Wednesday, August 31, 2005

"What is your quest, man?"

Years ago, I had a high-larious friend who used to ask that questing in a variety of situations, some funny and some less so. But, "What is your quest, man?" was never more of a tension-releaser than when some musician or other was taking himself too seriously and becoming argumentative about it.

I think almost every dedicated musician, if they are honest with themselves, will admit to at least a brief episode or two of "over-seriousness", and that would certainly have applied to me (In spades) at numerous points in my past. The reason I bring this up is that I constantly encounter this "over-serious" attitude, and I am incredulous that I am often acused of being the over-serious one by those who cannot see their own over-seriousness (I hope you "heard what I meant" through the awkwardness of my expression there).

That got me to thinking, and so today's unplanned and totally left-field post was born.

If I look back to the beginning, as clearly as I can after all of these years, to encapsulate my initial motivation for playing music and writing music, it can best be reduced to a single word: Fun. Playing an instrument was fun, and I wanted to have fun. As soon as I learned a few chords, I began to make up my own primitive music... because it was fun. The simple joy of learning and discovery, and the pleasant satisfaction of creating something I enjoyed hammering away at, were all addictively fun things for me.

It is possible for me to trace every single last episode of unhappiness and over-seriousness I went through as a musician to losing sight of this earliest motivation. At one point, it got so bad that I left music entirely and spent a literal sabbatical of seven years in a non-musical career. Of course, I was initially "happy" at being free of the burdensome load that music had become for me (Which I was 100% responsible for), and I certainly made a lot more money than I ever had as a musician, but eventually I became even more depressed at not having music as my primary "quest" in life.

This conundrum was not resolved until I had enough time away from music to want to have fun with it again. More than that, though, my career outside of music had become so depressing that my continued pursuit of it became untenable due to the dileterious effects it was having on me both internally and externally.

So, when I decided to return to music, I resolved to just have fun with it, no matter what. At that point, I had not picked up a guitar for about three years, so I had to re-learn my entire repetoir of pieces, and that was fun in the most constructive sense possible, because I had to go back to the very beginning and in so doing I rediscovered the fun I had initially all those years (Decades, actually) before. I also decided to learn some pieces I'd always been meaning to learn, but had never made the time for. That was fun too. Starting the blog has been fun, since it has also allowed me to do some things I had always been meaning to do (Like analyzing the Ninth), but my seriously structured goals of old got in the way previously.

Which brings me to the point: These days, if I try to make an argumentative point in support of an opinion I hold about some aspect of music or other, I usually try to lace the point with some humor in the hopes that people will note that I'm not taking myself too seriously. I mean, I'm just a pimple in a bad patch of complexion on the corpus of music, and certainly don't expect to change the world or anything, but I actually have fun exchanging views with other musicians who have taken different paths on their individual quests (So long as they share the same attitude).

This approach works almost 100% of the time in face-to-face discussions, and fails miserably in internet discourses - at least with those suffering from over-seriousness disease - almost routinely at a 100% incidence rate with at least SOMEBODY who is reading. Certainly, the absense of mocking tone of voice, facial expressions, humorous gesticulations, etc. in print is partly responsible for this phenomenon, but the only excuse for missing a humorous aside or an obviously over-the-top bit of hyperbole is to a large extent in the eye of the overly-serious beholder.

If I look at this on an even deeper level, while trying to remain acutely self-depreciating, it is obvious to me that my over-serious episodes were born of insecurities that I was working my way through. One of the very best things about getting older is the process of maturing, a large part of which is becoming comfortable within one's own skin. At least, that's the way I look at it. Being genuinely happy with being a first-rate third-rate performer and composer in a region of small towns where everybody knows you, and is going to love your performance of "Spanish Fly" even when you almost invariably flub the same passage, is a very liberating level of enlightenment to be at. It_allows_me_the_freedom_to_have_fun.

The "Young and Overly-Serious" (Could be a good musical soap opera) can be quite cute, in an annoying sense in which one is shaking their head and chuckling simultaneously. A good anecdotal example of this type were some undergraduate classical guitarists I overheard at a GFA concert several years ago. These two spaz-tards spent an entire performance sitting in front of me critically analyzing a guitarist's technique: Nodding to each other in mutual reinforcement and tisk-tisking at every appearance of some percieved technical travesty ("Did you see that? He repeated his i finger three times in a row!"). I vividly remember this episode as a surrealist painting in my mind, the dichotomy of which was profound in a quasi-abject/quasi-funny kind of way. Since we were within a few rows of the performer, I was able to alternately shift my attention from his performance to the know-it-all undergraduate God's gifts to the guitar and their running commentary. The performer in question's identity is lost down the memory hole, but what I do remember is that it was a heartfelt performance during which some big risks were taken, some of which admittedly didn't have real happy endings. But, I was in a subdued state of awe at the fresness of the performance and the "come hell or high water" attitude the performer demonstrated in front of an audience consisting almost solely of other guitarists. Our two overly-serious antagonists obviously missed out on all of that, as their reaction at the end of the performance indicated.

Is this really the ideal attitude to have about music? Is a hyper-critical approach really constructive? This same overly-serious attitude that is easily understandable and readily excusable in the young dedicated student is, to be cheritable, less so on both accounts in the supposedly mature musician. The terms "stuffed shirt", "pompous ass", and "pretentious turd" spring to mind as things I have muttered to myself in the past.

