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.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Fugal Science: Vol. 2, No. 3 - Four-Part Fugue for String Choir

EDIT: This is part 7 of 8. Here are the links to the entire series:

Index of Fugal Science, Volumes 1 and 2

Here is today's audio file:

Four-Part Fugue for String Choir

As usual, it's an AIFF file of the sound fonts I compose with, so you'll need to use QuickTime.

Aside from being down in the key of f-sharp minor now, the exposition is as it was in three voices.

After the third entry, however, we need to use the episode to set up the final one. That's because it's impossible to do a direct modulation to the dominant after the three-part subject statement. This volume was on ice as just the concluding perpetual canon for years - since 2006 - because I couldn't figure out what to do here. So, this is actually the origin point of the episode, though I completed the five-voice fugue first, back in 2013.

With four entries and real answers, the exposition leaves us on the dominant level. This means the episode is on the dominant, and has to modulate back to the tonic for the interlude (After two episodes, the interlude is required). So, instead of four measures, that makes this one five. All you have to do to get the modulation is to make the dominant resolution to a major chord, and then introduce the minor seventh to make it the dominant seventh of the tonic. I was able to make the dominant a major add-9 chord, and then I used the thematic triplet to make that a minor ninth, and down through the tonic to the minor seventh. This took a while to figure out as well. I had more elaborate ideas, but the most compelling solution turned out to be the simplest.

Now we get the four part version of the interlude, and we're ready for the middle entries. The two- and three-part versions maintained their voice numbers throughout, but here I reduce the texture to two voices to demonstrate the possibility of a two-part stretto at three measures of delay/two measures of overlap that is a perfect dovetail. As I alluded to in the last post, the single measure overlap stretto is possible, but trivial, so I didn't include it in the plan.

After the stretto, it's time for the episode again, now back in its normative form.

With the three-voice Escher morph/perpetual canon comes the first modulation of this volume outside of the expositions. It is the same direct modulation as in the expositions, it just continues on instead of returning to the tonic immediately after the answer statement. So, the real answer becomes the tonic and has it's time in the sun.

The plan of this stunning canon is the same as it was in the three-part fugue, only before it was on the tonic: The subject morphs into the subject in augmentation, and then the modified subject in double-augmentation, and then back to the augmented form, all conforming to the laws of pure counterpoint.

Though I didn't break any laws, the dissonances I employ are not something any of the Bach-era composers would have used. Basically, the deceptive resolution to the bVI(M7) is to an inversion with the root above the seventh, yielding a minor ninth. This creates a kind of creepy sounding dissonance flow, with the chord of resolution more dissonant than the dominant that targets it. This excruciatingly beautiful passage is proof that any musical effect can be employed to achieve something wonderful, if it is presented in a logical musical context. There is no musical context more logical than canon.

The canon then re-transitions back to the augmented form of the subject.

Once the perpetual nature of the canon is proven, the piece modulates directly back to the tonic with the cellos entering with the subject in the bass. The order of entry for this canon is reversed, however, which leads to some glorious conflicts.

The canon is broken by the first violins at measure 196, when they repeat the subject. This turns the rest of the section into a roiling cauldron that uses nothing but the subject.

This topsy-turvy action comes to a head in measure 109, when the cellos and violas land on the unison d-natural. The violas then dip below the bases to play the c-sharp, d-sharp, e-sharp triplet against that sustained d-natural. This is the climax of the section, after which, the augmented head figure reappears, the tension ebbs, and the episode appears again.

That makes two episodes, so it's time for the interlude again, and now it's seven measures so that it can come to a full stop before the concluding perpetual canon begins, which is introduced by the diminished triad triplet figure in the first violins.

The concluding perpetual canon is much fuller and more complete in four parts than has hitherto been the case with the three voiced versions.

