Thursday, March 31, 2016

Second Synclavier has Arrived

After a yearlong wait - I gave John all the time he needed for other projects - I now have a second Synclavier. I can now link them together for 64 voices of Additive/FM synthesis. Plus, the new system has a second bin of control cards, a second set of floppy drives, and a second HD, so I now have enough spares to keep at least one system working regardless of any failures.

Sixty-four voices might sound like a lot, but it takes two voices to make a stereo patch, so that's actually thirty-two voices, and only sixteen if you want the decays to overlap, which I do. I need at least sixteen stereo voices that dovetail to realize Fuga Electronica, so I'm in beeswax.

Monday, February 29, 2016

Exterior House Remodel Finished

Since last spring, I've removed four Arizona ash trees I hated (Because they're ugly and dump leaves every fall), had the stumps ground, replaced the overgrown flower beds with white chert rock beds, replaced the chain link fence with a privacy fence, put a metal roof on, had the house repainted, and got a new 16x8 shed. Very happy with the results.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.2

It seems the explosion of creative progress on Fugal Science has reached an ebb tide for the moment, though I am highly satisfied with the progress thus far: Three of the four fugues for Volume 2 are completed - No. 1, No. 2, and No. 4 - and the fourth - No. 3 - is in a completed form that I would consider a v0.0 Beta. Meanwhile, for Volume 1, I have No. 1 and No. 2 completed, with the 1994 fugue as a current stand-in for No. 3. Volume 1, Number 4 is the only piece in the two volumes that does not have a completed version now. Not bad.

I have, however, gotten the grand design for the five-voice exposition of Volume 1, Number 4 conceptualized: It will be a double-canon; one between the two subject statements, and the other between the two answer statements, with the fifth thematic entry of the subject in the contrabass while the canon proves itself. This turns out to be a straight-ahead formula: Subject 1 goes into counter-answer 1, Answer 1 goes into countersubject 1, counter-answer 1 goes into countersubject 2, and countersubject 1 goes into counter-answer 2. The subsequent subjects and answers just follow the same progression. Only with five entries can you prove such a double-canonic exposition, so it's a vanishingly rare opportunity. I've sketched the expo, but want to let it stew for a while before I flesh it out.

Today I just want to present the latest version of Volume 1, Number 2, in which I found an error. As usual, finding the error was an opportunity, and the fix improved the piece measurably. I have the new audio, but I'm only going to present the page with the fix on it, as the previous post has all of the other unchanged pages.

Here is the audio: Volume 1, Number 2, v1.2

As is usual now, it's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated in your browser.

The fix comes in measure sixty-six, where I had b-flat descending to a-natural in the viola part, which created a parallel octave with the violin - whoops! - and the solution was to rejoin countersubject two with the f-sharp. The interval there, then, is a diminished fourth, and it wants to rise, being a leading tone. A very cool effect. I end up finding a few parallel octaves and fifths in early versions, because my first instinct is to go with straight lines, which are contrapuntally more powerful, most of the time.

I'm nearing completion on the exterior of my house, so it isn't as if I have nothing to occupy my time.

Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.1

I've had a major breakthrough, and now this piece and the two-voice solo guitar fugue are finished! The breakthrough came in the form of a rhythmic subtlety that actually lead me to modify the subject, which is proof that constantly working with thematic materials one develops over the course of years leads to ever greater perfection. After all, I devised this fugue subject all the way back in 1993, so it was in the same form for over twenty-two years!

Here is the audio for today's Fugue for String Trio

It's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated, and opening it in another tab will allow you to listen and follow the score.

The modification to the subject appears in measure four, where the half-note is now tied to an eighth note, followed by another eighth note, instead of the former dotted-eighth-note and sixteenth. This provides another level of resistance, and it's just super tight. I hit upon this minor masterstroke when a cross-rhythmic clash occurred, which left me with the choice of modifying the accompaniment, allowing the cross-rhythms, or... modifying the subject. It was a deeply satisfying moment, and I'll point out how this rhythm first appeared, and how it became viral, infecting the entire piece, when we get to those points.

This rhythm mod is also applied to the tonal answer, obviously, and otherwise, all the music on this page is the same as before, so no additional commentary is necessary.

Our new rhythm is also in the bass in measures nineteen and twenty, but it was there already in the previous version. This is not, however the point of origin. That comes in the next episode. Aside from the modified thematic statements, all of the music on this page is as it was before too.

