The narrower term "orchestration" is applied to the instrumentation of orchestral music. Since the most obvious differences of timbre are in those of various instruments, the art which blends and contrasts timbre is most easily discussed as the treatment of instruments; but we must use this term with philosophic breadth and allow it to include voices.
Instrumentation is in all standard text-books treated as a technical subject, from the point of view of practical students desirous of writing for the modern orchestra.
There is some reason to hope that the day of these misconceptions is passed; although there is also some reason to fear that on other grounds the present era may be known to posterity as an era of instrumentation comparable, in its gorgeous chaos of experiment and its lack of consistent ideas of harmony and form, only to the monodic period at the beginning of the 17th century, in which no one had ears for anything but experiments in harmonic colour.
Our task is simply to furnish the general reader with an account of the types of instrumentation prevalent at various musical periods, and their relation to other branches of the art.
In the 16th century instrumentation was, in its normal modern sense, non-existent; but in a special sense it was at an unsurpassable stage of perfection, namely, in the treatment of pure vocal harmony.