I briefly had the extreme fortune to learn a bit from the late great jazz guitarist Herb Ellis many years ago. Herb was an extremely distinguished gentleman who was always genuinely supportive of and encouraging to aspiring guitarists. He was also genuinely enthusiastic about our lame attempts at performance, always clapping and pointing out the positive aspects of our attempts (Even when there really weren't any positive aspects) before offering suggestions for improvement. And that's just it: He invariably offered suggestions for improvement, and not criticism. To me, that is the ideal of the genuine mature virtuoso musician: Someone who is virtuous in their treatment of their fellows, regardless of their playing level. Others in this mold I have encountered would have to include Pat Martino and John McLaughlin: Both just absolutely beautiful guys with never a negative vibe to be found. Jackie King was also of this breed, though he is less well known (I still don't think there is a finer Bebop guitarist sucking air).

So, if you have lost sight of the aspect of fun that attracted you to music in the first place, stop right now and ask yourself, "What is my quest?" Or, if you are a guitarist pushing 50, re-learn Stairway to Heaven! Speaking of which...

Monday, August 29, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, V

On the final page of the previous analysis post, at measure 162, the development section proper began. I apologize for this awkward page break, but there wasn't really much I could do about it. That the development starts out exactly like the exposition is unusual, but as previously mentioned, the exposition has a built in repeat on a different tonal level (Outlining a V to i progression), and so it is not repeated verbatim as a more traditional sonata process movement would be. As we saw, B varies the t1 theme with the second beat accents, which he develops to set up a modulation to the subdominant level, and so here we are.

The broad unfolding of the V/iv continues at measure 174, and we finally hit the iv on the second beat accent feature in measure 178. At this point, Beethoven combines t1 and t1a in a continuing development. V7/iv returns at measure 184, and with the appearance of the E-flat at the end of measure 185, I began to analyze the piece in the key of the subdominant, G minor. In my years as a student I used to get marked down for this, since it seemed that all of my theory profs would not change the tonal level of the analysis until the new tonic chord itself appeared. This is simply a result of how I think when I am writing music: I think ahead, so I analyze ahead. There is absolutely no doubt in my mind that B has this entire piece absolutely perfectly thought out from beginning to end, so it is my contention that this forward-looking analysis approach is more closely aligned with what the compositional process is actually all about.

At measure 188, Beethoven uses the t8 closing theme of the exposition to set up the appearance of the new tonic (Actually, the subdominant region of the home key, if you subscribe to integrated tonal theory, as I do).

The i chord appears along with an episode built out of the head figure of the t2 theme. The initial measure repeats, and then progresses to the new subdominant level, which itself is a prefiguring of the next temporary tonic, which will be C minor. At measure 196, I have labeled the passage as cadential episode three. I'm not certain that will make it through to the final revision, but it seems appropriate for the time being. This little cadential motif returns, so there is a thematic element to it, but it is pretty generic rhythmically, so I don't consider it to be a proper theme.

A vii(d7)/V starts off the passage, and it is treated as a suspension of the following V(6/5)/V. Now, the ii diminished minor seventh in second inversion that appears in measure 197 I have analyzed using the precise intervallic definition within perentheses. Personally, I have never cared for this system, and I may change it to ii(dm4/3) for "two diminished-minor seventh in second inversion", but for the time being I am sort of going back and forth with it. The reason I do this is an artifact of my undergraduate degree being in jazz theory (And I studied at the Guitar Institute SW before even those years), and I still am somewhat more comfortable with jazz terminology, which basically describes almost everything in root position terminology first (Especially for us guitarists, who have the bass players or keyboard players defining the inversions for us), and the inversion second. Anyway, after all of these secondary dominant type sonorities, the V finally appears on the second beat of measure 197.

t1 combined with t1a then reappears at 198, and this is itself a variation of measures 180-187. I had to stack up the analysis symbols at the end of measure 201 to indicate the upcoming shift in tonic level, which is a perfect reflection of where I shifted back in measure 186. Again, it is the appearance of the next flat, A-flat, that promped this. B cuts this short this time around, but t8 again reappears to set up the next tonicised level at 206. These variation techniques, where repeats are characterized by thematic and harmonic inversion, are highly reminiscent of fugal technique, which Beethoven was obviously very fond of.

Our new tonicised region of C minor formally appears at measure 210, again with a variation of the passage that introduced the G minor back in measure 192 which is built of the head figure of the main theme, t2. ce3 reappears in sequence, but this time it is repeated in variation to set up the development section's first appearance of the complete main theme. Where B previously used the inversion of the ii chord, in these variations he uses hybrid structures to get more tension. I would argue against calling these suspensions, because the voices don't resolve by step. They are obviously functioning as subdominants though. In any event, they are very cool sounding and not something I have ever thought of doing myself in this kind of a context.

The main theme appears in the bass at measure 218, and the tail is now used as a development motif starting in measure 220. It's really neat how B hangs the arpeggios off of the repeated and tied G's. I returned the analysis to G minor in measure 222 due to the appearance of the A-natural. It is marked with an asterisk because it qualifies as a raised sixth degree when related to the previous region, and this is the first one of those in this entire piece so far: Just an interesting detail I'm keeping track of. The opressive prevailing darkness of the this music is related to the absence of the raised sixth degrees, and this little feature really does stand out as a "note of optimism" here.

At 224 t2 reappears back in the subdominant region, and now in the upper voice. The tail is again used to play out the subsequent development, which we will start out with next time.

I have a big outdoor concert coming up next weekend (Just a TON of acts appearing, of which I'm number four), which I will be preparing for the rest of the week, so no more blogging until next week sometime.