We also get the new rhythm in the bass of thirty-four and thirty-five, but it was this way before. Measure thirty-five is the point of origin, though: In the two-part fugue for solo guitar, the dotted-eighth/sixteenth versus the sixteenth-note sextuplet was way too hard to play, so I made the eighth notes straight. The eight-note triplet against the straight sixteenth note will be played as a descending flam, which sounds cool and is not hard to execute.

At measure forty-seven, we get the new rhythm in the subject in parallel with the same rhythm in the bass, but this is just an infection point I went back and changed, not the point where I decided to modify the subject. Again, the music is otherwise the same.

Measure fifty-eight is also another infection point I changed after the fact, and it's amazing how profoundly this seemingly minor modification changes things. The effect is much better this way. Other than our new rhythmic elements, The Song Remains the Same.

It was at measure seventy-two that I hit upon the conundrum that lead me to modify the subject. In all previous iterations of the episode/interlude, the mod appeared, but it rhythmically clashed with the subject if I did it here, so I avoided it at first. Not satisfied with that, I tried the cross-rhythmic clash, but that was no good either. Finally, I decided to modify the subject, and Eureka! The music on this page is otherwise the same, but wow, what a difference this seemingly insignificant modification makes. This is the kind of thing that makes being a mature composer so fun and rewarding.

I did add a dotted-eighth-rest in the lead at measure seventy-six, but that was to get rid of the unison, which due to phase amplification, was way too loud with the soundfonts.

The final infection points are in measures eighty-six, where I used the modification as the pickup into the coda/hyper-stretto, and then in ninety-four, where I used the mod to lead into the conclusion. This creates a very interesting rhythmic canon in diminution with the modification of the augmented subject in the bass, which is like the cherry on top of this piece. Finally, I've obviously decided to let the viola play only accompaniment for most of the piece, as it gets the first thematic statement in the exposition, and also the first one in the recapitulation/three-part canon. The piece is perfectly balanced by this.

Now I'm going to finally, after twenty-one years, start working on the rewrite of the string quartet, v1.0 of which I handed in for a graduate level Invertible Counterpoint and Fugue class all the way back in 1994, when I was doing doctoral work at UNT.

Happy New Year!

Friday, December 25, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.0

As I continue to rush through these pieces, I'm finding some minor errors, which is typical for me. But there is a goal in my barging into these two collections, as I'm anxious to form a more perfect big-picture of the series, by getting all of the initial versions finished. At that point, I'll be able to more properly edit the constituent pieces to their perfect versions, and then the collections will be completed.

Today's piece has an earlier date range in the copyright notice, as you can see. The first unsuccessful version of this one was clear back in January of 2012, basically four years ago. I had no idea then, but I was very close to the correct solution, which was to have three-voices continuously. The form and content were so close, all I had to do was rewrite the two-part sections in three voices, rearrange which instruments got what in the thematic entrances, and I was done. Every measure still has the same content, just rearranged.

Here is the audio: Three-Part Fugue in G Minor

AIFF file, so you'll need to have QuickTime activated in your browser, and opening in another tab will allow you to listen and follow the score.

This one is in G minor instead of A minor, as the rest of them have been so far, as I had made that decision by 2013, which is the last time I worked on it. Also, it is numbered four, instead of two, because I had a more elaborate scheme in mind back then. As is almost always the case, simpler is better.

The exposition is untouched from the 2012 version, as I knew even back then that I had that much right. The answer is tonal here, as you can see, and the counter-answer is a new element after the two-part solo guitar version. Then, the countersubject in the lead at eleven is the same as the guitar version, only with a diminished-scale lick added. With the faster dotted rhythms in measure six, the exposition flagged with only quarter notes in twelve.

At sixteen is the first episode/interlude - it serves both functions - and this is where I went down to two voices previously. Now it is exactly like the corresponding episode in the upcoming string quartet.

The first version of the episode/interlude is non-modulatory, and at twenty-two the first middle entries start with a four-measure delay/one measure of overlap stretto that is also a perfect dovetail between the subject and countersubject one. Countersubject two just fills in the harmonies, and only a minor adjustment was necessary to make it work with the stretto.

The second episode then starts at thirty-one.

