Sunday, October 23, 2005

Left Turns and Musical Humor

Sometimes I crack myself up. The guitar fugue was coming along nicely, and I had arrived in B minor (The supertonic minor) after the second episode I wrote (Which was just a variation on the first one). But, there was a problem: None of the material worked in B minor. Not on the guitar, anyway. As I mentioned before, immitative counterpoint is not even really idiomatic to the guitar, so a writing strict fugue on the fretboard is frought with problems and perils.

I had developed the subject-related materials in A minor, so you would think that a silly whole step higher would be no problem. Not so. The open strings I relied upon in A minor were suddenly absent, and the way I wanted to exposit the subject and countersubject ran me into intractable range and fingering problems. I tried a lot of things: The rectus and inversus forms of the subject/answer combo, a variation of the subject and answer with chromatic tetrachords replacing the diatonic ones - also in both rectus and inversus orientations. Several other variations as well. Bzzzzzzzzt! "But, thanks for playing the game, Hucbald!" Nothing happening. The key of B minor was out of the question.

Well, I had by this time modified the second episode to a point of perfection, and I fell in love with the darned thing. So, I began to work with the materials and found that not only was the key of C major available (As I had known from the beginning), but the key of G major was as well. Not only that, but when I was piddling around in G major it suddenly hit me: I could do 2-3 and 7-6 suspension chains against the subject and answer in that key. It was a moment all composers are familiar with: "So, that's what this piece is about: Suspension chains!" My favorite way to write fugues is as canonic combinations, so that they'll come out to be stretto fugues, but this subject and answer didn't have much to offer in that area, so it was nice to finally have the crux of the piece revealed to me.

Back to that episode: OK, I'm at a big, fat F-sharp dominant seventh chord. I can get to G major by... going there directly! Of course! A simple deceptive resolution! Well, ah... it has a humorous effect. With all of those uber-serious minor key prerorations preceeding it, it's just... funny. So - what the heck - I just compounded that by the way I wrote the counterpoint to the suspension chains and adorned the final cadential measures. I laughed myself silly. Really. Not sure if it will stay in this form or not, but here's what I did.



The exposition and first episode are unchanged (This is, in fact, a re-link to yesterday's photo). I'm 99.9% solid on this.



The only change to the second page (First middle entries/second episode) is the quarter notes in the top voice in the episode. The E and D originally took up the entire second and third measures of the episode, but I was not happy with the repeated D into the final measure of it. That small change really added more than the sum of it's parts to it, and that's one of the resons I am desparate to keep it. And then, I used the fourth (and the fifth inversion) in the counterpoint for the following entries, as you'll see. I would say I'm 97.2% sure I'll keep this page as-is.



Here we are: Instead of starting the subject off against the quasi-dissonance of a fourth below as previously, I start it out this time against the real dissonance of a major second. This is colorful, but not at all jarring. All you have is a 4-3 suspension resolution inside of it's fifth. No biggie. You can see the quarter note fourths in the bass between A and D, which integrates with the previous episode, and those notes are open strings, so this is the only key that this passage will work in. And, the second and seventh suspension chains don't work out well in the minor mode either.

As mentioned previously, I want the third episode to be constant sixteenth notes, so I'm working up to that by embellishing the cadential final measures of the subject and answer. It's funny, but these passages remind me of Fernando Sor for some reason. That's funny to me, because I really don't care for his music much.

The statement of the answer is as far as I've gotten so far. The G is not an open string, but the seventh suspension chain is much easier to play than the second suspension chain is, so the passage isn't too overly taxing.

The bottom two staves are the stretto conclusion, which I've developed with a constant sixteenth texture after the dotted eighth in the final measure. I take this close from 72 BPM to about 27-36 BPM, and it now has an inevitable finality to it that was juuuuust missing previously: This is a true perfect cadence now with ti-do in the lead and sol-do in the bass. While I'm not too sure about the G major entries yet, the ending is at that 99.9% point now.

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