Friday, August 26, 2005

Intermission I

If you will notice, I have finally started a Music Blogs I Read section in the sidebar. I had been collecting links for just that purpose previous to my Cube's departure for the Macintosh Afterlife, at which point I lost them all. There are several others I had found which I have yet to rediscover, so if you are a music blogger and I have left you off of the list, please e-mail me the link or put it in comments and I'll check it out.

I would also like to start a list of non-blog musician sites that are interesting, so if you have any of those to recommend, consider this a Bleg. They need not be traditional/classical musicians, as I intend to put several jazz guys in, since I'm a recovering jazzer and still love jazz and listen to it a lot (Not to mention that ALL of my students are jazzers and rock and rollers).

It's looking like, with my busy practice and performing schedule, I'll be lucky to average one Beethoven analysis post per week. In fact, when I'm done with this post, I'm going to start getting another one ready for Monday. That's really not a bad thing, IMO, because I'm finding this project to be roughly analogous to composing a large piece of music: A bit of time to reflect and absorb what has already been comitted to paper (Or, pixels, in this case) is necessary to chart out where this is all going. And, as I have mentioned multiple times previously, there will have to be a second go-through with revisions later to tighten it up. Once the harmonic and thematic analysis is done, I have decided that I will also look at proportions, peaks, and other overall internal relationships. I'm not a particularly big fan of Schenker (Not because I think his approach is not meritorious, but simply because it isn't particularly directly applicable to my compositional goals), so I will not Shenk the thing (If, however, any reader wishes to take my analysis and make a Schenker graph from it, feel free. If you send me a pdf or jpg of it, I'll certainly post it with complete credits, cudos, props, and "Oh, WOW!"'s).



Some good news: The manufacturer of the products that caused me four months of equipment headaches came through like a champ. Above and Beyond the Call of Duty, in fact.

What happened began, as with most headaches in life, with the government trying to be helpful and protective: It seems like Canada decided that standard audio banana connectors were too similar to European power recepticles, so they mandated a change in the spacing of them. After all, we wouldn't want some clueless contestant for the anual Darwin Awards to - you know - mindlessly fry himself to satisfy our hunger for shadenfreude and do a little preventative clean-up and Cloroxing of the gene pool now, would we?

So, as a result, Monstercables now come with a flexible banana connector that can adapt between the standard spacing, or the Canadian-Totalitarian-Nanny-State-That-Believes-Citizens-Are-Too-Stupid-To-Think-Or-Live-Without-Their-Idiotic-Interferance spacing. It seems that the ones I got were v1. Alpha Test Units (Danger, Will Robinson!), or something, because the shielding became brittle and began to peel off of the individual strands of wire within the flexible boot of this Poorly-Though-Out-Response-To-A-Completely-Asinine-Governmental-Solution-To-A-Problem-That-Never-Existed. Naturally, when the strands finally made contact, you had the classic example... no, the epitome of a SHORT CIRCUIT!!!

Of course, since I've been using Monstercables since I worked at Manny's Music on 48th street in Manhattan back in the mid-eighties and never suffered a failure, and they have a lifetime warranty, AND they were brand spanking new and completely virginal in every way, THAT WAS THE VERY LAST THING I THOUGHT OF!

First thing that happened is that one of the internal protection fuses in my cherry Bryston 3B-NPB power amp went "poof". Since Bryston has a 20 year transferrable warranty, I was only out $30.00 for the shipping container and $65.00 for the round-trip shipping and insurance there. Aside from being without that amplifier for a few weeks, natch.

Figuring the culprit was the internal crossover in my Turbosound TXD-081 PA speaker, I set it asside and printed out a shipping label to send it off to be repaired AND ORDERED A $479.00 REPLACEMENT FOR IT!

Then, it happened again; only this time with my small venue rig, a DIFFERENT set of cables, and a DIFFERENT set of speakers. I believe the apropos internet acronym here would be "WTF?!" It was at that point that I took a look-see beneath the boots of the Caniadian-Braindead-Buttface-Politico-Mandated "new and de-proved" banana connectors and discovered the problem. I had to walk off of TWO GIGS by that time: Something which I hate to do above all else in my professional life.

I don't blame Monstercable for this series of debacles: They had to come up with SOMETHING that could adapt between the tried-and-true rigid and properly-spaced banana connectors and the Mandated-By-A-Bunch-Of-Basement-Level-IQ'd-Canadian-Pissant-Politicians version, didn't they? I'm sure Monster will come up with a more robust solution, BUT I CAN'T HELP BUT WONDER HOW MUCH THOSE CANADIAN-PARLIAMENTARIAN-PRICKS-WITH-HUGE-EGOS-AND-NO-BRAINS HAVE COST THEIR COMPANY!!! I mean, no way am I the only Monstercable user with this problem.

Is it any wonder us libertarians want to summarily fire at least 85% of all government employees? This isn't a political blog, but this time those dumbass politicians harshed my muse, man. AND THEY'RE NOT EVEN MY REPRESENTATIVES FROM MY COUNTRY!

Of course, the solution to the problem was to get a pair of adapters for each amp that are American-By-God-Rigid-And-Properly-Spaced bananas to 1/4" females and have Monstercable replace mine with 1/4" to Speakon's for my Turbosounds, and 1/4" to 1/4" for my Yamahas, which they have agreed to do. In fact, their PRO/MI AMD Rep, Jesse Gorman was an absolute jewel to work with: Extremely responsive (Within 48 hours), and he gave me his personal office extension with instructions to call. When I got his answering machine, he called me back within 15 minutes of my leaving him a message ON MY CELL PHONE. Great guy, great company. Canada, OTOH: Crappy politicians, beautiful State... er... Country.

