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Finding the link between Trance and Orchestral music

Written by on June 28, 2017

Trance is an extraordinary genre of electronic music: one that attracts a rather limited amount of listeners, but keeps them for a really long time while building a loyal fanbase – better known as Trance Family -, and that is what makes this genre so special for its followers. At the same time, there are some other genres of music, both different and similar to Trance – Orchestral and Instrumental music, especially part of nowadays’ Soundtrack music (which you can hear in different movies and series). The most interesting fact is that there is a lot – not only – of listeners, but also producers, who love both of these genres, and to some extent it pushes you to ask the million-dollar question – why is it so?


To understand the real proximity of these genres, we should start by reviewing some examples. First of all, one of the biggest classics in Trance music history – “Adagio for Strings” by Tiësto. Every true Trance lover will recognize this track, but not so many of them know it’s roots. Originally “Adagio for Strings” is a work by Samuel Barber, finished in 1936. Since then, it was played not just during live concerts, but also in many movies, games, and many other situations. It has also been reworked by quite a few of producers such as Arnej, Mark Sixma, William Orbit and Ferry Corsten, but Tiësto’s version remains the most popular as of today. Was the good melody a main reason for such success? Even if the original version is well known, the rework gave it a totally new breath.

Another suitable example as a good rework of some old melody is “Laputa” by Shogun. How many of you know about the famous Japanese composer Joe Hisaishi, who is author for countless soundtracks for Hayao Miyazaki classic animés from Ghibli Studio? It was his melody, taken from the animé “Laputa: Castle in the sky” (1986), that got a new life thanks to Shogun, considering that this track was played for 3 times in a row on A State Of Trance Radio show in 2014, becoming “Tune of The Week” and “Future Favorite”.


One of the biggest unreleased tracks of 2016 was John O’Callaghan’s remix of “Two Trees”, an original work the from well-known pianist Ludovico Einaudi. After receiving support during the Essential Mix by Aly & Fila (February 2016), and then after huge success during live sets, many fans were expecting it to be released, and finally, in May 2017 it has happened – the full version of this track was officially made available! Sometimes it’s enough to take someone’s melody, rework it, and receive much bigger support than from other of your own tracks.

There is another track, that resembles another work of Ludovico Einaudi – “Gravity” by Parker & Hanson, which was supported a lot by Armin Van Buuren during his warm-up sets in 2014-2015. Totally different name, key, but if you listen to it carefully, it will remind you “Fly” – one of the most famous works of Ludovico, which you can also hear in the soundtrack of movie “Untouchables”. And there are a lot of people, who can hear this resemblance, you just need to open a YouTube video of that track and read top comments, or you can open this link to hear, where melody is the same.

The last example – Armin Van Buuren himself. He never hid that he is a big fan of “Game Of Thrones” (GoT), so it was no wonder that he eventually decided to remix the main theme of the series, originally composed by Ramin Djawadi. Thanks to huge fanbase of GoT, this remix has also been massively successful.

For more examples, you can check this forum on Reddit: link.

Trance in Orchestra?

Seems like reworking old Instrumental works into Trance is easy, but is it possible to do it the other way around? Of course! There are quite a few projects, which are well known among Trance fans. For example, Classical Trancelations by Petri Alanko a.k.a. Lowland (2 albums, which came out in 2008 and 2015), which include the biggest Trance classics like „Children” by Robert Miles, „Communication” by Armin van Buuren, „Airwave” by Rank 1 and many other tracks, „trancelated” into orchestral compositions. In this way, incredibly arranged tracks can show the real melody and the „soul” of works that we are used to know as club tracks for a long time. Last year there was even huge „Classical Trancelations in Concert” event in Finland, organized by Lowland and Orkidea, played by Helsinki Philharmonic Orchestra and Klaus Mäkelä as conductor, premiering Orchestral adaptations of such tracks as „Sandstorm” by Darude, „Insomnia” by Faithless and „Opus” by Eric Prydz.


There are also producers, who are not just re-working some of the tracks to Orchestral music, but also who are writing original Orchestral music as a part of their another project. One of the biggest surprises of last year was the first album by Driftmoon, who is mainly known because of his melodic uplifting Trance tracks, but who did his album in a different genre. Even if it was announced before that it won’t be a Trance album, many fans still got confused when they listened to it, expecting to hear usual Driftmoon’s sound. Soon it turned into admiration, and, to provide a deeper understanding of it all, I requested Driftmoon to comment:

So far I’ve met only positive reactions, but whether fans like it or not, the album was just a starting point to a journey that will soon reveal itself. I’ve read negative comments about some tracks, but not about the full album. Thing is – this music is the kind of music that survives the test of time, and people appreciate it, whether they are my fans or not.

For my first album I wanted to do something I would be proud of for years, and a Trance album simply doesn’t cut it for me, especially because the music on it would have to be made within the spoken restraints. I like working out of my comfort zone and do things I know might be impossible to reach at first, but with careful planning and right team of people around you, anything is possible.

I think my current genre is undescribable by a familiar genre categorisation. I prefer melodic and memorable themes over simpler and often more effective music, somehow, I prefer for a track to take me on a journey into myself rather than just making me forget it after I left the party or finished watching a movie. Knowing this is the harder way to make it into a successful career proved to be my biggest drive.

