In Stravinsky's Firebird, during the Danse Infernale section, there are several very short, jarring bursts from the orchestra. These bursts have an unusual dynamic quality in that the attack is not at the beginning of the note, rather it is at the end.

I'm trying to find the correct term to describe that dynamic. It's similar to a crescendo, except that it doesn't build slowly, it takes place within the time of a single note, or a very rapid run of several notes.

Is there a term for this effect, and how is it notated on the score of The Firebird?

1 Answer 1


I assume you're talking about the hits towards the very beginning, the ones that begin with an ascending flourish in the flute/piccolo? Sometimes these are just called "orchestral hits," but I can't think of any more specific term for it.

As for the dynamic quality you describe—of a lightning-fast crescendo that ends with an attack—it's because, to put it simply, not all instruments are playing at the beginning of it, but they are at the end. These hits often begin with an ascending run by the flute/piccolo, and the rest of the orchestra then joins for the hit proper. We group the two events together as a single "hit," but really the flute/piccolo run is a lead-in to the hit, which creates the sense of a quick crescendo.

  • 1
    Interestingly, “Orchestral Hit” is the name of the original Fairlight CMI sample of that flourish. Oct 31, 2018 at 4:12

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