Let's just hope nobody brings to the attention of the Canadian Parliament how much Speakon connectors look like sparkplug sockets.

Full Disclosure: I'm a US citizen born in St. Johns, Newfoundland, CANADA! Chances of me ever holding a Canadian passport again? -450,000 degrees below ABSOLUTE ZERO! Bunch of spaz-tards.


Back to Beethoven.

Monday, August 22, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, IV

Please excuse the lengthy interlude, but I have suffered a perplexing string of musical equipment failures over the past four months, and I finally found the gremlin. Unfortunately, the items are manufactured by a company who's products I have used more or less exclusively since the mid 80's, and I must admit that I am flabbergasted, since none of their products have ever failed on me in over twenty years, and two brand new units went bad within four months. In fact, I had prepared a "rant" to post, but thought better of it. Instead, I composed a very "complimentary, BUT" missive to them, and have decided to wait to vent my spleen pending their response.

Now that we have that taken care of, let us return to maestro Beetoven's symphony.

At measure 116, B introduces t6c, which could have come out of a big band jazz chart. The reason I say that is because this four bar passage uses a sequential progression of intimated parallel first inversion triads, each of which is targeted by a pair of upper and lower neighboring chromatic approach tones. I swear, if you add a swing feel to this, it will crack you up, because it sounds like "legit" big band jazz. Well, I thought it was interesting and funny, anyway.

The V chord that starts measure 116 is basically turned around upon and fleshed out at the beginning of measure 120, where I have marked t6d. I labored quite a while to come up with the analysis symbols for this passage, and I'm quite pleased with the formula I arrived at. The V(m9) chord is basically treated as a suspended sonority, so I have indicated what will happen within the perentheses, and put the resolution to the octave at the point where the resolution happens, again, within perentheses.

Though the duplets of measures are obviously octave displacements of the same suspension, the inversion of the chords changes, which I have also indicated. The V resolves dutifully to I, which performs an echo of the suspension figure again, only on the tonic level. To add an element of resistance to the tension involved here, B repeats this passage almost exactly in measures 124 through 127.

At 128 Beethoven speeds up the action by first contracting the previous suspension/resolution figure, and then varying it in the buildup to t7. This interlocking sequential 32nd note figure was seeded with that "strip of tape" I mentioned back in measures 34 and 35. It is deceptively simple on the surface, but the way Beethoven harmonizes it is, of course, quite the model of supreme mastery.

The first measure gives us your basic "Bb" (That's an inside joke and pun, just for the illuminati) ii to V progression, which dutifully resolves to I at measure 133. Then, Beethoven broadens out the harmonic rhythm to one chord per measure and progresses through ii (again) to the V/IV, which as I've mentioned before, is another in a series of prefigurings of where B plans to go in the development section "proper" later.

t7 is a six bar phrase, so page 8 of my "transcription of the transcription" begins with the final duplet of measures of that phrase. Here, we go through IV, which is completely tonicised with the presense of the A-flats, to V. Then, at t7b B makes one of those abrupt contrasts for which he so notable.

As an aside here, I must mention that I have been doing some investigative reading about Beethoven, in order to try to gain more understanding of him. From contemporary accounts, B was described in his youthful performing years as one who executed never before heard contrasts of tempo and dynamics in his interpretations of Mozart, among others (And he improvised his own outrageously provocative cadenzas). This evidently simultaneously astonished, confused, and outraged listeners. His development of legatto was also described as unpresidented, and he was evidently condescendingly hyper-critical of the harpsichord-derived technique of some of the hacks who were his contemporaries, which he described as "finger dancing". The reason I bring this up is to point out that this ethos of dramatic contrast was developed in Beethoven from a very early point in his musical quest. I personally do not subscribe to the "Beethoven as revolutionary" meme: I see him as a very logical evolution of the classical style, with the element of grace caried to it's logical fruition, and that is of stylistically nuanced expressiveness. The extremes of this expressiveness are not revolutionary in and of themselves, but are simply the self-actualization of B's personality. That this personal style was aped by those with lesser gifts and that it subsequently devolved into Romanticism is not B's fault (And, to be fair, there was much music of merit composed during the Romantic era which I love). But, it should be evident by this point, with the few crumbs I have uncovered, that B was of the same tradition and mindset which produced Perotin, Palestrina, Bach, Haydn, and Mozart. He was a first order musical craftsman and architectural master who had a profound command of his resources and was at one with the entirety of musical history.

Anyway, at measure 138 and t7b, B releases some tension, but with the ever-present dotted 16th/32nd note rhythmic figure providing interjections (admonitions?). This leads to t7c, which builds up to the final closing theme of the exposition at t8. In perenthetical brackets during t7b I analyzed the quantum mechanics of a phrase that caught my atention. B here sequences a set pf parallel first inversion triads over a tonic pedal point, and this is not something I would have thought of doing (Still wouldn't do this, truth be told). The effect is quite charming nonetheless, which is why I dug into it. The sequential repeats of the figure that drives the phrase don't have this feature, but there is a contracted variation of it in measure 143.

t8 is nothing more than an arpeggiated tonic triad using the omnipresent dotted 16th/32nd note figure we have encountered throughout the exposition in numerous guizes.

