Great composers have always been pushing for more out of their orchestras. Tchaikovsky added cannons to his orchestra in order to get the explosive sound that he needed; when composing his Eroica Beethoven told his strings to play their instruments like drums. Composers are always searching for new sounds to convey meaning or simply beauty better.
Modern composers have a complexly new realm of tools at their disposal: the mixing board and editing software. Neil Davidge is a British born composer, who champions this new realm. On one of his most recent works, the sound tract for the video game Halo 4, he brought the full power of these tools to the table.
Starting with a recording from a live orchestra, Davidge is able to profoundly modify their work, allowing him to drop or raise whole pieces an octaves, or speed up a certain set.
For instance one of the pieces “Green and Blue” begins with slight piano notes. Davidge then gives each not a synthesized texture and echo adding to the mournful electric feel of the piece. As strings add in and an unaltered piano, he uses the synthesized notes a background giving the other instruments a base. He plays with the initial strings as well sometimes giving them a synthesized edge in preparation for the main string to enter at about 2:15. The added synthetic nature of the background accentuates the majesty of the unaltered live orchestra when it swells to the forefront.
Using the new electronic tools Neil Davidge can bring tremendous power in his music, allowing him to convey majesty, or a slight murkiness, making the new realm one worthy of composers exploring.