Music Theory
Acoustic Composition
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How can we use timbre creatively?

To answer this question let’s arrange a short excerpt from a well known solo piano work by Chopin for a string quartet.

Here’s what our excerpt originally sounds like

In Chopin’s original version the pianist plays a simple, single note melody in the right hand while providing an eighth note chordal accompaniment with the left hand.
In our first example arrangement very little has been changed. Notice that the right hand melody is now an octave higher and divided between the flute and the oboe. Raising the melody by an octave helps to make it stand out more from the accompaniment texture due to the dynamic range of the oboe and flute in that tessitura (range). Swapping the melody between the two instruments allows the performers time to breath, but also creates an interesting exchange of timbre.
In this example the eighth note accompaniment pattern has been swapped for sustained notes and the melody moves between all of the instruments of the ensemble. Upon closer inspection you’ll notice that the melody and accompaniment change octaves relatively freely. This type of melodic interchange between members of an ensemble is sometimes called “pointillism” (or klangfarbenmelodie if you prefer German) inspired by the French artistic style: