Saturday, October 15, 2005

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

First, a couple of things: I turned on word verification for comments due to "spam, spam, spam, spam, and spam", as they said in the old Monty Python skit, but I made it so non-Bloggers can comment (Anyone who fills out the word verification box). We'll see how that works.

I have also finally gotten a high speed internet connection in my remote part of the woods (Props to SBC: The settup was painless with the auto install/settup CD-ROM, even for this Macintosh addict, and only took a few minutes) and I absolutely love it. The upload to my smugmug account for today's ten pages of music (In JPG format @ circa 275K per) took only about two minutes. It used to be much longer than that for one pic! I don't know how I suffered with dialup for so long. Right now, I have the DSL modem directly attatched to my Mini, but I'm going to try to set up my AirPort for it just as soon as I work up the nerve.

Then, I have increased both my student load and my gigging schedule, so posting may be a once-a-week kind of deal for a while, and the Beethoven posts will probably be quite rare. Sorry about that, but it's a time thing. I'm also helping out a luthier/guitar tech pal of mine in return for some mentoring, so that is also a factor.

OK. On with the show.

Ever since I came up with the exposition for the guitar sonata movement, I have known that it required an introduction. I must have tried at least a dozen times to come up with one, but each attempt fell flat. It wasn't that I couldn't come up with something nice, pretty, or even compelling, it was just that the intros didn't imply - or foreshadow - what was going to unfold. Well, I finally solved the issue with a simple sixteen measure intro that has all the implications of what follows contained in it.

As you can see, I started out with the texture/figuration/thematic element - whatever you want to call it - that has a constant sixteenth note surface rhythm, in the predominant time signature of 3/4, and on a suspended dominant level sonority. By simply applying an ascending chromatic line in the bass (It's amazing how often the ultimate solution is so often the simplest, and seemingly the most obvious in retrospect), I was able to pass through the bVI(M7/addA11), vi(m7/add11), and arrive at the bVII(7), which is of course, the dominant of the secondary key of C major.

The F major-seven, add augmented-eleven and the F-sharp minor-seven, add-eleven are both inflections of the sixth degree that are played out later in the contrast between the A minor and A major modes respectively, so this foreshadows everything I wanted in a very simple and direct way. As a note about the term "add", and when to use it: Any time a degree of an upper structure triad is skipped, the term "add" is appropriately applied to note the missing degree; in these cases the ninth is missing, so the elevenths are added.

After getting to the dominant of the relative, I introduce the "real" leading tone with a deceptive motion, and following this is the rest of the "bridge" cadential episode that has been in, then out, then back in again as I've tossed this piece to and fro. Integrating it into the intro has cemented it's place in the movement. The only nagging doubt that remains at this point is the part of the cadential episode that implys the minor subdominant region of D minor: I never use this key in the development, so I may be forced to capriciously analyze the whole thing in A minor, but that would certainly be stretching it. The situation is that I extemporized this passage intuitively and analyzed it retrospectively, but it would be nice to fulfill those expectations for D minor. We'll see.

The rugged and resilient exposition has survived all revisions intact. I felt from the time I came up with it that it was a little piece of musical perfection within it's own tiny universe, and time has proven me right. At measure 44, you can see where the bridging cadential figure is again present, only this time slightly modified with a major gender 6/4 chord to lead to the tonic level major mode. Combined with the first appearance of it in the intro, and the later one to come before the recapitulation, this bridge has now become a powerful and indispensible structural element within the archetecture of the piece. That little area of D minor is still there though, as if it's taunting me to delve deeper into the piece.

When last we looked at this first section of the development, it was nothing more than a sort of counter-exposition with the modes reversed, and a couple of variations related to that process. I was never satisfied with that, and when I wrote the recapitulation with the second theme/texture/key area on the tonic, I got the key for this. Now, we get the second thematic section in the tonic major starting at measures 60/61. These three pages still comprise a kind of re-exposition (And in that sense, I do think of this as deriving from a compound form like the Scherzo, which is perfectly acceptable for the development of a sonata-process piece), but with that new element added, a kind of structural balance with the recap is created that was absent before. At measure 73 I wrote a fresh kind of cadential passage that leads back to the second half of the first theme/texture. It's like the second theme interrupts the first one, and I like the effect a lot.

