Friday, January 06, 2006

Ricercare in C Major II

I find it fascinating how different pieces come together in different ways and with different levels of difficulty associated with them. It was probably four years from the time I came up with the Sonata Zero fugue theme and the time I had the exposition worked out. To be fair to myself, I wasn't really working on it all that time, as I was following a non-musical career detour during that period, but part of the problem was that I was going for a four-voice exposition... on the guitar. When - after a long layoff from even thinking about it at all - I returned to it and decided to make it only three voices, the piece came together within a couple of weeks. In trying to recall particular problems I had with it, I'm drawing a blank: It pretty much wrote itself within that relatively short time span.

The Extempore was even easier. That piece took only a few days. Working on it was, in fact, a very pleasant experience. Well, this Ricercare is different: It seams like every single measure is frought with problems that stem from the ridiculous number of possibilities I have combined with my attempting to have the finished piece turn out to be organically related to both the first movement Extempore and the final movement Fugue. You would think with all of the material I have developed through the other two pieces, that this ought to be a snap, but it most decidedly isn't. Once I get a phrase off of the ground, I get a few measures done relatively quickly, but it's the decision-making processes for the different areas of the piece that are giving me headaches. I think I want to do x, but that doesn't work, so I try y: When that doesn't pan out either, I'm left scratching my pounding head. Then, seemingly out of nowhere, the idea for z comes to me, and I have it (Today's z occurred to me as I was showering before my gig this evening... er... Probably more information than you actually needed).

As you can see, the first page hasn't changed at all. Actually arriving at this strange "exposition" took several days though, during which time I tried many different constructs that... sounded terrible. Part of the problem is that I'm having to think "upside down" both thematically and modally, and this inverseness leads to the "natural" solution being very different than what I arrived at for the fugue. The reason is, of course, that the tonal/modal system does not simply invert as a symmetrical mirror image: Parts of it do (The perfect consonances), but parts of it do not (The imperfect consonances), and what makes a "harmonic progression" in the rectus has a very strange modal effect with the quasi-inversus form of the subject I'm using here. This modal effect is also beyond my ability to predict in terms of usable effectiveness, so I have to do a lot of experimentation before the correct solutions become apparent to me. Inverted forms of the episodes turned out to be so bizarre that I abandoned them entirely: Not only did they not end up where I wanted them, but they had no real cadential effect at all.

Here is the second area of the piece on the dominant level of G major. I also tried a boatload of various ideas here that didn't work out. What I really wanted was the thematic statement that begins above in measure twenty to begin in measure sixteen. But it just wasn't cutting it with the cadence to the widely-spaced G major chord there. It was a couple of days before I got "The Shower Revelation": This turns out to be the perfect point to "look back" to the Extempore because G major is only a whole step below A minor, and the expository passage from the Extempore was never stated in the major mode. Voila.

Since this is a Ricercare and not a fugue, there is a lot more freedom in terms of handling both key areas and thematic material. Personally, I prefer to let a form (or process) influence the range of choices I allow myself: A fugue is only in closely-related keys (Tonic, dominant, and relative usually, with the possibility of the relative of the dominant and the Subdominant key-pair as well: This reduces to the tonic key-pair and key-pairs one sharp and one flat in either direction of the tonic. Some of Bach's "Contrapuncti" never modulate at all). A ricercare can venture further afield (Beethoven's Op. 133 Grosse Fugue is actually a ricercare, as it's all over the tonal map: He even put "sometimes researched, sometimes free" in the title, which would have been unnecessary had he given it the correct categorization. But hey: He was Beethoven; the man did whatever he wanted).

A ricercare can also treat thematic material more freely than a proper fugue. Limiting yourself to one subject - or a series of subjects as in a multiple fugue - and treating it exclusively and exhaustively is not required. In fact, one of the distinguishing features of a ricercare is that it has a lot of various subjects that the composer picks up and sets down at his discression.

So, I re-used the exposition from the Extempore at the modulation to G, and it is heard here in the major mode for the first time in the Sonata. As you can see, I changed the fourth measure to reflect the tail figure of the subject/answer pairs of the piece, which also allowed me to avoid the riot of sixteenths that permiates the Extempore. Not only that, but the two upper voices now cadence into a unison - which since it is an open string is perfectly playable - that launches the phrase I initially wanted back in measure sixteen very effectively.

The rectus and quasi-inversus pairs in the phrases starting at measure twenty use the 4-3 suspension chain that is found in the fugue, but the third voice completely redefines them. Unfortunately, the unison in measure twenty-five is not playable (Not easily enough for me to bother with it, anyway) - so the top voice is forced to rest - but that the third voices are slightly varied mirrors of each other is still pretty obvious, and the overall effect is quite nice.

At the second episode I use a very wide open voicing, which is made possible by the open strings involved, and this is entered via a deceptive resolution of the previous dominant sonority. In the concluding fugue the deceptive resolution comes at the end of the corresponding episode. The next section will be in B minor, which is two sharps away from the tonic, but since this is a ricercare, no problem. B minor is also the key of the upcoming Scherzo so it will tie in quite well to the overall plan.

I have no idea what I'm going to do now. Other than turn the heat up, that is: The unseasonably warm weather we've had for the past week or so has suddenly vanished, and it's below freezing now.

Yes, fireplaces do have certain advantages over forced-air heat.

I am ramping back up into busy-gigging mode, so I will have the next installment of Convertible Counterpoint ready Saturday or Sunday. Chapter III is quite short, but not Chapter IV, so knocking out two of them may be too big a bite to chew. We'll see.

Though Taneiev says that this book is not the place for the rules of simple counterpoint, he nevertheless spends all sixteen pages of Chapter IV reviewing them, and there are some groovy musical examples there, so it will be nice to get Chapters II and III out of the way. Unfortunately, II and III contain more unfamiliar new concepts, so it may be slow going.


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