Sunday, April 30, 2017

Waltz in C Major for Solo Guitar

Inspired by Dr. Gjerdingen's Music in the Galant Style, I have written a charming little waltz in C for the guitar. Early on in the book, he quotes a Mozart horn concerto that had a cliche I recognized from several classical pieces I'd heard. It's over a schema he calls a Jupiter, after the finale of Mozart's Jupiter symphony, which has the famous do, re, fa, mi underpinning (My favorite single movement in all of Mozart's numerous symphonies). The harmonic continuity is I, V, V, I, so there are several possibilities: do, ti, re, do; do, re, ti, do; do, ti, sol, do &c. You chose the form of the underpinning depending on what you want to do with the melody. In the Mozart horn concerto example, the gist of the melody was do, di, re, ri, mi. Like I said, I'd heard this chromatic lick many times before. Mozart's piece was in 6/8, but I recognized the simplest way to present it would be in 3/4, and so I was writing a waltz (More modern than the ancient minuet).

Mozart's continuation went on to modulate, which was a pro forma aspect of galant writing, but I recognized immediately that if you didn't modulate, you could continue the chromatic lick through fa and fi to sol, and in so doing get an augmented sixth under fi to target the dominant seventh chord on the last beat of measure six. This screamed out for a fermata, which really makes the a section pluperfect. The conclusion after the (written-out) fermata is also the irreducible essence of simplicity. You can make a nursery rhyme profound if you have something profound to say with it. The section doesn't modulate, but it does have all twelve pitch classes in just eight measures!

The difficult thing for this piece was the B section. It took a couple of days of working on it as I went to sleep before I got the idea to go from sol back down to ti for the fermata on the V(m7) sonority. This allowed me to use some of my favorite secondary dominant harmonies: V(d5m7)/IV, V(d5m7)/iii (The harmonic point of origin for what the old fashioned theorists called the French Augmented Sixth chord), V(d5m7)/ii, and finally the traditional French harmony, V(d5m7)/V in second inversion (The so-called German Augmented sixth is a V(d5m7m9)/V with the root missing). The B section really is the pluperfect answer to A, and, as a result, this piece sounds like something that has existed forever, I just happened to be the one to discover it.

Here's the audio (AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime active in your browser): Waltz in C Major

And here's the score:

As you can see, the piece begins with a quarter note pickup on the dominant note G, which was part of Mozart's formula. That's the open G string, of course, which is why this has to be in C for the guitar. I laid out the melodic trajectory in three-note directional units: C, C#, D in measures one and two; D, D#, E in measures three and four, and then the E, F, F# in five and six that must resolve to G. In between are reiterations of the open G. Nothing could be simpler. For the underpinning, I used the do, ti, sol, do option of the Jupiter schema. The inner parts are in the traditional waltz accompaniment pattern, and the conclusion has a super-cool contrapuntal lick, followed by a soft cadence with a 9-8 attacked suspension to set up the repeat.

For the B section, then, I went from the open G to the G an octave higher and worked my way back down (The piece is so simple, everything is in open position!). The secondary dominants presented are: V(d5m7)/IV on the last beat of measure nine, V(d5m7)/iii on the last beat of measure eleven, V(d5m7)/ii on the final beat of measure thirteen, which goes into the V(d5m7)/V in second inversion at the beginning of fourteen. Then the lower voicing of the dominant seventh chord at the written-out fermata. All twelve pitch classes are in this section too. Pow!

Take a look at the voice leading from the V(d5m7)ii into the traditional French sonority: You have A to A-flat in the bass, and E-flat to E in the lead. Traditional composers - or theorists - would not allow this, as it seems to be a diminished fifth into an augmented fourth; a forbidden parallelism. Luckily for me, I studied Schillinger, and so I know this isn't a parallelism at all, as the voices transform in a crosswise manner: Root becomes diminished fifth/diminished fifth becomes root, and major third becomes minor seventh/minor seventh becomes major third. It's only a parallelism if the voices don't change function. Parallel perfect fifths are fine if the voices transform as well.

To make this into the dimensions of a traditional waltz, which has six sections usually, I had to make the form A, A, B, B, A, B, A'. This will doubtless be in my next sonata for solo guitar, so I will most likely make it into a scherzo by composing another piece to go on the interior. That would make it go to something like an A, A, B, A, C, D, C, A, B, A' form. Time will tell!

Friday, March 31, 2017

Music in the Galant Style

I'm currently reading this book, and it is a real eye opener. I'm not much of a fan of the more obscure galant style composers, as the music sounds so much the same. I have similar problems with Haydn and Mozart. Well, it turns out there's a reason for that, and that's the fact that they used a set of formulas called partimentos, which are figured bass patterns. The cleverness came in how they ornamented and realized these patterns (I would call those patterns harmonic continuities, of course). The patterns were either opening gambits, or following reposts (What I would call A section and B section material, respectively, or antecedent/consequent phrases), and they were followed by an equally high number of different clausulae (Cadences). So, it was a mix-and-match process, which also explains how those composers were so prolific: The music was highly standardized.

