Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Ricercare in F Major for Wind Quartet v3.2

I have utilized my downtime from practicing (Due to the cut fingertip) to make some serious headway on the Ricercare. It's now in F Major versus the previous C Minor, and what I did was to basically add a major key exposition and episode to the relative minor, and I re-wrote the final episode to get back to the major for the final double canonic stretto. Then, I added a coda that presents a three voice hyper-stretto: The subject, inverted subject, and augmented subject all starting simultaneously. After that, I transposed the entire piece up a whole step to eliminate some range issues with the piccolo/flute and oboe parts.

The first sixty-one measures is now exactly as I want it, as are the last thirty-five measures. I have not modified the original middle entries an any significant way, so the final major revision will be to re-write those to present the ever increasing possibilities I'm discovering. As it stands now, the piece is at 119 measures, and that could well nigh double before it's all said and done. It will probably be some time before I tackle that, however, so I made a MIDI to MP3 conversion of the piece and put it into my iPod so that I can listen to it on my daily two hour walks in context with the rest of the Fuga da Camera collection.

So the total Fuga da Camera cycle now consists of a three-part invention for string trio in D minor (Accompanied initial subject statement, with the answer in inversion on the subdominant level), a fugue "in" A minor for wind trio (With the subject being a twelve-tone row and the answer being real and on the dominant level), a very traditional fugue for string quartet in F minor, this ricercare in F major, a five-voice perpetual canon for string choir in A minor, a five-voice invertible canon for wind choir in C-sharp minor (Which I'm thinking of putting in C minor by using an alto clarinet in E-flat so that it fits into the scheme better), and then the fugato for chamber orchestra back in D minor. If I transpose the invertible canon, the seven keys will be, D minor, A minor, F minor, F major, A minor C minor and then the return to D minor, which makes a modicum of sense.

BTW: I discovered a parallel minor seventh in the invertible canon, but I think I'm going to leave it because it is in the exiting dovetail section, and the entering dovetails all work perfectly: The final fugue and ricercare for full symphony orchestra will only use the forward dovetails anyway (Yes, there will be nine pieces total by the end of the cycle: A quadruple four-voice fugue for orchestra with four dovetailing canonic subjects, and a quintuple five-voice ricercare with five dovetailing canonic subjects).


Here's the new exposition:

One of the things that made me decide to have a major key exposition and a relative minor counterexposition is that the major and minor forms of the subject and answer are so significantly different. The last measure of the major form of the subject has on the first two beats do, re, do, ti while in the minor that is replaced by the descending chromatic tetrachord beginning do, ti, te, la. And then, of course, the major form has the minor seventh ti, la in measure two, while the minor form uses the diminished seventh ti, le at that point.

The other reason for putting the piece in major is that the recapitulation - the double canonic stretto - is simply more effective to my ears in the major mode: The minor version is a bit brash in its level of dissonance (Even for me).

Note again that the main counter-subject and counter-answer are exactly the same line with the exception of the accidentals to accomodate the answer's transposition: This is a form of the verticle shifting complex counterpoint that Taneiev writes about, but I figured it out simply and directly by using the mechanical process of just writing it out in music notation. As I've said before, I'm sure Palestrina, Zarlino, and Bach did this mechanically as well, either on paper or in their noggins.

In measure fourteen over the subject, the countersubject leaps into a minor seventh relationship with the subject, which is something a sixteenth century or eighteenth century counterpoint teacher would probably bust a student for, but it is quite a nice effect, and nothing implied by the overtone series forbids this. Palestrina and Bach didn't do this because of the dictates of their personal esthetic taste. After decades of writing jazz music, I like these kinds of sounds.

By merging the answer and counter-answer into a unison at measure eleven, I am able to pass the counter-answer/counter-subject line off to the flute, which continues with it for another two octaves to the end of the exposition. I wouldn't do anything like that in a work I called a fugue, but the ricercare implies a greater latitude with respect to technical details as well as potential key regions. Traditional fugues use only closely related keys in the overwhelming preponderance of cases.

So. starting with the note F that the clarinet plays in measure six to the note F that the piccolo will resolve to in measure twenty-one, this counter-subject/counter-answer line rises three octaves. In the counter-exposition, I'll have the opportunity to make that four octaves by starting the initial statement of the subject out with accompaniment.