For example, in measure 132 we now get a complete bVI(M7) in first inversion. Reading from the bottom, major-third, perfect-fifth, major-seventh, and the root on top. I came up with the concept of beautiful dissonance when I was at Berklee College of Music back in the early 80's, but I was writing in jazz and jazz-fusion idioms then, so I was thinking of colorful jazz-fusion harmonies. I intentionally pursued that concept with counterpoint, and this is the flowering of those efforts. Next path will be to recover more complex harmonies in counterpoint (Which reminds me that I need to analyze the Beethoven Op. 131 string quartet fugue).

So, the canon in original note values reenters, and once the perpetual nature of the canon is proven, the piece winds down over the ostinato of the tail figure in the bass. With more than three parts, we can now get the pluperfect ending in which all of the voices come to rest on the tonic. Note the momentary major chord at the beginning of measure 149: This a feint to get the final triplet figure in, which has the missing Phrygian degree, which is the only one absent from the subject on the tonic level. Ta da!

I have to do a digital fair copy of the five-part ricercare, so I'll be back in a few days.

Saturday, October 22, 2016

Fugal Science: Vol. 2, No. 2 - Three-Part Fugue for String Trio

EDIT: This is part 6 of 8. Here are the links to the entire series:

Index of Fugal Science, Volumes 1 and 2

Both the guitar fugue and this one adhere to the continuously-voiced method I used in volume one, but hereafter it is not like that. Also like the previous guitar fugue, this one does not modulate, except for the real answer on the dominant in the exposition; that will change for the next two fugues as well.

Here's today's audio file, which is again just the sound fonts I compose with.

Three-Part Fugue for String Trio

An AIFF file, so you'll need to use QuickTime.

We're a whole step lower than before at g-minor now, and the tempo has broadened from ninety to eighty-one BPM. With the real answer at measure six, we get the main counter-answer, which still includes the head of the subject in augmentation, but unlike the guitar fugue, this time we'll get to see some of what that portends. I use an alto, soprano, bass entry scheme, which is necessary to set up for not just the rest of this fugue, but the rest of the fugues in this volume.

The first appearance of the four measure episode happens at measure sixteen, and again, it has to be in this configuration.

For the first middle entries we get a remarkable three-voice mensural canon that leads into a perpetual canon. First, the subject in canon at two measures of delay/three measures of overlap does an Escher morph into itself in augmentation, which would be a single measure of delay in the original note values. Then, the augmented subject canon does an Escher morph into a doubly-augmented version of the subject, which has a diatonicised body, and no tail figure. This would be a half-measure of delay in the original note values.

During the doubly-augmented segment, we get some super-hot dissonances in which the bVI(M7) appears in voicings in which the root is above the major-seventh, yielding a sizzling minor ninth. The order of entry back at the beginning of this section - soprano, alto, bass - had to be that way to yield this wonderful chain of effects. Dissonance flow, as I call it. Again, any musical effect can be a resource, and yield a beautiful effect, if used in the right context with a compelling logic.

As the doubly-augmented statements leave the stage, they re-transition back to the augmented statements, creating a perpetual canon. The augmented statements do not work out to go back to the original note values, so the doubly-augmented version reenters to prove the perpetual canon, and then we get the second episode, in the same configuration as before, but now in augmentation. This is a unique feature of this particular fugue.

After the second episode, it's time for the one and only interlude, which is seven measures this time, as it comes to a full stop to introduce the recapitulation canon at one measure of delay. This is the same perpetual canon as before, but now starting out in the original note values.

After the recapitulation/perpetual canon has proven itself, the piece winds down over an ostinato of the tail figure. This is bad-to-the-bone cool, but it gets ever more impressive during the next two fugues. The ending is to a pluperfect resolution in which all of the voices - ti-do, sol-do, and re-do - converge on the tonic. Only the guitar fugue uses a minor tonic resolution, which is a logical idiomatic consideration. By the Ricercare, all five voices will resolve to the tonic. It is a major philosophical element of this volume.

I have to make a digital fair copy of the four-part fugue, so I'll be back in a few days with that.