Friday, July 08, 2005

Theme Sketches to Score Sketches

Continuing with the symphonic sonata-process movement I'm working on, I have made enough progress to start a second digital sketchbook for the scoring.

Above is page ten of my theme sketchbook. Here, I took the sequential elaboration and got it to a level where it is beyond the musically trivial versions of my first two attempts. Starting with a musical singularity on the third space C of the treble clef, I have harmonized it over a four octave diatonic decending bass line so that it will lead into the six-voice contrapuntal simultaneous diatonic mirrors that I developed previously. Against this bass line I have used good, old fashioned sixteenth century counterpoint with an additional interior generator voice that is a rhythmic augmentation of the theme's head figure in melodic inversion. Since the original head figure starts out with an eighth rest, this translates to a quarter rest for the augmented inverted figure, and it now takes up an entire measure, plus it dovetails with the regular rectus form of the head figure that is sequencing above it. This makes for an exquisitely delicious effect! I have this augmented inversion entering at the interval of a fourth above the note in the bass - which is a "trick" that I learned from Palestrina (Though many others have used it), and it is sort of a mini-homage to him which I have built into the piece. With each successive entry of this figure, a new interior voice is created in the first four bars of the sequence, and the buildup to the cadential tail figure's appearance is quite sublime.

In the second four bars of the passage, this same figure rises, creating a new octave doubling of the bass line each time after it has entered. This continues to add additional impact and weight to the buildup to the climax. Note that I maintained the head figure's rhythm in an interior voice with the intervallic contraction of it that I worked out for the original three voice contrapuntal version of the theme: This maintains the drive of the phrase to the point that without it, the whole thing collapses and seems to start over, versus continuing to relentlessly build up. The end of the second phrase has the tail figure intervallically expanded to get the do-ti-do into the climactic statement of the theme.

The top three staves present the major mode version of the passage in as diatonically pure a state as possible, while the bottom three staves present the minor mode translation. The major version in this condition has a pastoral quality to it which is quite nice, especially for the first phrase, but could use some spicing up in the second go-round. Note that in the third and seventh measures of the minor mode version I had to introduce the augmented inversion of the head figure with a D-flat to avoid a tritone relationship with the bass line, just as the old masters would have done. This has an awesome effect (As in it inspires a feeling of awe, not in the coloquial slang sense). Note also that I was able to use an E-natural against the second D-flat over an F-natural in the bass moving into an F-sharp vii(d4/2)/V across the barline. This is a very amazing sonic effect, and I must admit that I created this intuitively and analyzed it in retrospect (The ultimate goal of theoretical study for a composer is to go the full circle, where in the end it is as it was in the beginning: 100% intuition). After the second phrase of the buildup, the pure minor six-voice contrapuntal complete diatonic mirror is introduced, replete with all of it's internal chromatisism.

As an asside here, I mentioned in my previous post that this particular minor mode arrangement, with all of it's simultaneous cross relations of raised and lowered scale degrees does not violate any of the laws of counterpoint, and this is true (Which you will only understand if you have read my earlier posts concerning contrapuntal laws versus stylistic rules), but there is certainly no rule-set that theorists have devised to explain the practices of previous composers or compositional schools that would encompass this passage. What makes it work is the clear and purposeful linearity and axial orientation of the individual lines: No matter how dissonant the interior mechanics are, the beginning is definite and the end is never in doubt. And remember, the listener will have heard these two three-voice arrangements in various guizes several times before this point in the piece is reached, so it will make the greatest sense, in a revelatory kind of way.

Now, once I reach the point where I am coming up with close to musically viable passages, I immediately start a second digital sketchbook to begin working on ideas for the orchestration. What I do is I start out by scoring the entire passage, or even the entire piece, for the string choir.

Above is the first page of the score sketchbook showing the major mode version of the passage. At the end of the first phrase I introduced the vii(d4/2)/V from the minor mode version, which adds a profound dimension of additional possibilities to the phrase as a whole. Continuing with the interplay between the F-sharp and F-natural of that bar, I introduced chromatically some secondary leading tones in the second part of the buildup. I experimented with an E-sharp at the end there, but dismissed it because I personally didn't care for the effect it created.

The entrances of the augmented inverted head figure suggest instrumental entrances to me, and after creating the dissolution episode for the post-climax cooldown, I will expand the score to include those. One of the nice things about these digital sketchbooks is the ability to quickly copy and paste the music to create subsequent versions, and expand the score to bring the rest of the orchestra online: This sketch, or one of it's subsequent versions, will actually end up becoming the completed score. This is an enormous time saver. I also have an E-MU Virtuoso 2000 sound module fully loaded with all the alternate orchestral sound sets, so I can get a pretty reasonable approximation of an actual orchestra as I'm sketching, which is quite helpful, to say the least.

As I mentioned previously, the major mode version of the six-voice contrapuntal complete diatonic mirror has a parallel perfect twelvth in it. This gave me the idea that this movement is going to play out a battle between the major and minor modes, with the minor being victorious due to the contrapuntal perfection of it's version of the mirror climax. For this reason, I have decided neither to use this version of the climax, nor it's minor mode variant. The individual three voice versions will instead be used seperately. This leaves the minor mode version with the chromatic bass line, and the hybrid major/minor variant of that for the two climaxes. One might ask, since the major mode variants sound quite excellent, "Who's going to know there is a parallel perfect twelvth in there?", to which I will defer to Michelangelo for the answer: "God will know." It is precisely this minor imperfection in the major mode mirrors that I have decided to capitalize on in this piece, and so the overall plan can begin to take shape.

Here is the second page showing the minor mode variant with some minor alterations (I changed the voice leading slightly from the sketchbook versions of both of these to lead more smoothly into the mirrors), which you can see in the second half of the phrase where I added a single secondary leading tone in the first measure. The resulting melodic diminished third interval is really nice sounding here, but again, an E-sharp in the third measure following did not have an effect that I personally liked.

Since there are now only two versions of the mirror climax, and two versions of the buildup, there are four possible combinations of these. The major buildup modified to have a minor tonic chord on the third quarter note of the penultimate measure to the climax going into the minor version of the mirror above is particularly devastating, since it starts off with such a pastoral mood and ends up with the most macabre version of the mirror, so I will most certainly use it for the main climax. The minor buildup going into the major/minor hybrid of this mirror will be the other climax. I have those scored out in sketch on the pages following these examples. As you can see, getting all of the variables skecthed out to audition (I actually sketched out all eight of the possibilities before deciding to dispose of the "flawed" versions), is an enormous aid, as is the simultaneous working out of everything in both of the modes together: If I had only sketched in the major mode, I never would have had the elements to borrow from the minor and vice versa.

UPDATE: Much to my horror, I noticed the parallel octaves from D=C between the bass and an interior voice in measure four of these examples this morning. I changed the interior voice to E or E-flat for the major and minor versions respectively. As with all adjustments of this type, the "repaired" version is superior with respect to it's musical effect than the original "flawed" one. The galling thing is that I got that progression right in measure eight. What was it that I said about 100% intuition? Guess I'm not "there" yet. ;^)


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