Sunday, October 02, 2005

Beethoven's Ninth: Allegro, VI

OK. Sorry for the lengthy intermission, but this blog IS a musings type of deal, and nothing more than a place for me to talk to myself out loud and organize my thoughts. As a result of that, tangental expositions are to be expected: I'm not the most lineal of thinkers. So anyway, I have the next three pages of The Ninth ready for public consumption. Part of the deal here is that I don't want it to be burdensome: I want to keep it fun, so I'm not going to force myself to push to get these posts together. Another thing is that I don't want to rush through without enough time to think things to a focal point. Once I'm done with this once-through though, I'll revise the analysis and post a PDF of the whole thing on my Fileshare page. Uh, it may be a while (I feel a book length exposition on this piece coming on. Seriously).

Before I get to that though, I want you all to know I continue to revise my little guitar sonata experiment. It's much closer to being performable than I thought at this point (I've been busting my butt on technique for the past few months, so I'll probably have it worked into my set by December), and I've added the repeat for the exposition back, and the bridges, and I added another metric modulation to the development. The bridges imply a Neapolitan to V to i in D minor, and I'm cogitating on how to add an episode in that region to the development. I'm thinking that will be the final key to making that movement complete. I'm not going to post any more on that piece until I think it's actually finished, but I will be updating my Fileshare page with the revisions for those interested. Right now it's just one step beyond the last post, with dynamics and performance indicators if you want to check it out (And the MIDI file is spruced up to reflect those improvements). I'll add a new version to Fileshare after this post, so if you wait a day or two, you'll have the latest version.

Now, back to Herr Beethoven.

We are into the high development of this movement now, and B is pulling out all the stops. As a result, I've run into some thorny passages which have given me severe heartburn. Where another lesser composer might employ a sequential passage and have it just go through whichever key areas happen along, Beethoven rearranges the supporting voices to traverse regions that are structurally significant to the piece as a whole. That's one of the things that seperates the men from the boys in composition. This has caused me to hold my head in my hands in utter dispair a couple of times: It's just a whole unexpected level of music creation I'm encountering here. Bach has never done this to me (Even when his canons are impossibly cool, the harmonic progressions are as transparent as Carribean seawater). I have resorted to looking ahead and working my way back a few times. Trust me, this is the only way to figure this stuff out sometimes.

One of the things Beethoven does is that he avoids significant pitches - let's say B-flat for example - and by doing that the harmonic progression is amorphously hovering between two (or more) regions. This kicks ass as a musical effect, but it's a bitch to analyze (Where's the fracking leading tone!!!). You get the picture.

Let's dive in, shall we?

When we left off, B had just introduced the main theme, t2, in the minor subdominant region. On the top of page thirteen, he spins out an episode on the tail of that theme. I got distracted with some miniutae of the quantum mechanics in measure 229, but the harmony is quite clear here.

At measure 231, Beethoven sets up the next modulation to the major flatted submediant region, and he restates the entire main theme on the new pitch level starting in measure 232. After that thematic statement, he again uses the tail figure to spin out another episode in the new key area.

Page fourteen caused me a lot of problems. Whereas B was just hanging triads off of the prevailing pedal of the t2 tail previously, here he starts a sequence in the supporting voices. To listen to it, the sequence is very obvious. To alalyze it is not so simple. As I have made evident many times previously, I love to indulge myself with the task of analyzing the quantum mechanics of the music: I want to rationalize the harmony for every sixteenth note. That lead me down a path to invincible despair and frustration here. Only by taking a more macro view was I finally able to figure out where B was taking us.

Basically, he's going to the minor dominant level region. To get there, he traverses bIII (The relative major), and the tonic. Once I "stepped back" and saw what he was doing, it was pretty cool. Looking at these passages under a microscope was an exercise in futility though. Note that where I began the analysis in A minor there is no B or B-flat. This is what I was talking about. I had to go forward and work my way back to figure this out. I'm a granite-brain, so it took a few min... hou... uh... days.

Once the new leading tone is introduced in measure 249, it's not all that difficult, but I spent two days from 243 to 248. Like I said: Rocks in the box.

At measure 253, Beethoven switches to the head figure of the main theme, t2, and starts a new sequence with duplets of measures. The harmony is again crystal clear here, which was a relief.

Beethoven dwells in the minor dominant regon for a significant amount of time. More than on any other pitch level in the development so far. This entire page is in that region. Since the piece starts on an open fifth on the dominant level, "no surprise here": There are no accidents in Beethoven.

The main theme's head figure continues to be used throughout this page, but the changes in the musical expression - or feel, if you prefer - are amazing considering that fact. The episode that begins at measure 267, using the "tail of the head" is one of my favorite moments in this movement. Note that there is nothing remotely resembling a cadence, yet the sequence in the lead voice is as common as dirt. It's just so cool what he does here. The supporting voices are quasi-sequential, but then again, they aren't. It's simply sublime. I spent a lot of time here.

The last system goes back to the entire head figure, but just as a transition to the next episode.


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