This closing theme continues at measure 154 and disolves into some muted 32nd note "slams" that lead back to the beginning of the exposition. However, since the exposition has a varied repeat within itself, the exposition does not have repeat indicators, as a more traditionally "classical" exposition would.

It is very interesting to note how the small accent B presents on the second quarter note of measure 160 is used to effect modulations throughtout the upcoming variation on t1. This accent returns in measure 166 expanded to the open fifth, but at measure 170, the accent sets up a modulation by becoming the V/IV.

As an adendum, I want to let you know I'm having an issue with filtering information here. There is no way I can describe everything I'm noticing about this music without each post becoming a dissertation. I am simply trying to present the analysis that I have come up with along with the comments that I think are most pertinent. Oh, and I appologize for my atrocious spelling. I know I couldn't correctly spell my way out of a wet paper sack if my life depended on it, and that is an unfortunate artifact of my indifference as a student until I went to music school after two dismal years at a "real" university. I refuse to use spell check, relying instead on Samuel Clemens' observation to an editor that you should, "Never trust a man who has but one way to spell a word."

Time to hit the sack.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, III

This is hard. It is becoming apparent to me that I am multi-tasking. I'm not good at multi-tasking [For some reason, people seem to assume that because I'm not singing, they can engage me in a conversation while I'm performing. They are shocked when I stop playing to speak with them. They think performing solo calssical guitar pieces is some kind of mindless mantra, I'm guessing]. I much prefer to concentrate on one thing at a time. In this project, a few of the things I'm trying to get a handle on - aside from the profound intracacies the music of Beethoven, of course - are 1] Developing analysis symbology that is expressible with the characters on a QWERTY keyboard, 2] Developing consistent analysis symbology, and 3] Becoming consistent with my application of that analysis symbology. Those are three very different things to me.

I'm certain, therefore, that this "liveblogging" of my analysis of The Ninth is just the most agonizingly grotesque manifestation of what the end result will turn out to be: Revisions and backtracking are inevitable, I'm afraid. With that in mind, I will continue with my shoot-from-the-hip, scatershot/blunderbuss, bull-in-a-china-closet, "so-called" analysis.

Thanks. That was a cleansing experience (Deeeep breaths). I feel better now. Shall we?

At measure 63, we continue with cadential episode two, which begins on the dominant level. This is the episode that started it all: I wanted to take a look-see at this to get some understanding of the linear cadential techniques that B employed so evocatively here in order to come up with some of my own ideas along these lines. Uh... it got out of hand.

The asterisk I have put in measure 64 is to mark the linear progression of an augmented second. You'll see a lot of these, as it seems that there are exactly zero raised sixth degrees in this movement. Just an interesting feature I want to keep track of.

All of the analysts I'm aware of who have tackled this passage before me have skipped over the quantum mechanics of the middle two measures, and just call these four measures a V to i. I, personally, hear alternating dominant and tonic harmonies here, swinging like a pendulum back and forth. That's exactly what a detailed look reveals.

The repeat of the phrase at measure 67 - with variation, of course - involves some arbitrary labelling due to Beethoven's consistent use of the trait of incompleteness, which I have mentioned several times previously. The final measure has one of those puzzling features I can wrap my brain around from a twenty-first century musician's point of view, but I really don't know how B related to this: I'm speaking of the hybrid structure of E-flat diminished over F. I use stuff like this all the time, but here, in this stark isolation, I am reduced to concluding that it is just Beethoven the "Tone Poet" doing his thing. If anyone has a penetrating analysis of this measure to offer, I'd certainly like to entertain your ideas. I must admit to having agonized over this for quite some time, which significantly delayed this particular posting.

Beginning in measure 71, Beethoven begins to effect a modulation to B-flat major, but he is also doing much more, as always. First of all, the vii(dm4/3) is mislabelled (Just noticed that). It is actually a iv diminished minor seventh, which progress by strong root motion to the bVII. Yes, I'll have to fix that, but back to the point: The bVII is actually a prefiguring. It really intimates the V/bIII, and it will in fact return later to fulfill that promise.

Immediately after introducing that temproarily frustrated "wanna-be-a-dominant" sonority on bVII, B uses a V(4/3/b)/V (Which is traditioanlly called a French Sixth chord) to get to the real dominant that is the goal here.

As an aside, I must tell you that this phrase was an exciting discovery for me. Years ago, I got into an arguement with my mentor, Dr. Gene Cho, over the origin of the so-called French Sixth. I postulated that it was the second inversion of the diminished minor seventh located on the second degree of the minor scale (Aolean mode) with a raised third, which made it just an altered secondary dominant sonority. Dr. Cho would never agree to this, considering that it was a purely contrapuntal concept, and that no classical-era composers thought of this relationship. Well, here's proof that they did: B first uses the diminished minor seventh in second inversion to target the bVII, and then he makes it into a V(4/3/b)/V on the repeat to target the new V. I rest my case.

With the modulation to B-flat major, the second confirmation of the significance of the E-flat introduced back in measure 24 (As part of the Neapolitan Sixth sonority) comes to fruition. The first was the prefiguration of this modulation with the second statement of t1a and t2 on this level starting in measure 51. This pitch of E-flat will return many times in just about every concievable guise as we progress through this movement: It is the organizational locus of this piece's entire development.