I highly recommend this book for any student of composition, and some of these patterns are amenable to modernization, so I'm going to use them. His exhaustive description of galant style musical punctuation is also first rate. The best I've ever encountered.

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Joseph Kerman: The Beethoven Quartets

I bought this book primarily to gain some insight into Beethoven's Gross Fugue and the opening fugue of the C# Minor quartet, which I plan to analyze here (I already have it transcribed into Encore).

However, I did enjoy the entire book, as it does highlight many aspects of Beethoven's evolution in this idiom for his entire career. There are enough musical examples, but the analysis is not as technical and detailed as I do them, but Kerman was a musicologist, not a composer-theorist. I highly recommend it, and after this read, I plan to get my Complete Beethoven Quartets book out and follow along to gain more detailed insights. I have some great recordings of the late quartets - my main interest - so this should be both illuminating and fun.

Tuesday, January 31, 2017

Finally!!! Arturia Synclavier V is a VSTi Plugin Now

I'm one of the original Synclavier II Digital Guitar owners, having bought my first Synclavier in 1983. Back about the time I started this weblog, in 2005, I parted out my original system, figuring the Synclavier would end up a virtual instrument, but that never happened. Until now. So, starting in 2012, I began to collect and configure original hardware, and now I have 2x32 voice additive/FM systems, and a 64 voice additive/FM system nearing completion (Yes, 64 voices of FM in one enclosure, due to the dynamic voice allocation, and the compression effect of the stereo outputs). Just after I had paid for the hardware for the third system, I found out that Arturia had released Synclavier V, using the original code and supervised by Cameron Jones, who was the original programmer of the Synclavier! It has been an epic wait, but well worth it.

I have three screenshots of it in stand-alone mode.

It opens with just the keyboard and basic controls for playing presets, of which there are tons, including some very famous timbres like the stab on Michael Jackson's Thriller.

But, if you hit the expansion icon, you get more detailed controls, which are the handy basics of editing presets, as well as the initial phases of programming timbres from scratch.

But the real details are in the SCR (screen) mode, where you can graphically adjust the envelopes and phases &c. This is way beyond what you could do with the original Synclavier, as are the number of partial timbres: four in the original system, twelve (!!!) here. But that's not all. You can also change the bit resolution! The original Synclavier additive/FM systems were, of course, 8-bit. And frankly, the aliasing is sometimes a distraction (My ears have become much more critical over the years). As soon as I dialed Synclavier V up to 16-bit, I was a convert. It sounds so glassy and smooth!

This will require a great D/A converter, of course, and I'm looking at this one: the Chord Electronics Dave.

This couldn't have come at a better time for me, as I have four albums composed, and only one realized (An album of my old Synclavier compositions, which I recorded with one of my current systems).

Here's a preview of that album, which will be out before the end of the year: Present Time.

This dates from 1986, and was recorded in 2016 from one of my current systems. Everything except the ostinato, FX, and bass line is justified Synclavier Guitar. I used to perform this live, and it took a lot of work with the Morley pedals to get all the right sounds at the right time.

Now I have to figure out how to use this with Logic Pro X.

Saturday, December 31, 2016

Index of Fugal Science, Volumes 1 and 2

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Beethoven as I Knew Him, by Anton Schindler.

I sure did enjoy this more than the Kinderman book.

Anton Schindler was Beethoven's amanuensis for the final several years of his life, so we're dealing with a man who actually knew Beethoven very personally. No modern scholarship can possibly touch this for the anecdotes about Beethoven, his personality, and the times in which he lived (Having to run everything past, "the Censor" was something I had never considered).

Problem is, Schindler seems to have been a flawed character himself, and he got many things wrong because he wrote the book years after Beethoven had died, and so much of the original source material was no longer available to him. He also covered for Beethoven vis-a-vis his character flaws, so there is an air of hagiography here.

Fortunately, there are annotations by a later Beethoven scholar to correct the factual errors, but that scholar comes off as a bit of a prick too, and I think he maligned Schindler a few times. So, read all the annotations, but be a little skeptical about things like the charges that Schindler edited the conversation books Beethoven used to communicate. This seems ridiculous on its face.

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Fugal Science: Vol. 2, No. 4 - Five-Part Ricercare for Orchestra

EDIT: This is part 8 of 8. Here are the links to the entire series:

Index of Fugal Science, Volumes 1 and 2

Here is today's audio. It's just a string choir arrangement, as I still have to make digital fair copies of this piece, as well as the five-part grand fugue of volume one, in the orchestral arrangements. That will be my next project, and since I have to start by making a new Encore template, it could take a while.

