KUSC’s Alan Chapman has a lot to say about music, but can he say it in 60 seconds? That’s the Chapman Challenge. We ask a question and Alan has a minute to answer it.

Today’s question is this: When composers write symphonies, do they write all the notes that each of the instruments plays?

Hit play below to listen to this week’s Chapman Challenge on Arts Alive.

The quick answer is “Yes.” The precise parts that all of the musicians play are part of the whole conception of a symphony and a composer is expected to know how to use the colors of the orchestra, individually and in combination.

A composer may write directly on orchestral score paper with its twenty-four or more staves. But it’s quite common for a composer to first make a sketch of the piece to work out themes and their development, harmony, and overall structure, just as an artist might make a sketch of what will be an oil painting. Of course, while the composer sketches, thoughts about the eventual orchestration will surely arise.

Two additional notes: Composers for Broadway will almost always turn the job over to an orchestrator with special expertise in theatrical work. And film composers, even though they could orchestrate a score themselves, frequently employ one or more orchestrators, a reflection of time constraints. The music for a film has to be composed, orchestrated, recorded and added to the movie at the end of the production process.

That’s today’s Chapman Challenge. Is there a question you’d like to have answered in 60 seconds? Send it to us at [email protected]

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