It was already announced that Driftmoon will have some (R)Evolution shows around the world, premiere of which will happen in Australia during Transmission festival in Melbourne. More dates and locations will be announced later, so let’s hope he will do it also in Europe.

And what about others? Every Trance music lover can remember at least one track, which includes some Orchestral sounds in it, especially during breaks. Many albums by different Trance producers also have at least one Orchestral track as their intro or outro, but why? We can’t ask everyone, but Illitheas, one of the growing producers on Abora Recordings, whose tracks are often played on A State Of Trance radioshow, explains:

Because I don’t want to do boring “standard” songs! It actually isn’t that easy to use Orchestral sounds, you need to understand how to play them (at least a bit). And that’s what I like – I like to complicate it, because everyone can do easy stuff. With these elements it is possible for me to express the maximum of emotions, what I couldn’t do with just synthesizers!

Also, if you look carefully, you can find compilations/mixes/playlists, based on “Orchestral Trance”, which is now becoming as separate genre of Trance. One of the latest example – “Orchestral Trance. Volume Two” from Suanda Music, which was released in the beginning of June.

These were just few examples, but they already show that this music, doesn’t matter if it’s simply Instrumental, Orchestral or taken from some movie, had a huge impact on many Trance producers. To understand their point of view and find the connection between these genres, I’ve asked some of my producer-friends – Driftmoon, Illitheas and Monoverse – few questions.


Which composers from Orchestral/Soundtrack music were your biggest inspirations for your own tracks? Or which movies?


“​Starting with movies and games, I immediately liked James Horner and his forward thinking fusion of electronic elements in “Titanic” soundtrack (trust me, it’s there) or Hans Zimmer’s theme for “Lion King”. Orchestral world itself was a mystery to me back then, considering I am not raised as classical musician, but I started the other way around, twisting knobs and clicking mouse in a computer, as many of us do.”


​”Johann Johannsson, probably most known for his “Arrival” soundtrack at the moment, has been one of my biggest influences from the film score world. His music always feels so incredibly organic both in the context of the movies and without.”

Response from Illitheas is short and includes names, which are well known in both Western and Eastern world:

Yuki Kajiura, Joe Hisaishi, Hans Zimmer, Klaus Badelt.”


Why, in your opinion, Trance music lovers can understand Orchestral music and opposite?


​”Trance is the most melodic and harmonically rich dance music genre, there are certain elements of Trance to be found elsewhere, but that’s the very reason Trance may be rising or falling worldwide, but it will never leave the scene. Each and every one of us is a lover, a thinker, a person. And that comes with implications that each and every one of us will find himself lost in a movie theme, somewhere along the lines of life, so much of this can be taken and transcribed into Trance as well, it might have it constraints, yes, but if Trance theme is done with careful melodic precision, it is as memorable as Orchestral theme, if not more.”


“​It depends on what style of Trance we are talking about. Some uplifting Trance tracks can be very complicated with many many different sounds. My tracks, for example, have a lot of sounds, so every time you are listening to them, you gonna find something new – it’s a Trance Orchestra! A real Soundtrack fan wouldn’t listen to a boring standard Trance song, but Trance tracks like from Andy Blueman or other similar producers have the soul of an Orchestral Soundtrack piece. In the end there is only one thing which counts –  “A good melody”. If it’s catchy and good produced, a Trance-listener would love it as Soundtrack and a Soundtrack-lover would love it as a Trance-song.”


“​In my opinion, it takes the same attention span to appreciate the different complexities in each of these genres, so I am sure that the same type of people gravitates towards either one – or both!”


What is so similar and different between these 2 genres?


“​The biggest difference is: there are no limits in cinematic world. Whatever works – works. Trance is a genre, limited to tempo and time signature and melodic content as well, you have to work inside a bubble of these limits and try to bend and break them.”


It’s about melodies and emotions! In Trance there must be a standard intro and outro to make it “Clubby”, in Soundtracks you have all the freedom you want, there are no specific rules.”


Trance tends to be built with many layers of melodies and harmonies, with the themes usually being longer and having variation throughout. This makes it very natural for Trance producers to pull from Orchestral influences! However, while I think the compositions can be comparable at times, you most certainly find more intricate musical arrangements in Orchestral and film scores for instance, but I think this has more to do with many artists remaining true to the DJ-friendly arrangement in Trance.”


Every comment and every answer has a good point, but each of us can have a different opinion. What we know for sure – these genres MUST BE connected, and very closely. Music is something very beautiful and special for many people, doesn’t matter which genre it is – it gives us feelings and emotions we are looking for in our lives. It gives us a possibility to become a part of another universe, when your headphones are on or when you close your eyes.  It can hurt, heal, save, destroy, inspire… all depends on what you choose! So, if sometimes you don’t feel the way you would like to feel, maybe it’s a time to change your playlist.


p.s. Author’s comment

I’ve been thinking about connection between these 2 genres for years, because they both mean a lot to me, as I came to Trance music after I discovered beauty of Soundtrack music. It was a musical journey, a transition that took around one year long. Both these genres helped me to find true myself, what can be complicated at some periods of your life. They provide me with so many emotions, even while doing things like driving or cleaning my house. They can easily change my mood from depressive to happy and opposite.

For years I have been trying to establish a link between Trance and Orchestral music, trying to find out how many of my music loving friends would relate to this experience, and hopefully I’ve found it, as described in this article.