel’s Boléro Maurice Ravel’s best

-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first appears in the snare drum in measure one1, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter- and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 1

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenth-note triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seveneight, and 10-11. This provides tension between the two forces, in which the melodicism of the theme tries to

1

All measure numbers/page numbers refer to the Kalmus Orchestra Library edition.

break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. 2 As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 2

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire) allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedgeshaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes
2

Deborah Mawer, The ballets of Maurice Ravel(Burlington, Ashgate, 2006), 223.

its way to increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia3, was composed prior to this analysis of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz4, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto5, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music6,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration.

A speech defect marked by abnormal repetition of syllables, words, or phrases. Measures 85-95 in Palilalia, movement IV, measures 77-87 in Symphonie Fantastique. 5 Though stretto was used to great effect by Debussy, it is somewhat less effective in Palilalia to obscure seams. 6 Deborah Mawer, The ballets of Maurice Ravel(Burlington, Ashgate, 2006), 220.
3 4

Maurice7 Ravel’s best-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first appears in the snare drum in measure one, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter- and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 3

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenth-note triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seven-eight, and 10-11. This provides tension between the two forces, in which the melodicism of the theme tries to break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the

7

At this point, the essay simply repeats itself, over and over, in a slightly larger and/or different font. Not unlike Bolero.

flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 4

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire) allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedge-shaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes its way to

increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia, was composed prior to this analysis of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration.

Maurice Ravel’s best-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first

appears in the snare drum in measure one, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter- and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 5

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenth-note triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seven-eight, and 10-11. This provides tension between the two forces, in which the

melodicism of the theme tries to break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 6

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire) allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration

The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedge-shaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes its way to increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia, was composed prior to this analysis of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by

including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration. Maurice Ravel’s best-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first appears in the snare drum in measure one, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter-

and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 7

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenth-note triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seven-eight, and 10-11. This provides tension between the two forces, in which the melodicism of the theme tries to break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 8

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire) allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedge-shaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes its way to

increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia, was composed prior to this analysis of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor

Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration.

Maurice Ravel’s best-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first appears in the snare drum in measure one, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth

measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter- and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 9

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenth-note triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes

several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seven-eight, and 10-11. This provides tension between the two forces, in which the melodicism of the theme tries to break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 10

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the

standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire) allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedge-shaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes its way to increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration

of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia, was composed prior to this analysis of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the

barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration. Maurice Ravel’s best-known work, Boléro, is a straightforward work for orchestra that keeps listeners engaged primarily through its orchestration. Originally written as a ballet, Boléro consists of three significant elements; an ostinato that first appears in the snare drum in measure one, a quarter/eighth accompaniment that first appears in the violas and cellos in measure one, and a sixteen-measure theme that first appears in the first flute in measure five. Apart from the reorchestration of the theme, the only development of material is through volume. The work begins with viola, cello, snare drum, and flute all playing

pianissimo, and crescendos by way of written dynamics (pp to ff) and instrumental density. The work is almost entirely in the key of C major, except for a brief period of E major at rehearsal 18 through the eighth measure of rehearsal 18. With the majority of musical attributes in stasis, this allows Ravel to focus almost entirely on orchestration to create tension throughout Boléro. Structure The main theme of Boléro (figure 2) is composed in such a way as to contrast with the strict snare drum ostinato (figure 1). The ostinato is in strict time, with the metric feel clearly established, and together with the quarter- and eighth-note accompaniment, serves as a static pad upon which the main theme is presented. While this material is not the primary focus of the work, Ravel’s treatment of it is similar to his treatment of the primary theme. The theme is first presented in the snare drum, then moves to flute, to bassoon, and with each repetition to louder and more numerous instruments.

Figure 11

The main theme contrasts with the strict time seen in the accompanimental passages in two rhythmic ways. First, the sixteenthnote triplets that appear in the ostinato are not present in the theme, and second, the theme includes several instances of hiding the barlines, as seen between measures three-four, four-five, seven-eight, and 10-11.

This provides tension between the two forces, in which the melodicism of the theme tries to break free of the strict timekeeping of the accompaniment. As seen with the ostinato, this theme first appears in the flute, and slowly moves through the orchestra, being passed around increasingly louder instruments in larger numbers.

Figure 12

Orchestral Size Ravel presents this material using an expanded orchestra. The score to Boléro calls for, in addition to the standard orchestral instrumentation, oboe d’amour, English horn, E-flat clarinet, piccolo trumpet, a saxophone section (consisting of sopranino, soprano, and tenor), and celeste. This expanded palette of orchestral color (including one of the first instances of saxophone usage in orchestral repertoire)

allows Ravel to utilize new solo instruments and blend unique combinations of new and old instruments. Density of Orchestration The chief way that Ravel creates interest in Boléro is through orchestral density. Similar to the dynamic structure of the work, Boléro is orchestrated by slowly expanding the size of the orchestra, creating a wedge-shaped form. For example, the primary theme first appears in the first flute in measure five, moves to the first clarinet two measures after rehearsal 1, continues to the first bassoon two measures after rehearsal 2, and makes its way to increasingly louder, more numerous, and lower pitched instruments. From the bassoon it is passed back to the clarinet (reh. 3 measure 3), to the oboe d’amour (reh. 4 m. 3), flute and trumpet (reh. 5 m. 3), tenor saxophone (reh. 6 m. 3), sopranino saxophone (reh. 7 m. 3), flutes, horns, and celesta (reh. 8 m. 3). The textural crescendo builds in this manner to the final iteration of the primary theme, which includes flutes, piccolo, trumpets, piccolo trumpet, first trombone, saxophones, and first violins. While these instruments all play the primary theme, they are not necessarily in the same key. For example, in the last iteration of the tune, Ravel places the theme in thirds, creating a thicker sound. Comparison to Advanced Orchestration Techniques As part of this final project, the author composed a significantly shorter orchestral work which, like Boléro , primarily utilizes a single theme. This shorter work, Palilalia, was composed prior to this analysis

of Boléro , and used techniques covered in this course. For example, Palilalia at times utilizes the klangfarbenmelodie of Berlioz, while Boléro presents the primary theme intact every iteration. While this technique was not used by Ravel, several others presented in this course were utilized. Palilalia strives to keep the separation of tone color in the beginning sections by reducing the primary theme to one player (measures 5-20, 66-81), much like Ravel starts Boléro with the theme in the first flute (measures 5-20) and then moves on to the first clarinet (measures 22-38). Additionally, portions of Boléro operate in the Brahmsian method of attempting to mask the barline (as mentioned above, which is unsuccessful due to the steady ostinato rhythm), while Palilalia plays with time in a similar method by including tied notes, beginning the melody on a weak beat, stretto, and infrequent time changes. Neither Palilalia nor Boléro appear to break any new ground in unusual methods of orchestra writing, as both works are straightforward and even pedestrian in their usual usage of usual instruments. Boléro, as a study in orchestration, exemplifies many techniques of orchestration as seen in the works of Debussy, Berlioz, Brahms, and Beethoven. However, due to the nature of the work as being “a score without music,” there are issues of form and musicality that cannot be addressed through the work’s method of orchestration.

Bibliography Carse, Adam. The History of Orchestration. New York: Dover, 1964. Mawer, Deborah. The Ballets of Maurice Ravel. Burlington: Ashgate, 2006. Ravel, Maurice. Boléro. Musigraphic Publishers Ltd.

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