Sitting in my study at the moment, Ravel’s Bolero is playing on the iPod. Hmmm. I’ve played it before, but I don’t have a score here. Does anyone have the instrumentation? I just heard what sounded like a keyboard … maybe some sort of electronic thing (it certainly wasn’t piano!), and now I’m wondering what the heck it was … and what it was supposed to be!

Anyone? Anyone?

I see a site where I could, from what it looks like, download the score, but it says “download at your own risk” and warns that the work is under copyright. So forget it! I’m a stickler about copyright. (Ask my poor students!)

But I know there are readers out there who know a whole lot more than I do and I know you love to share your knowledge. I’m fine with that.

(But yes, I’ll continue to look online when I have some free time.)

UPDATE
Okay. I had a friend listen to it. He thought it sounded something like a Hammond organ. Whew. It wasn’t just me!

BUT … then I played it for my husband. He said it was something else … and Mr. Brice, he agrees with you when you write:
I believe I know the passage you refer to. It’s a really unique, and vaguely “electronic” sort of sound that’s effected purely by clever orchestration. The main melody is played in C major in the octave just above middle C (can’t remember which instrument just now… clarinet?). The same melody is played in the key of G (up a 12th) and E (up an additional 6th) by two piccolos. If the piccolos are really good and can do it softly and in tune, the effect is not one of polytonality, but of just a curiously-colored C-major melody. (Try a little on the piano, you’ll even get a hint of the effect that way).

So there you go, folks. This person who thought she had mighty good ears, doesn’t. :-(

But at least I’m willing to admit when I’m wrong, eh?

10 Comments

  1. I believe Bolero calls for a harp and a celesta.

  2. Patricia Mitchell

    The instrument I heard was neither harp nor celesta. It really did sound like electronic keyboard. Hmmm.

  3. The website says it’s public domain, not sure where you see at your own risk:

    2 flutes, 1 pic
    2 oboes, 1 d’amour
    E-horn
    Eflat Clarinet
    2 Bflat Clarinets
    Bass clarinet
    2 bassoons
    contrabassoon
    4 F horns
    D trumpet (piccolo trumpet?)
    3 trumpets
    3 trombones
    1 tumba
    3 saxophones (soprano, alto, tenor)
    3 Timbales
    2 Tambours (tambourines)
    Cymbales (Cymbals) and Tam-Tam
    Celesta
    Harpe
    Quintette a cordes

    What’s that last thing?

  4. Patricia Mitchell

    The site I linked to includes this message:
    Note: This work is NOT public domain in the US, or in the EU where the minimum term is life-plus-70. It is most likely public domain in Canada, where the term is life-plus-50 which is where IMSLP is hosted. Download at your own risk.

    Some of Ravel is not yet in the public domain. I’d want to make sure that it’s really legal to download anything before I did so.

    I believe the last item on your list are the strings. Violin 1 and 2, Viola, Cello, Bass. Yes?

  5. I believe I know the passage you refer to.  It’s a really unique, and vaguely “electronic” sort of sound that’s effected purely by clever orchestration.  The main melody is played in C major in the octave just above middle C (can’t remember which instrument just now… clarinet?).  The same melody is played in the key of G (up a 12th) and E (up an additional 6th) by two piccolos.  If the piccolos are really good and can do it softly and in tune, the effect is not one of polytonality, but of just a curiously-colored C-major melody.  (Try a little on the piano, you’ll even get a hint of the effect that way).

  6. Patricia Mitchell

    I know the part that you are speaking of. (I do think the orchestration of this work is a wonder!) But no, this is merely ONE instrument! I did a search online, and when I look at the google short snippet it has something about a “blend of acousting and electronic instruments” in the review, but when I click on the link there is no review at the site! Curious.

    Thanks for the help, though!

    Update: I’m going to listen again … because I’m always one to doubt my ears and perhaps you are correct … so here (hear!) goes …!:-)

    Second Update: It’s the two entries before the trombone. And if that’s a clarinet the clarinet (on both solos) isn’t using any air and isn’t attacking notes at all. I can usually tell an instrument easily by attack. I’m 99% certain they are using an electronic organ. I hear the overtones … could be a pic, could be actual overtones, but I sure wish you could listen to this and tell me if this is really a clarinet! :-)

    It’s the Sir Neville Marriner recording.

    I’m now hearing clarinet (in a tutti passage) and it sure doesn’t sound like what I heard earlier.

    But I do realize Bolero plays tricks on our ears. I’ll have my “good ear” husband listen and see what he thinks.

  7. Let’s hope not.  Although I recall a performance, some years back, where the Fairfax (VA) Symphony did a “Planets” and substituted a cheesy synthesizer for the women’s chorus.  They didn’t even note the substitution in the program notes!  The same performance omitted “Saturn” and didn’t acknowledge an entire missing movement!  If I bought a ticket to a movie and got a PowerPoint presentation instead, I’d be disinclined to go back to that theater.

  8. Patricia Mitchell

    I had a friend listen (a fellow oboist) and he, too, thinks it’s some sort of organ-sounding thing. I really need to listen, now, to a different recording! What I never heard is any English horn. Surely they didn’t replace that<?!

  9. Patricia Mitchell

    Mr. Brice. You were right. I was wrong.

    Go figure! :-)

  10. Oh yeah, Strings… hrm… details…

    listed: Quintette a cordes

    Strings I suppose?