This book draws on experiences and observations acquired over a long period of time. For almost 30 years, Karl Aage Rasmussen taught orchestration at Royal Academy of Music in Aarhus, Denmark, a commitment that in 2000 was handed over to Lasse Laursen, who had studied orchestration with Rasmussen during the years 1991–1995. This book is the result of many years of collaboration.

From 1966–1970, Rasmussen himself had studied orchestration at the Royal Academy with Danish composer Bent Lorentzen, whose analytical and innovative approach has influenced this book in a number of ways. Naturally, the existing literature on orchestration and instrumentation has been an indispensible source, but the general approach to the subject has no background in existing works or textbooks.

The many examples from the orchestral literature cover a wide range of idioms and styles, but remain clearly centered around the use of the symphony orchestra during the late Romantic period and the first decades after the turn of the century. The traditions emerging from Wagner and Berlioz/Rimsky-Korsakov respectively – frequently referred to as the “German” and the “French-Russian” tradition and reaching their climax with composers such as Mahler and Strauss on the one hand and Debussy, Ravel and Stravinsky on the other – constitute the pillars of this book. However, classical traditions as well as developments in the later part of the 20th century have also been incorporated whenever this seemed a natural consequence of the subject matter or of the ideas and viewpoints introduced.

Any presentation that attempts to convey a reasonably comprehensive picture of an unusually broad topic must restrict itself in the use of examples in order not to grow to excessive proportions. In the practical realization of this joint project, Lasse Laursen has primarily been in charge of analysis, graphics, layout, orchestral reductions, etc., while Karl Aage Rasmussen has largely been responsible for the text. The text was written in Danish and translated into English by Thilo Reinhard and Karl Aage Rasmussen.

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