Recording: A Day in the Life (orchestral buildup)

After The Beatles recorded the basic tracks for A Day in the Life, they were unsure how to piece the two separate song sections together. A forty piece orchestra was hired to play the orchestral buildup at the middle and end of the song. Paul McCartney had the idea that the session musicians would play their instruments' lowest notes possible and build up slowly to their highest. George Martin was tasked with taking this concept and making it a reality.

The 40 musicians were conducted by Paul McCartney on February 10th 1967, at EMI's Studio One. Five recordings were made, making for the equivalent of 200 session musicians on the recording. At the request of Paul McCartney the forty piece orchestra showed up in evening dress and were required to wear an assortment of funny hats and fake noses.

The Beatles were also joined by Mick Jagger, Mike Nesmith, Donovan and Keith Richards; who stopped by the studio to witness the iconic recording. 

"What I did there was to write, at the beginning of the twenty-four bars, the lowest possible note for each of the instruments in the orchestra. At the end of the twenty-four bars, I wrote the highest note each instrument could reach that was near a chord of E major. Then I put a squiggly line right through the twenty-four bars, with reference points to tell them roughly what note they should have reached during each bar. The musicians also had instructions to slide as gracefully as possible between one note and the next. In the case of the stringed instruments, that was a matter of sliding their fingers up the strings. With keyed instruments, like clarinet and oboe, they obviously had to move their fingers from key to key as they went up, but they were asked to 'lip' the changes as much as possible too.
I marked the music 'pianissimo' at the beginning and 'fortissimo' at the end. Everyone was to start as quietly as possible, almost inaudibly, and end in a (metaphorically) lung-bursting tumult. And in addition to this extraordinary of musical gymnastics, I told them that they were to disobey the most fundamental rule of the orchestra. They were not to listen to their neighbours.
A well-schooled orchestra plays, ideally, like one man, following the leader. I emphasised that this was exactly what they must not do. I told them 'I want everyone to be individual. It's every man for himself. Don't listen to the fellow next to you. If he's a third away from you, and you think he's going too fast, let him go. Just do your own slide up, your own way.' Needless to say, they were amazed. They had certainly never been told that before." - George Martin
Paul McCartney conducting a forty piece orchestra for A Day in the Life, February 10th 1967.

Paul McCartney conducting a forty piece orchestra for A Day in the Life, February 10th 1967.