The Standard, Power, and Color Model of Instrument Combination in Romantic-Era Symphonic Works
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Publisher:Empirical Musicology Review
Citation:Empirical Musicology Review, v6 n1 (Jan 2011), 2-19
The Standard, Power, and Color (SPC) model describes the nexus between musical instrument combination patterns and expressive goals in music. Instruments within each SPC group tend to attract each other and work as a functional unit to create orchestral gestures. Standard instruments establish a timbral groundwork; Power instruments create contrast through loud dynamic climaxes; and Color instruments catch listeners’ attention by means of their sparing use. Examples within these three groups include violin (Standard), piccolo (Power), and harp (Color). The SPC theory emerges from analyses of nineteenth-century symphonic works. Multidimensional scaling analysis of instrument combination frequencies maps instrument relationships; hierarchical clustering analysis indicates three SPC groups within the map. The SPC characterization is found to be moderately robust through the results of hypothesis testing: (1) Color instruments are included less often in symphonic works; (2) when Color instruments are included, they perform less often than the average instrument; and (3) Color and non-Color instruments have equal numbers of solo occurrences. Additionally, (4) Power instruments are positively associated with louder dynamic levels; and (5) when Power instruments are present in the musical texture, the pitch range spanned by the entire orchestra does not become more extreme.