Tuesday, May 09, 2006

Fugato for Chamber Orchestra

My Fuga da Camera set is taking shape nicely. This fugato is now planned to be the next-to-last piece. My friend David pointed out that if you translated the title literally, it would (or could) mean "flight from the chamber." It had been a while since I was reminded that the root word for fugue is "flight" or "pursuit" but that certainly is a good way to describe the process. As a result, I'm going to end the set with a fugue for full symphony orchestra after this fugato. The set will flee from the chamber ensembles into a full symphony piece by steps.

With a run time of almost exactly sixty seconds, this little ditty has a humorous aspect to it. Long time visitors of this blog may remember that I originally wrote this to be a small part of a larger sonata-process piece (and it still might end up in one at some point), but I ditched all the rest of the movement. David said it was "like Bach and Mozart got together for a quick whiskey", so I'm going to give it the title "A Quick Whiskey" of course.

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First of all, this is a concert pitch-score, so the instruments are not transposed. Just as "there is no crying in baseball" there are no transposing instruments in MIDI. Also, the horn part is inside of the winds because I just put them in the general order of the ranges. Tradition, schmadition.



For this fugue subject, I wanted something athletic with a big, wide range, so I came up with the root to fifth to octave head figure first. I also wanted a super-tight stretto between the subject and the tonal answer, so I wrote them in canon:



As you can see from the score, a simple repeat of the tail figure harmonized out gives a nice place for an orchestral interjection, and it is sorta-kinda Mozartian in its effect.

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There couldn't possibly be anything brilliant about the orchestration - I'm certain it's quite pedestrian, in fact - because I've never really understood what all the fuss is about: You get whichever instruments you want to play whichever parts you want them to, and then you put them into some kind of a logical order. How hard can that be? Rimsky-Korsakov, Chintzy-Schmorsikov I say.

What I do like here is how I got a decending chromatic tetrachord into the beginning of the counter-answer, and an ascending chromatic tetrachord into the end of it.

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Of course, then it was inevitable that I would get an ascending chromatic tetrachord into the countersubject on the next entrance. The running effect that this chromatic counter-answer and countersubject set produce is actually quite jazzy, but without the swing. I like it.

By simply not raising the sixth and seventh degrees of the scale in the last repeat of the tail figure during the orchestral interjection, I effected a modulation to the relative at the end of it. Though sudden, it's perfectly smooth.

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For the first major key entrance, I used a diatonicised variant of the countersubject for contrast. I know the oboist will hate me, but in the words of Gary Solt - one of my Jazz Theory and Composition profs from Berklee, "That's the way I heard it (comma) man." And it really does sound cool with the horn down below it.

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Even cooler is the clarinet working down into its chalmeau register for the answer with the clear highs of the oboe above. Hey, it just worked out that way.

I again used a simple linear device to effect a modulation back to the tonic minor at the end of the orchestral statement - the last of this micro-miniature series of episodes - and with the appearance of counter-answer two, all of the materials of the expositions have been presented.

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Here is the super-tight stretto for the recap, which creates quite a powerful effect if the listener is in tune with fugue listening, and the free voice in the bass gives a heavy duty cantus firmus vibe to the passage.

The one-beat delay also means that the tail figures are moving in contrary motion to each other at the end of this statement, which sets up a final, more powerful episode as well. Combine all of that with the octaves in the orchestration, and the extra voices in the harmony, and you have one rockin' passage.

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A little bit of sixteenth-note action over a driving countrapuntal chord progression, and you've slammed that shot of scotch!

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I'd like this pattern embossed on floor tiles. Wouldn't that be too cool?

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Then a tasteful area rug with a little bit of bling decorating it. Yeah baby.

The Fugato and some improved versions of the String Trio and String Quartet are now posted on my FileShare page here. As John pointed out in the comment to the post below, the Soundfonts I used for the improved versions are quite a bit better (Thanks John).

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