The first thing that appears with this development is the tender and merciful t3. After all of the horrifying tension that Beethoven constantly returns to in this movement, this is a welcome relief (And, we'll encounter it again, of course), not to mention a prefiguring of the ultimaste triumph over adversity that it represents. Over the page change to measure 80, Beethoven formalizes the modulation with a change of key signature.

t4 begins at measure 80, and this will return many times throughout the upcoming development. As a side note, I am thinking about relabelling things to better represent theme groups, but I'm not sure exactly how I want to do this yet, so it will have to await some revision steps later. In any case, t4 through t4b are my first real attempts at organizing theme groups, as they all seem to return in association with each other.

Note the continuing organic way that the themes or sub-themes grow out of each other. The dotted sixteenth/thirty-second figure of t4b even harkens back to the second cadential episode. The sonata process, like fugue, is of a natural fractal consistancy: The whole is built up of very small fractions of itself. Back when I was a doctoral candidate, I wrote some BASIC programs that generated fractal themes. A few of these were deeply compelling, and one or two even sounded like Bach had come up with them. As a result of those experiments, I am always looking for fractal traits in works by the greats, and they are present in droves.

t5 is one of my all time favorite Beethoven passages. Words fail me at this point, but it's like a rollercoaster ride, or something. Within the brackets I switched to a 12 point font and analyzed the quantum mechanics of the music. The first phrase ends with a nice half cadence, but the second engages in a bit more prefiguring, as the presence of A-flat and B-natural hint at upcoming episodes of C minor (Which uses the all-important E-flat as the third of the tonic triad, of course).

After the final duplet of measures that begins the final phrase of t5, we get t6, which is one of those "Only in Beethoven" things to me: He has a strong and emphatic cadential statement followed by one of extreme tenderness, and it works magnificently. I like how when you really look at the details, B's cadential statements are weird but logical. In measure 102, he keeps the root and third of the tonic triad constant, and the chromatic neighbor of the fifth creates a diminished minor seventh chord. In measure 103 this same device creates an augmented triad targeting the IV chord.

In the second statement of these cadential measures, B ingeniously lowers the third of the subdominant level triad to effect a modulation via common chord to the key of B major (Which has the E-flat, enharmonically appearing as D-sharp, again as the third of the tonic triad). This is "slicker 'n snot on a pumphandle", as some of us say here in Texas.

It is important to note that the B major to B-flat major relationship is that of the Neapolitan to it's tonic, so that first bII(6/3) back near the beginning of the exposition is reflected in this detail as well. This is simply marvelous organizational prowess that is on display here, and this is why I think that Beethoven, and not Bach or Mozart, was the greatest musical genius of all time. Nowhere else have I ever encountered so many unifying levels of organization that extend through so many layers of depth. This piece is, quite simply, impossibly masterfull.

Beethoven gets out of this corner of the musical universe via a direct side slip in measure 115. Mozart used this technique, but never in such an uncannily effective way as this. The nebulous and restless nature of this music combined with it's implicit spirituality simply keeps me in a state of persistant awe and astonishment. I don't know what you envision when you listen to this movement, but if I close my eyes I see the vastness of interstellar space and gargantuan nebulas and impossible planetary bodies with every kind and color of star everywhere. Seriously.

I need a nap.

Friday, August 12, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, II

It took me a while to decide how to label measures 21 through 34. Though there are thematic elements present, they are either very generic, such as measures 21 and 22, or they are very undeveloped, such as the rhythmic figure in measures 27 and 29. So, I decided to call these measures a cadential episode, and I will simply refer back to them as subsequent variations on them, and further developments of them, recur.

In measure 21, we get the first leading tone as a part of the first complete dominant triad, and across the bar line, the first real cadence. Note the smooth scalar progression of do through le in the upper voice from the beginning of measure 21 to the beginning of measure 24: The voice leading might appear to be fractured at first glance, but it is really totally smooth and simply has some octave doubling present within it.

Nothing B does is ever will o' the wisp, and the tonicisation of the fourth degree into measure 24 is no exception: This region of the home key will return later with further preorations. Note the incompleteness of the iv chord, which allows Beethoven to introduce the E-flat on the second eighth note of that measure creating the Neapolitan Sixth. Now, I analyze this chord as a flat-II major 6/3 and relate to it simply as one of the pantheon of secondary subdominant sonorities available through modal interchange - borrowed from the Phrygian mode in this case - but B doubtless related to it in the traditional way, so out of defference, I have included the traditional rationalization in the analysis. I have placed an asterisk above that E-flat, because there really is no way to over-emphasize it's significance: The entire development of this movement uses the pitch of E-flat as a gravitational center around which virually everything orbits. The fact that the pitch level climax of this first statement area occurs immediately afterwards is doubtless B's way of drawing attention to this fact.

I find the spicyness of the off-beat sonorities delicious, and so I added the analysis of the passing tones to measures 25 and 26: I do a lot of this sort of thing, because I want to fully digest whatever details I find interesting. The augmented eleventh is particularly nice, and defines the subdominant nature of the Neapolitan sonority authoritatively (Which by this time I percieve to be in root position).

The rhythmic figure in measures 27 and 29 is a "seed" that will eventually develop into a full-blown thematic statement, as I alluded to previously.

Another thing B does is leave high melodic notes "hanging", and then he returns to those pitch levels later and continues with the line. The D in measure 33 is an example of this: He'll return to it later in the exposition, and that D itseld is the resolution of the C-sharp in measure 27.

The 32nd note figure in measures 34 and 35 is another "seed" that will later be developed into one of the closing themes of the exposition, and it is amazingly cool how it acts as a staple or a piece of tape across the seam that connects the first statement area with the second: That seam is completely obscured by the figure. Note also that the i(6/4) never resolves to the V so there is another element of incompleteness here having to do with the cadence. B's little strip of tape does give the leading tone momentarily, but on the downbeat over the tonic "resolution". I absolutely love slick little details like that.