This episode is only five measures, versus the previous six, and this time we modulate to the dominant. The middle entries on this level are a stretto of three measures of delay/two measures of overlap. This is just like the organizational plan of the guitar version, so far. Likewise, the combination of episode and subject at forty-four is from the guitar version, but here with three parts it reveals how closely related the subject and episode are. It still modulates to the relative major at the end.

The major middle entries are the expected closer stretto of two measures of delay/three measures of overlap, but now filled in with a third voice. Note that the outer voices are getting all of the thematic materials, with the viola only performing accompaniment. Not sure if this will stand the test of time, but we'll see.

The episodes have been six measures, five measures, and five measures so far, but the episode at fifty-six is only four measures, and it modulates to the subdominant, where we get a three-part version of the dovetail stretto that remodulates back to the tonic.

After the remodulation we get the final version of the episode at sixty-nine, now with a full tonic subject statement in the bass, and extended by a resistance arrival into a nine measure interlude to set up the final three-voice canonic stretto, which begins at seventy-eight. The combination of episode and subject does not appear in the upcoming string quartet version, by the way, as I didn't discover that possibility until I composed the earlier versions of this piece.

After the canonic stretto concludes, we get the coda at eighty-seven, and it's the expected hyper-stretto that has the subject and augmented subject starting simultaneously, but with the third voice, the effect of the minor ninth in eighty-eight is much less jarring. Something gained and something lost, in my estimation. The canonic stretto and hyper-stretto are also unchanged from 2012.

Now I'm free to do a revision of the string quartet arrangement, which I've been anxious to get to for a while now.

Merry Christmas!

Sunday, December 20, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 2, Number 3: Four-Voice Fugue, v1.0

Very happy to have the first version of Fugal Science, Volume 2 completed! Today's piece is Number 3, which is for string quartet. As an aside, I believe I'll arrange Number 2 for wind trio. The subject has two natural places for rests, and when they're augmented and then doubly-augmented, it should give the players plenty of breathing time. They keys are also coming into focus, as I think the guitar and orchestra pieces will be in A minor (No other possible key for guitar, and the oboe limits the orchestra to A minor as well), and then this one will be in g-minor, as the viola limits the piece to that level with a c-sharp to the dominant (I don't think I want the open c-string, but I'm not positive. F-sharp minor could be good too). Since I need flute, clarinet, and bassoon for the trio due to the wide range of the parts, That one may go down to f-minor. Not positive yet, though. Just thinking in writing here. The tempi are also coming into focus: 81 BPM for the guitar piece, 72 for the trio, and 63 for the quartet so far.

Here's the audio file for Fugue for String Quartet.

As usual, it's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated in your browser, and opening it in another tab will allow you to follow the score while you listen.

This will be quick, as everything here is the same as the string trio.

At sixteen, we return with the episode version that has the lead line continuing up to prepare for the fourth thematic entry, just as in the five-part Ricercare.

Without the fifth entry, we are left on the dominant level, so the episode at twenty-five is unique in that respect, and it also has a unique voice arrangement, which is heard nowhere else in the cycle. Plus, it requires a fifth measure so it can modulate back to the tonic, and this is what I spent the most time coming up with. As is common for me, the solution came to me as I was drifting off to sleep. The chromatic triplet figure in the lead is very tasty.

This gets us to where we need to be at the interlude, back on the tonic level. In thirty-six, the middle entries start, and everything goes down to two voices, just as in the five-part Ricercare, only an octave higher (One reason I want this in g-minor is because how very high the parts get without the contrabass octave to work with). However, there is a voice-leading break after the cadence - perfectly acceptable, but not as smooth as all the other versions - so I'm still looking for a smoother transition.

This is the same music as in the five-part piece, but as you can see, it goes up to c-natural above the fifth line. G-minor will help, but f-sharp-minor is tempting. The violas could play the b-double-sharp with the open c-string, of course.

Another reason to lower the key is so that the c-natural in the exposition of the Ricercare is the highest note in the cycle.

Finally, these high, excruciating dissonances sound fantastic, but they would be less intimidating for the players a tad lower. F-sharp minor might be the right key.

Now that the three-part Musical Escher Morph has run its course, it's time for the four-voice section.

Besides the top voice, which descends to take over for violin two in the accompaniment, before its thematic entrance, this is all the same as the five-voice version.

The climax of this section - the clash between the cello and viola in measure 109 - is much more tart an octave higher, which is a feature I like a lot about this version.