Five-Part Ricercare for Orchestra

I apologize for the left side of the mix being hotter than the right, but I'm chasing some balance gremlins and ran out of patience with it. So no, it's not your imagination - or your system's fault - that the balance is out of whack.

We're back up to a-minor now, but the tempo is a slow 63 BPM to really bring out the super-hot dissonance points. Otherwise, this part of the exposition is exactly like the three- and four-part versions.

This page is exactly like the four-voice fugue as well, with the third entry and the required linking episode.

Whereas the four-part fugue left us on the dominant level, this ricercare finally has the fifth entry on the tonic. Note how the simple means I limited myself to produce a magnificent and moving effect here: The fourth entry of the answer on the dominant has the highest note of the piece at f-natural in measure twenty-one, and then the basses get the lowest note of the piece at e-natural in measure twenty-nine (The lowest note on four string basses without the extension to get c-natural, which is what I'm figuring on for when I hire an orchestra to play it).

With the exposition behind us - a relatively vast twenty-nine measures - we transition back to four voices with the second appearance of the episode, and then the six measure interlude comes along. This sets up for the middle entries.

For the overall plan of this fugue - a ricercare is just a particularly large fugue, or one that goes to distant keys - I chose to go back down to two voices and build back up from there, presenting the extensive canonic possibilities of this amazing subject as I go. Here, we get the two-part canon at three measures of delay/two measures of overlap, that is also a perfect dovetail: The countersubjects require no modification to work, they are just interrupted or joined in progress. This was the same canon I presented all the way back in the guitar version, by the way.

This dovetail sets up the two-voice version of the episode, which leads to the three-voice canonic possibilities, which are amazing.

We directly modulate to the dominant, as in the four-part fugue, and this three-part Escher morph/perpetual canon is exactly as before: The canon at two measures distance morphs into itself in augmentation - this does not work in more than three parts - and then into the doubly-augmented subject with the original head figure and diatonicised tail, and back.

On this page we get the dovetail into the doubly augmented version of the subject.

And now that sublime series of searing dissonances - what I've come to call a dissonance flow - that seem so poignant to me, and then the re-transition back to the augmented subject. I think a good conductor could have a field day with this piece.

Then the head of the doubly-augmented form of the subject reenters, proving the perpetual part of the canon - going back to the original note values does not work - and right at the point where the beautiful dissonance flow would appear again, the contrabass makes a dramatic entrance and a direct modulation back to the tonic. As I mentioned in the previous post, stacking the canon up from the bottom produces some wonderful conflicts that I was able to take advantage of.

The top line breaks the canon by repeating the subject, and then the final conflicts are set in motion in a dissonance flow that is evocative of boiling water to me.

These conflicts come to a head when the cello and bass arrive on a unison f-natural in measure 113. The cello then dips below the bass to play the e-natural, f-sharp, and g-sharp against that f-natural, and that is the climax of the section.This is much more dramatic with the bassoon and trombone doubling the cellos, and the contrabassoon and tuba doubling the basses.

The augmented subject head then reenters, the tension ebbs, and we get our episode again.

That's the second episode since the previous interlude, so now comes the final interlude, lengthened to seven measures this time to get the caesura that prepares for the introduction of the final five-part perpetual canon. The introduction is the anacrusis made with the diminished triad at the top.

Finally, with five voices, we get the full harmonies I intended. At 136 it's a bVI(M7) in first inversion, reading, bottom to top; a-natural, a-natural, c-natural, e-natural, and f-natural. It's the minor ninth between the top voices that makes it so astringent. Then at 137 we get the same bVI(M7) in first inversion, but this time it reads up as; a-natural, c-natural, e-natural, f-natural, and e-natural. This puts the minor ninth between the violas and second violins, so that dissonance is moving down through the voice pairs as the canon unfolds. By 138 the bVI(M7) has become a second inversion sonority reading up as; c-natural, e-natural, f-natural, e-natural, and c-natural, with the minor ninth between the tenor and bass voices. In 139 - bet you guessed it - we get the third inversion of the bVI(M7) reading up as; e-natural, f-natural, e-natural, and a-natural. Finally, we get the root position bVI(M7) in 140, reading up as; f-natural, e-natural, c-natural, a-natural, and c-natural. Now the minor ninths are played out, and we get the root position chord. This logical canonic progression makes this dissonance flow seem profound to me. Also, the note doublings are modal, and not tonal, so that adds to the eerie effect.

Now we re-transition to the original subject, and back, proving the perpetual nature of the canon.

And so we wind down over the ostinato of the tail figure, revisiting the descending minor ninth sequence as we do so, and end up with all five voices on the tonic: the pluperfect resolution.

As I mentioned above, I now need to do digital fair copies of the two orchestrated pieces, which could take a lot of time. In the meanwhile, I'll link these posts together so that anyone who finds one will have the links to all of them.

Back sometime next month.