Saturday, February 18, 2006

Axial Fugue II

This is quickly becoming my favorite piece of all time. I was awake for over thirty-six hours straight working on it, and that hasn't happened to me for over ten years; since I wrote my string quartet fugue. This fugue, like the previous one, has been directly inspired by Bach, but unlike the previous fugue, this is for the guitar, which I'm far more excited about since I'll be able to play it myself. Not to mention that it's an order of magnitude more advanced in both concept and execution. And size: It's at a fast tempo, so it won't be very long in duration, but as the plan stands now, it will end up being circa two-hundred-fifty measures in length. This is by far the largest piece I've ever written, though I've attempted and abandoned larger ones.

I have decided to treat this piece as a sonata-process one (Since this is a post-Haydn world, after all (That's a joke, by the way)), so the term "exposition" - as I'll be employing it - will refer to a section of the piece that extends beyond just the subject/answer area of a traditional fugue. Since it's a sonata-process piece, the radical selection of tonal regions it explores is actually a natural, and not an anomaly.

This fugue is tri-axial in its conception (Hey, I'll have to put that into the title: Tri-Axial Fugue), the three axes being the open E, B, and G strings of the guitar. As I stated previously, the zero-axis of a melody can be the root, third, or fifth of any given tonic major or minor triad. This would give a total of eighteen possibilities for thematic statements, and including key-overlap between the axes, would total thirteen different key regions. This embarrassment of riches has required me to make certain decisions to restrict the possibilities so as to keep this piece under control. What I have decided to do for the exposition, it's varied repeat, and the development areas is to restrict the possibilities to those resulting from the instances where the zero-axis functions as the third or fifth of the respective tonic triads. Doing this results in the reduction of the key possibilities from thirteen to nine. This is still quite a bit, and as you will see results in some interesting modulations.

For the recapitulation section, I may allow the zero-axis to functon as the root in those cases where it overlaps with the previous nine keys: That would be E major and E minor. Which brings up an interesting point: I have concieved of this piece as being in A minor, but I have a hunch it is going to end up in E minor. The subdominant relationships add an interesting flavor to it if I look at it that way. Whatever. ;^)

Interesting Battlestar Galactica tonight (As usual).

Cool: Sin City is on Encore. I love that movie. It's like a film noir comic book (Guy thing).

I have added a tempo indication: This is a quick little ditty, but 180 was pressing it just a tad. Once I got to the first climaxes in the development, I wanted them to boaden a bit so as to bask in the environments I had created. The initial subject/answer (Or, answer/subject) statements have not changed, but I have replaced the first episode with a new one that I came up with when I was writing in the development area. It has the desirable qualities of releasing tension (Especially necessary after the three and four voice statements (Oh yeah: It's got some four-voice areas in it now)), and it is also open-ended, which allows for modulations to almost anywhere.

After this new and improved (And shorter) episode, the bass get's the subject in A minor at measure nineteen, which spins off the next episode which modulates to the relative of C major. Previously, this was an octave inversion of the first episode, but now this is the first time it's heard. This is another improvement, because the next episode is an octave and an intevallic inversion of this one; hearing it only twice is one improvement, and combining the intervallic and octave inversions into one variation is another.

The first statement of the subject in C is also the first instance where the zero-axis functions as the third of the tonic triad of the moment. Following is the octave/intervallic version of the previous seven-bar episode, only this one does not modulate at all. I like the organic way all of the episodes spin out of the thematic statements.

At measure forty-seven, the second statement of the original form of the subject (Fifth as zero) in C appears in the lower voice, and with that, the exposition is over with. The episode that returns to the beginning (E minor) is unique (So far), and the way that the G and A at the end of measure fifty-three coverge on the G-sharp into fifty-four is really nice.

In bar sixty the varied repeat of the exposition starts, and the pattern of the original exposition is followed exactly, with only the temporary tonics being varied. After the E minor statement with the drone open E in the lead, the second countersubject is introduced in A minor at sixty-seven.

On top of page three the tension-releasing, open-ended episode makes its second appearance, and by adding as the only variation from the previous iteration the F-sharp in the last measure, a "modulation" to the parallel-major region of A is effected. The next thematic statement at seventy-eight is exactly like the statement in the original exposition, except with respect to gender. Having this in A major instead of A minor not only presents the new tinoc and ticks it off of the list, but it also makes the following modulation to C-sharm minor easier.

