Monday, September 26, 2005

Thoughts on the Sonata "Process" (And Guitar): III

I just got home from the doctor's office. Seems that my cold from hell turned into an infection. Since I still have my tonsils, this isn't the first time I've had a problem like that. Evidently, the infection worked it's way into my eustachian tubes, so the doc didn't want to waste any time with it. "Why did you wait so long to come in?" I had no answer for that. Anyway, since I'm not allergic to penicillin and haven't had any since I was a kid, she decided to "nuke it." And, she complimented me on my Saturday performance before she shot me. ;^) Back to the subject at hand.

To be honest, I have not been interested in analyzing Beethoven since I started my little sonata experiment. Fortunately, I have gotten it to a state of completion, so I'll present that today before getting back to the Ninth. If you'll recall, I had an exposition and a recapitulation written, along with a little bridge, for the last post. Well, the bridge is gone, as is the repeat for the exposition. Other than losing the repeat and some notational improvements (Beaming groups), the first 27 measures of the exposition survived intact. I have added some metronome and performance indications, but I'm going to wait a while to do the fingering. The only significant change is in measure fifteen. I had a dominant seventh/minor ninth there before. I have changed that to a regular V(9) chord to properly anticipate the upcoming major mode, and have saved the dominant seven/minor ninth for later.

In lieu of a repeat, I wrote a variation of the exposition with the modes on the respective pitch levels reversed: A major to C minor.

Writing the first theme in the parallel major lead to some nice effects. In measures five and six of the original, there was a major seventh chord on bVI followed by a dominant seventh chord on bVII. This time at the same point (Measures thirty-two and thirty-three), there is a minor seventh on vi followed by a fully diminished seventh on vii. By avoiding the "normal" resolution for this chord and instead mirroring the original strong root progression of the ascending fourth found in the minor, I was able to get to a secondary dominant targeting vi, and the voice leading allowed that dominant to be an augmented ninth sonority. It's a niffty little effect. Then, immediately after that, there is an extra measure inserted that is not in the original theme area, which has the targeted vi(m7), and that sets up the Neapolitan triad in 6/4 inversion found at the beginning of measure thirty-six. Using this variation of the exposition instead of a simple repeat adds a lot of interest.

The second phrase of the first theme area starts out the same, with a V(7)/IV, but it is inflected with the F-sharp to reflect the mode of the moment. When the vi chord returns, it get's the sounding second treatment and is the second additional measure to this variation. The way it goes from a minor seventh/add eleventh to a major seventh/add augmented eleventh on bVI is a nice moment. The dominant seventh/minor ninth on bVII becomes the new V chord, with the inflected minor ninth anticipating the second theme area being in the minor mode. This is why I changed the original exposition at this point to have a major ninth.

Having the second theme in the parallel minor to the previous relative major also lead to some nice effects, especially after being followed by the key of A major. I was able to use the #iv(m7/add11) in measure forty-nine to the IV(M7/addA11) in measure fifty again (Which was bVI previously), which has added yet another measure to this varied repeat of the expo. The second phrase of this theme repeats almost exactly as in the original appearance save for the minor mode inflections, and by allowing the final dominant seventh/minor ninth chord to remain without having the F-sharp in the bass on the fifth beat, the development area starting on C minor is set up. Keep in mind that the first version of the exposition was twenty-seven measures in length, and the varied repeat was thirty measures: These proportions are exactly mirrored in the second half of the piece.

For the the first version of this development section, I decided to write a chord progression and vary it using all of the textures that have been presented in the exposition. Using textures for contrasting material versus using speciffic identifiable melodic themes is something I prefer for this kind of guitar writing, and it is a stylistic approach that not very many composers have explored on this instrument in this idiom. At least, none come to mind who have.

The progression is a six measures long, the first four of which are a minor key cliche: i, iv, bVII, bIII. I like this for two reasons: 1) The piece starts out with a strong root progression from i to iv, and this is echoed by the I to IV of the varied repeat, and 2) the two minor chords are followed by two major chords wich encapsulates both versions of the exposition, and it's all linked together by this same strong root motion (Rising fourth/falling fifth). I continue this strong root motion to the bVI, which enables me to introduce a French Sixth sonority to the V chord. So the entire progression is, i, iv, bIII, bVI (Fr.+6), V.

For the first statement, I use the original texture, so it begins like the exposition on a different pitch level. In the first variation, I use the sounding second thematic element between the thirds and the added ninths. This is elaborated in the third repeat to get the sounding seconds with the sixteenth-note surface rhythm, and the direct modulation to A minor from the dominant of C minor by deceptive movement is a dramatic effect I have been saving for just this moment. It's pretty cool.

The B-flat in the lead at measure sixty-three is a new high point for the piece, and that is followed by the higher yet B-natural and C from measure sixty-nine to seventy, so I am building toward the pitch climax of the piece throughout this section.

Measures seventy-four and seventy-five continue this buildup at a quicker pace to the highest A-natural in measure seventy-six. For those of you who are not guitarists, this A-natural is only a whole tone below the highest note on the standard classical guitar fretboard. In terms of measure numbers, this climax comes at 0.6604 through the piece, which is about as close to the ideal 2/3's point as you can get. In that respect, I find the archetecture of the piece to be quite deeply satisfying.

The pace quickens in measure seventy-six as well, with the change to the second contrasting time signature of 2/4. At the end of this fourth variation of the chord progression, I make only a slightly less dramatic re-modulation back to C minor by keeping the sounding E-natural over the new V chord. I definately worked on this transition more than anything else in the piece, and am quite satisfied with the result. It was one of those things that when I settled on it I said, "Of course!"

Variation five is the same as variation four except for pitch level and the ending of it, whith the notational difference simply being a reflection of the fact that the G-natural is an open string below the strings where the melody is played, and so it sounds continuously from attack to attack. Measure eighty-seven just get's us back to the beginning to set up the recapitulation.

I said that I thought the recap would survive intact, and it did, save for some minor details. It picked up the add nine chords from the development section, and I introduced an augmented fifth over the bVII(7) chord to lead into a V(4/3/b)/bVI (Or, a French Sitxh, if you prefer), which enhances the regular secondary dominant that was here in the exposition. Disregard the bVI(addA11) symbol, as I changed that back to an ordinary major seventh chord at the last minute.

The second theme in the tonic minor appears in lieu of the second phrase of the first theme: That hasn't changed. In fact, the rest of the recap is the same as when I first wrote it, with the exception of the notational improvements having to do with beaming groups together.

So, "There you have it: There it is!", as the prince said in Amadeus: A simple little experiment limited to two pitch levels and two theme groups just to fart around with the sonata process. Not only did I have fun writing this, but it's also fun to play (Those are my only two criteria for guitar pieces: They have to be fun to listen to and fun to play).

The proportions of the sections in measures are | 27 || 30 || 30 || 27 ||, and as I mentioned previously, the climax is at almost precisely the 2/3's point. What I'll probably end up doing is expanding the development at some point, but I'm going to perform it for a while first just to get it cemented in the ol' noggin.

I have put a PDF and a MIDI file of this on my fileshare page here, if you would like to take a listen. The files are near the bottom and are O_STA0-1.pdf and O_STA_0-1.mid respectively. If you have Quicktime and Mac OS X, you'll even get the cheesy nylon string guitar sound (Not sure if that sound comes with Windows, but it's a General MIDI thing, so even you poor PC users should be OK) ;^D

That shot has made my butt sore. Believe I'll take a snooze.


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