Most of the musical compositions we hear today are created using multiple instruments. However, you may not be aware that many famous music pieces from across history were also composed with multiple instruments in mind. This becomes obvious when you think of all the compositions that required a full orchestra for each performance.
Many composers have also created compositions with the intention of having nine musicians perform them. Today we will be looking at a piece of music for nine instruments and what differentiates them from other compositions.
If you are new to the music world, you may not be aware that there are special terms associated with the number of instruments used for composition. For example, the term quartet refers to a music composition that is to be performed by four musicians. With this in mind, a music composition that was designed to be performed by nine musicians is known as the nonet.
A nonet can include any combination of instruments, as there is no established standard. Nonet composers often used a combination of stringed instruments along with woodwinds, and brass instruments.
A composer may mix and match different types of instruments to produce their desired style of four-part harmony.
One of the first compositions to be known as a “nonet” was Louis Spohr’s Grand Nonetto. This composition featured the oboe, flute, bassoon, clarinet, violin, viola, horn, double bass, and cello. However, there were earlier compositions designed for nine instruments. One of these was Joseph Haydn’s Divertimenti, which featured two horns, two oboes, two violas, two violins, and a contrabass.
There is no set reason why a composer would choose to create a nonet composition. Some speculate that it has to do with the availability of resources such as performers and instruments.
Such composers may wish to create a grand composition that goes beyond the scope of a quartet. However, they may not possess the resources to hire dozens of performers for a full orchestra. Therefore, a nonet may seem like a good middle-ground that offers them a fairly wide range of instruments, but with a relatively limited number of performers.
There is no standard mood or tone for nonet compositions. They may span a variety of different styles depending on the composer’s vision.
One could assume that a nonet composition would sound cluttered, given the large number of instruments being played at once. However, most composers are fairly skilled at composing parts for each instrument. They understand how to write parts so that the different instruments are harmonizing in sync with one another.
The end result is often a lush and gorgeous-sounding composition that feels grander in scale than a quarter composition, but more restrained than a full-orchestra arrangement.
You may be wondering if there are nonet compositions outside of the classical genre. The answer is yes. As mentioned earlier, a nonet composition is simply a piece of music that was designed to be played by nine instruments. There are plenty of musical acts in other genres that feature nine members and nine instruments on their tracks.
For example, the rock band Slipknot features nine members in their main lineup. This consists of one vocalist, two percussionists, two guitarists, one bassist, one drummer, one turntablist, and one keyboardist. Many of the band’s compositions and live performances utilize each member and their respective instrument. Therefore, Slipknot’s compositions could be considered nonets.
It is difficult to predict what nonet compositions will be like in the future. Traditionally, you would need nine musicians and nine instruments to create one of these compositions. However, this may no longer be the case thanks to the advent of music production software and digital audio workstations (DAWs)
This software gives modern composers access to virtual instruments, meaning they can create a composition using nine virtual instruments easily. As a result, they can bring their musical vision to life using a variety of different nine-instrument arrangements. Consider getting into music production if you aspire to become a modern nonet composer.