Just how we understand where the emphasis should be placed in the written word by what punctuation is used -- such as an exclamation point or a comma or a period -- we feel the emotional impact of a composition by its musical PUNCTUATION. The snare drum and tom tom often provide the heartbeat of a song. A few well placed timpani rolls or bass drum thumps and we start to feel something dramatic is happening. The excitement mounts when the trumpets call. Add the tuba and trombones to fill out the sound, and the effect is very grand indeed. These instruments are used sparingly for good reason. Their colors and volume can really enhance the drama and action of a piece of music. But too much and the effect can be disastrous.
Once I heard an interview with Nelson Riddle, the great arranger who got his start creating the charts for Frank Sinatra. Early in their association, Frank Sinatra complained that Nelson Riddle's arrangements "played all over him." That meant that the singer was being overpowered by the brass licks coming in during the vocal line. Nelson Riddle discovered how to use the trumpets, trombones, saxophones and drum kicks to PUNCTUATE the vocal phrases in unique and brilliant ways that perfectly matched Frank Sinatra's signature style. Their collaboration lasted for decades.
In the hands of a talented arranger, the orchestrations of a musical composition can be magical. I am delighted and amazed when the orchestrations we sing in the Mormon Tabernacle Choir are just right. It is so fun to watch the players in the orchestra and learn what they do. I really appreciate the brass and percussion players who patiently COUNT for measure after measure until it is time to give their perfect PUNCTATION to our phrases.