The episode at eighty-five is also exactly like the previous episode in the same position of the original exposition, except that it modulates to C-sharp minor instead of C major. This is just cool as all get out.

At ninety-two the C-sharp minor statement appears with the open E-string functioning as the minor third. I just absolutely love this. There is just such a nice level of tension going on here.

The next episode at ninety-nine is the real killer, though, as it modulates from C-sharp minor to C minor while remaining totally true to the original version. I get two sharps out of the way at 103, where it lands on a D major sonority, and two more are gone at 106, where it arrives on C. The following B-flat is just too cool for words, and the arpeggiated augmented triad leading into the next thematic statement is a great answer for the diminished and half-diminished seventh arpeggios which have gone before.

Bottom of the page is the statement in C minor, also exactly like the corresponding previous statement in C major in every way except for mode.

The episode at the top of page four is a little problematic. This is the place where, in the original exposition, the arpeggiated - and so far unique - episode bridged the joint between the end of the first exposition and the beginning of the varied repetition of it (Which we have come to the end of at this point). I couldn't use the same device as I did in the previous episode because from C minor there isn't a whole step for the notes to converge from. The semitone between A-flat and G at the end of 112 meant that G-sharp would have been an enharmonic. Needless to say, this experiments with that option did not work out very well. I have ended up using another variant of the first version of the seven-bar episode here - and it works perfectly - but I can't help but think that I need something which will work pluperfectly to introduce the first climaxes of the development section. This will just have to do for now.

At 120 the first climactic statement appears in E major with B as the zero of the subject, which allows for countersubject one to be played in the lead on the high E-string. The E pedal point is just the low E-string, so this is actually fairly easy to play. It reaches a level of sublimity I've never achieved on the guitar before. It's just really magnificent in its effect, if I do say so myself.

Though this statement corresponds in position to the previous two statements in E minor at the beginning of the exposition and its varied repeat, the exuberant nature of it required the tension-releasing, open-ended episode as a reprieve. This is, in fact, the point at which I wrote it: I then went back and replaced the original first episodes with simpler versions of it.

The A major statement at 131 uses countersubject two, and it too has a triumphant effect to it, and it too is played over open strings in the bass. This time the high E-string has the zero, of course.

After this statement's following episode, the piece returns to E major for a varied repetition of this climax. A Baroque or Classical composer probably wouldn't set a section up like this, but I am admittedly very highly influenced by many years of songwriting: I like repeats when the material is interesting.

When I got to 142, I actually had to pick up a guitar to see if the passage was feasable. After so many years of playing and writing for solo classical guitar, this hardly ever happens anymore. It's really only workable if the player uses the c-finger of the right hand. Since I've used my "c" since I started playing, I'll be able to manage it. I think.

Basically, this is the three voiced combination of the subject and the two countersubjects over a tonic pedal, so it's really only three voices, though the texture has five of the guitar's six strings singing simultaneously. It's bad-ass.

On top of page five is the required tension-releasing episode, after which the three/four/five-voice version of the A major statement appears. This is just so dense and rich.

During this statement's tension-releaser at 160, the development continues with a modulation to G major. At this statement, the open B-string functions as the third of the tonic of the moment for the first time. This is a cool statement, but is nicely at a lower level of riotous joy than the previous E major/A minor climaxes. This facilitates the return to a minor mode which the episode at 171 accomplishes. This is just like the second seven bar episodes from the expo and it's variant, but with a third voice added.

The re-arrival to E minor at 177 is quite dark after so long a time in major modes, but in a beautifully excruciating way. The final thematic statement that I've written (So far) at 178 has the G-axis/string functioning as the thrid for the first time, and I need a non-modulatory episode here to return to the climaxes, only this time they will be in the minor modes. I'm stuck.

What I am going to do now (Sin City is over, and there's nothing goo on... thankfully) is write that second climactic section out and see if any ideas come to me. Where we just had G major and E minor here, there will be G-sharp minor and E-flat major following the minor mode climaxes. Should be interesting.

Right now I'm thinking the piece will end in E minor or E major with the open high E-string functioning as the tonic for the first time, and the low open E-string prforming the same function, only this time with an inverted form of the subject. That will probably open a whole new can o' worms requiring a rather lengthy coda (sigh).

Whoever said, "The way to a man's heart is through his stomach" never met me.


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