Starting in measure 82, the mode reversal process continues with the introduction of the second theme area on the minor submediant level. With the third appearance of the V(m9) at measure 94 (Two counting the repeat of the exposition), it is finally allowed to resolve to where it "wants" to go. Thus, the repeat of the exposition is no longer an option either: It is required to get the "third time's a charm" effect of this particular resolution.

The second area of the development has not changed from the last time we looked at it, except for - I believe - the metric modulation from 3/4 to 4/4 at measure 105. This is no small change, however: It is not only smooth in an inevitable sort of way, but the following variation entirely in 4/4 is now much more effective as a result of the prolonged sounding second feature between the thirds and added ninths. It is timely to note that every theme/texture in this piece appears on both the tonic and relative levels, and in the major and minor modes, except for this one - and by that I mean the chord progression I vary here - because this chord progression does not have to, since it implies both the minor and major modes simply by virtue of what it is: two minor chords followed by two major chords all connected by strong progressive root motions. As I mentioned previously, this chord progression encapsulates the tonic to subdominant progression that starts out both the exposition and the "counter-exposition". It's sort of sly in that regard, if I do say so myself.

At measure 112 there is a note to guitarists playing on traditional non-cutaway classic guitars: That figure is impossible to play because it requires a barre formation to get the G-sharp. I can barely manage it on my acoustic non-cutaway, but it is possible with a little patience and practice.

The melodic climax of the piece is now at measure 113 (Measure 140 with the repeat of the exposition), and this now falls at the 75% point versus the previous (And, more desirable) 66% point. This may be yet another hint from the Almighty that I need an area of D minor and a small secondary development in the coda or something. That would actually be the perfect place for it (He says to himself, thinking out loud), because the final appearance of the bridge cadential figure happens at measure 125 (In the original form of the introduction, leading back to the tonic minor), and the unfullfilled D minor implication is still present there. "Hmmmm. Veeeeery eeeenteresting."

Here's the new and improved recapitulation. I wanted it to return, after the development... well... developed, and that's what I've done. The tonic and subdominant chords now both have the added ninth. The tonic aquired it back in the counter-exposition, and the subdominant aquired it in the second part of the development. With the second appearance of the tonic chord, we get a harkening back to the major mode: This is preceeded and followed by the V(9) chords borrowed from the parallel major through the process of modal interchange (Which this entire movement is all about). Immediately after that, however, the minor versions of the chords of the submediant and subtonic degrees appear, so the major mode is just a memory at this point. Making the subtonic dominant sonority into an augmented seventh chord at the last moment enables the former V(7)/bVI to become a so-called French Augmented Sixth, and the formerly lax idiomatic guitar-type voice leading is tightened up to become quite traditionally strict. I like that effect/concept.

The second theme area now in the tonic minor has not changed, but afterwards it is different. Currently, I'm using the cadential figure from the counter-exposition section of the development to return to the intro, but going through the process to create this post has made me think what I need to do is write a Cadenza at this point (Yes! That's it! I can do a D minor episode there and get the climax back to the 66% point!). As it stands now, the Codetta is the introduction, but the leading tone is allowed to resolve to it's target. This creates an ending that is both a bit unsettlingly abrupt, but absolutely perfect for the opening movement of a multi-movement composition. I mean, the end here is not the end, after all. I am quite pleased with how this is coming along, and I'm currently obsessed with it, so you'll probably hear about it again.

As usual, if you would like to download current PDF and MIDI files of this piece, they are posted on my .Mac Fileshare page as O_STA_0_1.pdf and O_STA_0_1.mid.

The Scherzo is also there as O_STA_0_2.pdf/mid. I've been performing that for a while now, so I'll probably polish that up with a couple of very minor details when I get this sonata finished. Then, the four voice guitar fugue, which I already have the subject for. ;o)


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