At measure 35 t1 returns, but now on the tonic level, so the entire first statement area reduces down to a V to i progression. Note also that were it not for two extra measures of cadential movement interjected into the first phrase on this page, this would be the most common type of 32 bar phrase group.

The t1 restatement on the tonic level initially proceeds as if there won't be any variation of it save for the pitch level. That initial impression is not negated until during the course of the second 16th note of measure 49 the pitch B-flat is introduced, creating an incomplete flat-VI chord. By this device Beethoven is able to make the second statements of t1a and the main theme, t2, in the region of the major submediant. I have analyzed these as being in the key of B-flat major, even though no definitive modulation has been made, so that the analysis will match up with the initial analysis of those themes on the tonic minor level: Beethoven is continuously using this slippery and incomplete trait as a characteristic of this movement, so some summarily subjective decisions are simply unaviodable.

Cadential episode two uses the head figure of the main theme, and is nothing like the first cadential episode, but note the similarity: The subdominant degree is again tonicised, and so yet more prefiguring of later development of this region is given.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, I

First of all, I have to admit that this is a totally 100% self-centered endeavor: I want to get out of this project what I want to get out of it. Precisely, I want to understand Beethoven's late symphonic compositional style in terms I can personally digest in order to further my own compositional goals.

I've been down this path before. Back in the mid nineties, I did this treatment on Bach's Contrapunctus 1 from the Art of Fugue. There is no way to explain in words how valuable an experience that was for me. After many years of writing so-so fugues, that analysis project enabled me to "touch the face of God" and write a string quartet movement that is the first large piece of mine that I can legitimately consider to be "masterful". Obviously, I'm hoping for a similar result here.

If you've been following this blog at all, you know I've been piddling around with a few ideas for a sonata-process symponic movement. That's how this all got started: I wanted to analyze a few of B's linear cadential formulas to get some ideas for that piece, and I suddenly realized that since "The Ninth" is my favorite composition in all of symphonic literature, I ought to damn well analyze the whole thing. Fortunately/unfortunately, or whatever, I'm not a particularly even-tempered individual: My brashness has often gotten me into things that were over my head before, and perhaps this is another in a long list of replays of that recurring theme in my life, but I am determined to proceed nevertheless.

As I have been entering Liszt's transcription into Encore, it has occured to me that the enormity of this task is overwhelming. After a couple of weeks, I am about half way through the Allegro. I hope that I'll be able to finish the analysis at about the time I finish entering all the notes. So, I'm going to ease into this as smoothly as possible to give readers the chance to get aquainted with my analysis terminology, and also to give myself a chance to continue with the tedium of entering the music. So, here we go.

Every single analysis of this movement I'm familiar with calls the first sixteen measures an "introduction". While it's true that these measures perform the function of an intro, they are nonetheless much more than that: They are in fact the first theme, which I have labelled t1 for theme one. The reason for advancing this classification promotion is that these measures return many times in the course of this movement with further levels of development. A quick comparison would be with the introduction to the Allegro of Beethoven's Fourth Symphony: Those measures never return, and in fact that movement is a failure in my eyes because the rest of the symphony does not live up to the potential of the intro. Here, B uses the intro as an integral part of the movement and incorporates it completely into it's subsequent development.

Not only that, but the opening sixteen measures organically develop within themselves to theme 1a. This organic and natural developmental style is a trademark of Beethoven's late works. He was so far advanced as a composer by this point, that all of his works of the 1820's are holistically integrated within themselves via this/these techniques.

Another thing to note here is the nebulous incompleteness and ambiguity of the music: The open fifth I have labelled as V(5/0) is only possible to rationalize because Beethoven says the key is D minor, and so we know the fifth is functioning as a dominant sonority. If a listener were to encounter this music "cold", there would be no way to know that: The open fifth could be tonic major or minor for all that's available to digest at this point. Beethoven continues to use this trait of incompleteness throughout this movement (Which has made it a bit... er... bear to analyze, by the way).

So, t1 develops organically into t1a, complete with all of the 32nd note "slams". At t1a we finally get an arpeggiated statement of the tonic minor triad, which I have dutifully labelled as i. This is the first point at which the key is actually established more or less definitively, but there has still been no real cadence.

t1a then leads organically into t2, which is the main theme of the movement. What t2 amounts to is one measure of tonic harmony, followed by one measure of dominant harmony. It is important to note here that the measure of dominant harmony has no third, just as the t1 area had no third. Like I said, Beethoven is intentionally using ambiguity to keep the tension level and uncertainty factor exactly where he wants it to be.

The phraseology is very regular tyranny of four-oriented to this point, and in fact, it pretty much remains that way with a few notable variations throughout the movement. Beethoven was no Brahms in this regard: His phrases are fairly regular, but never ever entirely predictable.

As for the overall subjective effect that this music has on me, it seems as if the primordial fifth episode is Beethoven garnering his resources, which come as a revelation from The Most High. Bit by bit they are given, and then in measure fourteen, lightning strikes. As he sees the light, the main theme is able to be revealed. But hey, that's just me.

If you have any suggestions or observations, please do feel free to share. It would be supremely cool if this could turn into a collaborative effort, regardless of the selfishness of my personal reasons for doing this.

