I'd like to start this post with a wonderful performance of "Libertango" for woodwind quintet by Astor Piazzolla....
Here's what I love about woodwind instrument:
1) Unique sounds and timbres (brass and strings tend to be much more homogenous--still love brass and strings, but boy do I love the tone colors of woodwinds)
2) Very expressive--the highs and lows (in pitch AND range) are flexible and fantastic
3) As a composer, I like the playable range of most woodwinds, and how you can use the different registers to your advantage
4) Really fast scales/arpeggios... this is kind of silly, but what a great effect to use--whether it be scales in all directions creating a really cool harmonic texture, or loud chromatic rips to create intensity, woodwinds are great
Now, in my world of exploring plug-ins for Logic Pro, I've noticed that it's difficult to find great woodwind plug-ins. The musician in me is thankful that this will hopefully keep woodwind players gainfully employed, but the composer and listener is worried because many composers have stopped writing for woodwinds. Now, please keep in mind I haven't carefully researched this notion, I'm just making an observation. As more and more composers look to DAWs to create their mock-ups (especially in the commercial/film world), we've seen much more brass and string heavy (the plug-ins sound WAY better) compositions. If you don't believe me, just listen to the two clips below:
Just listen to the difference in use of woodwinds... actually, in the Iron Man example, they're not even there (or at least you can't hear them). Now, this isn't a criticism at all. I love Brian Tyler's music. I'm just noticing a change in how things are written these days. I could have picked a lot of other film composers from the 80's like Jerry Goldsmith, James Horner, etc. I could pick practically any popular film composer today. Whatever the reason for using woodwinds less, I think it is unfortunate and hope that as plug-ins get better, we see a return to lots of colorful writing for woodwinds!!
Now, you might wonder why I spend so much time talking about film music. Aside from the fact that I love it, it's important to note that film/commercial/video game music is what the OVERWHELMING majority of people listen to. People will hear film music long before they will listen to Beethoven or Mozart (or any classically oriented composer today). I'll elaborate on why I think "classical" film music is paramount to keeping the genre alive in another post.