So finally, we get the episode and interlude in their most normative forms.

Now comes the four-part version of the concluding perpetual canon/Musical Escher Morph, which is the same, other than not having a fifth entry.

This iteration is quite full sounding, and not much seems to be missing, as opposed to the three-part arrangement.

The conclusion over the ostinato is less satisfying than the five-voice finish, but the uninitiated listener won't know that, of course. I also used the chromatic triplet conclusion here, which is revealed for the first time. All voices in all four pieces end on the tonic, by the way.

There is only a five measure difference in the length of this from the five-part arrangement - 149.5 measures versus 154.5 measures - and I may edit this piece down a bit yet. We will see. Now, however, I want to get on the three-part fugue in Volume 1.

Monday, December 14, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 2, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue, v2.1

Unexpectedly, the three-part fugue for Volume 2 of Fugal Science came together over just the past three days. Version 1.0 was just the first page here, plus the last two pages: Exposition, episode one, interlude, and recapitulation; version 2.0 was exactly what we have here - with the three-voice Escher Morph and episode two added - but episode two was not in augmentation, as I now have it. That was the last thing I came up with, and it gives this fugue something unique, beyond the three-part version of the perpetual canon at the recap and coda.

If you've heard the five-voice Ricercare for Orchestra already, this version may not strike you as immediately as satisfying, but keeping in mind that it's meant to be heard after the two-part Fugue for Solo Guitar, it then becomes much more impressive. These pieces are a progressive revelation of the subject's possibilities.

Here is the audio file for the Three-Voice Fugue for String Trio, then.

As per usual, this is an AIFF file, so you'll need to have QuickTime activated in your browser, and I suggest opening the sound file in another tab, so you can listen and follow the score. Also, I used string choir sounds, as I never have found any solo string soundfonts that I can tolerate.

On the first three systems, we get the three-voice exposition, which is exactly like the first three entries in the five-part Ricercare, but coming from the two-voice guitar version, the listener won't know that. The answer is real, of course, and that's a new element revealed here. The c-natural in measure seven is the pitch climax of the piece - all of these fugues with an answer will have the highest note in the exposition - and the exposition also goes into the first episode in the same way as the orchestral arrangement. The episode is changed here, however, as the lead line drops an octave, versus continuing up to prepare for the fourth thematic entry/second answer appearance.

Having already finished the finale for the present volume, one of the decisions I had to make was just how much to reveal in this version. The former goes down to two voices at the beginning of the middle entries, but two factors kept me from doing that here: One, I didn't want to reveal that yet, and two, I wanted to maintain three continuous voices throughout. So what we get here is the three-part Musical Escher Morph that is on the dominant level in the Ricercare, but in the tonic here. The difference in effect due to the lower tessitura is quite pronounced, and that will be another feature unique to this version, as I've already decided to put it in the dominant for the string quartet (Which will also go to two parts at the beginning of the middle entries).

The Escher Morph plays out just as it did in the Ricercare otherwise, but at sixty-seven I had to do a new thing: Put the second episode in augmentation. This is the point where it goes up to four voices in the Ricercare (and as it will in the upcoming string quartet), but that had a direct modulation from the dominant to the tonic, as well as a new subject entry associated with it. The original version of the episode just didn't have the right effect, and the idea to put it in augmentation came to me quite quickly. This allows the quickness of the texture to accelerate more gradually and logically into the upcoming interlude.

Now that we've heard two versions of the episode, the third-time logic of the repeat scheme kicks in, and it's time for the interlude, which is the only time we need it in this piece, as the three-voice variant of the perpetual canon begins immediately afterwards, at measure eighty-two.

Keeping in mind that these perpetual canons/Escher Morphs will be new to the uninitiated listener - all the guitar could present was a dovetail stretto, and the rest of the ever-closer stretti - and you can see how familiarity with the five-part arrangement could be a disadvantage here, but after the guitar version, this piece will be quite nice. Familiarity with all four arrangements, however, will foster a greater appreciation for the thematic possibilities that are progressively revealed. Obviously, this is an amazing subject with myriad potentialities, some of which came as surprises to me after devising it. I just thought I was composing a five-part canonic stretto!

I think the string quartet version will now come together quickly, and I'll have the first version of Volume 2 completed! It's obvious to me now that Volume 1 will be the more problematic, but even that is beginning to come into focus.