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Gratuitous Sex: The Mac Mini Arrives

Good news. Great news, in fact. My FexEx guy showed up with the Mini this afternoon (I call him my FexEx guy because once they have to go to the trouble to find where I live, I kinda owe them that: "My MAN!"). I must say, this was the most complete "Christmas Experience" I've ever had with a new computer, and that's saying a lot, because Macs are never a chore to set up and get online post haste. Now, with Bluetooth and AirPort to grab stuff off of my laptops that are in other rooms of the Monestary, it really is an amazingly slick and simple process.

Of course, the diminutive size of the Mini is the first thing you'll notice about it, along with the sleek and simply elegant design execution, but what's "under the hood" is pretty amazing. I've always been into Apple's designs, and the extremely small ones at that, since I also have a 12" G3 500 iBook Dual USB and moved to the Mini from the calssically cool G4 450 Cube. I could stack five Mini's inside of the Cube's lucite shell and the Mini is 4x faster, comes with 4x the memory that the Cube did, has a Superdrive versus the Cube's original DVD-ROM optical drive, AirPort Extreme Versus the Cube's original AirPort card, and did I mention Bluetooth? More than that, though, the buss is twice as fast and the graphics card is several orders of magnitude better: I knew my 23" Cinema HD Display was good, but it looks like a whole new monitor when driven by the Radeon 9200 versus the old G-Force 3 that I retrofitted into the Cube a couple of years ago. This is as close to sex as a Monk is likely to get.

As you can see, I have a much nicer working environment that my tonsured bretheren of previous generations. Doesn't it look neat and tidy with the wireless keyboard and mouse? Yes, that's a Darth Maul mousepad, and I'm watching the SciFi channel.

I will begin preparing the first analysis post of the Allegro of Beethoven's Ninth after my gig tonight. It should be up Wednesday sometime. But now? Back to SciFi and Surfing!

Saturday, August 06, 2005

A Gleeful Rant

Life is not a box of chocolates, as Forrest Gump opined remembering his late mother. Life is more like the perfect jalapeno pepper to me: an exquisitely unique taste unavailable anywhere else that nonetheless is guaranteed to burn you in a deliciously ironic way. That's life: delicious and dangerous at the same time.

After a week that saw musical equipment failures that will end up costing me no less than $1.500.00, Apple finally shipped my Mini. It should be here sometime next week, so I'll be able to FINALLY start to present my analysis of Beethoven's Ninth. But it's cooler/weirder/more ironic than that, of course, because it's the "blistering jalapeno of life". It seems that every time some sort of debacle overtakes my endeavors, something uncannily wonderful comes of the tribulation. Either I meet someone who becomes a lifelong friend, or a valued business associate, or something along those lines: My life's clouds don't have silver linings, not even gold ones; my life's clouds have diamond-plate titanium-reenforced platinum linings!

So, I shorted out a circa $500.00 Turbosound PA speaker? Big deal. No problemo, jeffe. While searching for someplace to repair it, I ended up buying a backup pair of those Turbos for a fraction of the cost of new ones, and met a "speaker guru" who is now the man when I have an issue in that area. I love it when that happens, but I must admit that it's not unusual. In fact, it's almost routine. Any time some unforseen eventuality catches up with me, my initial reaction is still "Oh, crud" (Er, well that's a rough aproximation of my initial response, anyway), but my secondary reactive response is, "Cool! Wonder who I'll meet on this unexpected detour?"

I once heard a wise and successful man say that there are three keys to success in life (As a self-made BILLIONAIRE, I thought he might be worth listening to): Number one: Attitude; Number two, Attitude, Number three... Attitude. So yeah, I'm ticked off that I have to deal with this nonesense, but I figured it would turn out better for me than when I went into the deal, and it has. If I had thought otherwise? Does the term "self-fulfilling prophesy" ring a bell?

Then, there is the theraputic ointment that only blowing it all off and riding a motorcycle can administer. Hey, we all need our coping mechanisms, no?

Tuesday, August 02, 2005


I got this e-mail from Apple today:

"Dear Valued Apple Customer,

We appreciate your recent Apple Store Order WXXXXXXXXXXXX.

Due to an unexpected delay, we are unable to ship the following
item(s) by the date that you were originally quoted:

will now ship on or before 08/05/2005

Please note that product availability can change rapidly, and it is
possible that your order may ship much sooner than we anticipate. You
may even receive a shipment confirmation between the time we send this
email and the time that you read it.

If you prefer, you may change or cancel your order anytime before it
is shipped, and receive a prompt refund, by calling us at 800-676-2775
ext-56500 Mon-Fri 7am-10pm, Sat-Sun 9am-6pm (Central).

If we do not hear from you, we will continue processing your order.
You will receive an email notification once your order has been

We encourage you to visit or and click the "Your Account" button to view
the status of your order.

We appreciate your business and apologize for any inconvenience this
delay may have caused you. Thank you for shopping at the Apple Store!"

This really isn't the bad news it may appear to be. As I have begun to enter the music of Beethoven's Ninth into Encore, I have realized that I need to be way ahead in that part of the task in order to have a decent perspective for the analysis. I'm also encountering some passages that make me go "hmmmm": There are still areas where I'm afraid Beethoven's late style just leaves my powers of analysis in the dust. I'm not really putting them under the microscope at this point, but there may be a few phrases that I just have to bail out of. Perhaps some readers can chime in with some help at those points. We'll see. In any event, I'll continue to enter the music and await the Mini's arrival.

A hearty "See y'all later!" from the Texas Alps.