Saturday, January 07, 2006

Ricercare in C Major III

I have started working on the next installment of Convertible Counterpoint, and have saved it as a draft, but I would like to get this piece "out of the way" so I can quit composing for a while. That will allow me to start recording the MP3's for my FileShare page/CD re-recording, and then I can divide my time between those two complimentary efforts (Intense practicing requires periodic rest, during which I can work on CCP posts). Not to mention that I am already far enough behind with memorizing and learning to perform several pieces I've written in the past year, and I have a few "crowd pleasers" I also want to add to my set (Mood for a Day by Steve Howe and Yankee Doodle Dixie by Chet Atkins currently top that to-do list). I tend to work like that: I'll compose a bunch of pieces over the course of six months to a year, and then I'll stop composing for a while in order to learn the new stuff along with other pieces I've decided I want in my set. Currently, I have about two hours worth of music memorized, and I want to add another hour to that in the next two years. Should be doable.

As I have gotten past the initial euphoria I always experience when I manage to make some musical progress and have listened to the pieces enough to let my skeptical jaundiced ear kick in, I have begun to notice the perfunctory nature of the episodes in this Ricercare and the related final movement Fugue. The Extempore is so nicely organic and improvisatory in it's feel that I'm thinking that I will probably re-work the episodic passages, but that will have to wait until I start memorizing them. I had a great idea for an extended version of the first two episodes as I was drifting off to sleep last night, but it had vanished from my memory by this morning, though the gist of it was that there was an antecedent/consequent phrase and the re-entry of the subject was smoother.

On that note, I used to force myself to arise and write down sketches of ideas I would have as I was falling asleep, but that turned out to be both self-destructive and not very fruitful. Self-destructive insofar as I have an insomniac streak that really needs no encouragement to wreck my following days, and not too fruitful insofar as I remember the best ideas most of the time anyway.

One of the reasons I use very short episodes that are little more than modulatory links goes back to a conscious decision I made years ago: I was interested in efficiency. I was at point a and I wanted to get to point b, so I decided that the shortest path that used thematically-related material was the best one. Well, I'm glad I went through that phase because it taught me a lot about making effecient modulations, but now I'm starting to come to the realization that episodes offer an opportunity to meditate on various aspects of the thematic material that are beynd the reach of a proper statement of the subject or answer, or one of their quadrant rotations (Rectus, inversus, retrograde, and retrograde inversions are derived from the geometric quadrant rotation of the subject and answer: Write a subject on a clear overhead projector page and flip it all four ways and you'll get the idea).

Lat night - well, this morning actually - I had a nice idea occur to me that had me produce an entire page of music, but not until I had gone through the usual audition/rejection process that just seems to be part of the nature of working on this particular piece. Page one is not changed in any way, so I won't re-post it. You can just scroll down if you are new to this thread.

The only change to page two is that the top voice in the final measure has been lowered an octave to get the modulation to the range I needed for the first statement of the subject in B minor. I like how this change accentuates the change of modes by being "all serious and stuff" in this lower register.

This minor mode section concerns itself with 2-3 and 7-6 suspension chains, as the previous section concerned itself with the 4-3 chains. In this regard these two areas are analogous to those in the final fugue, but the modes are reversed as well as the keys being different. As I have mentioned previously, these keys here are also "out of bounds" for a strict fugue. In the section on page two I composed all new third voices for the countrapuntal combinations, but here - after the initial statement of the subject - all three thematic statements are lifted directly from the final fugue. Those statements in the fugue were in the key of G major and these are in F-sharp minor, so the tonal level here is only a semitone lower, and of course the mode is minor in this case.

Writing something and changing the mode is something I always audition. Many interesting effects often appear. The augmented second between the top voices in measure forty-five is particularly nice.

One of the coolest results of this lifting of material and the level it ended up on is the final chord at the end of measure forty-six: In the previously-written fugue this is a dominant seventh chord on D that resolves deceptively into the concluding episode that modulates from E minor back to A minor. It's a very nice effect, so how could I "top" it for a more adventurous Ricercare? Well, here, we have a dominant seventh chord on C-sharp that appears headed to resolve naturally to F-sharp minor or deceptively to D major. Nope. By interpreting this chord as a D-flat dominant seventh, It can be made to resolve directly to C major while functioning as a subV7/I (Traditionally referred to as a Ger.+6/I). This is, quite frankly, just the bee's knees. It's like a sudden burst of sunlight to the ears after being in a minor mode-induced foggy funk. Of course, I'm again in the position of not knowing exactly what I'm going to do next, but I've managed to muddle through this far, so I'm sure something will come to me.

Now it's time to break the metronome out and start my slow-play practice routine to get ready for recording my pieces. Then - since I got my running on track last year - it will be time to dust off my old Bowflex for this year's resolution.

(sigh) If it were only that easy.

I just love Elvgren's women: sexy and innocently all-American at the same time.


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