At measure twenty-one the first episode starts with the piccolo fairly high in the stratosphere (That is an 8va clef, remember), and I went through literally hundreds of versions of this before I came to the "Eureka!" moment. The bassoon and oboe basically travel upward in parallel tenths (plus an octave), but the bassoon is rising chromatically. This gives the oportunity for the oboe to alternate approaching the compound tenth alternately by descending into it when the bassoon is making a chromatic movement across the bar line, and in parallel when the bassoon is moving in a diatonic way across the bar line. I love this episode.

Meanwhile, the piccolo is descending diatonically using the tail figure of the subject/answer theme, which holds the phrase together nicely and makes it organically related to the exposition. In measure twenty-four the piccolo's patern is modified to present a diminished arpeggio, which is a tasty conclusion to that part of the phrase. That little eighth note anticipation at the end of measure twenty-four? That took forever to come up with, but it added exactly what was required for the merge into the elongated half-cadence that begins in measure twenty-five.

Note the four measure to three measure ratio between the first part of the episode and the second: That is the 4:3 ratio of the perfect fifth in the series. I plan to use that again, and in fact I already have, as you'll see later. Becoming more and more aware of these proportional ratios of the series as reflected in formal proportions has really helped my architectural planning. The half cadence broadens out and introduces the counter-exposition quite effectively.

At measure twenty-eight the counter-exposition begins in the relative key, D minor. I have the counter-subject below the subject here for the first time, and that leads to the interval of a major ninth at the beginning of measure thirty-one. Again, a traditional counterpoint teacher might suffer fart hailure at this, but there is nothing technically wrong with it vis-a-vis what the series implies is acceptable, and in a freer ricercare I really have no problem with it. It sounds cool to my ears. Again, the counter-subject and the subject close on a unison at measure thirty-three, which allows the line to be passed off to the clarinet for the counter-answer version of the line.

Here at measure thirty eight the clarinet and the piccolo meet at a unison, which sets up the piccolo having the counter-subject/counter-answer line for the final two octave rise. This counter-exposition is the same as the original minor key exposition with the exception of one minor, but significant, detail. In the original exposition there was a C natural on the final eighth note of the clarinet part, which made a major second with the piccolo part. This major second sounded rather heated in the minor key version of the exposition, but it was positively searing as a minor second in the major, so I eliminated it. I had been going back and forth on the issue, but when I heard how dissonant it was in the major, I was able to make the decision to drop it in this instance. Another reason why it is good to write both major and minor mode versions of everything and audition them. I did keep the major second back at the end of measure thirty-three, however, because that is between the main counter-answer and the secondary one: That works out as a major second (Or major ninth) in the major mode, which is fine.

The second episode starting at forty-eight is different: The piccolo gets the chromatic tail figure of the minor mode version of the subject/answer over a chromaticised and foreshortened version of the counter-subject/counter-answer in the bass. It's almost sinister sounding at first - which I love, of course - but when it breaks into the major mode setup it is a real tension releaser, which is quite effective.

The middle entries start out at measure fifty-two, and as I said, those haven't changed since v1.0: The presentation is that of a stretto between the subject and tonal answer after three measures of delay.

I want to draw you attention to the note F-natural that the piccolo has at the beginning of measure fifty-six. For this to be the "real" tonal version of the answer, that would have to be F-sharp. I didn't like the sound of that, and after thinking about it, I had a Eureka moment: There are really three possibilities for fugal answers: Real, tonal, and modal. That might sound like a "Well yeah, sure" kind of thing, but as I progress from writing stretti and canons at the octave to those at the fifth, fourth and other intervals it becomes significant. I'm glad that I internalized it, in any event.

The subject reappears beneath the answer in measure fifty-seven as a stretto after two measures of delay, and I am sure the final ricercare will be just like it is here until measure sixty-one/sixty-two: Instead of using the present series of deceptive motions, I'll probably start introducing episodes and inverted forms of the various stretto possibilities, and at least one partial statement in diminution. The reason for this will become clear when we get to the end.

Everything on this page is going to change and/or become greatly elaborated upon, so there isn't much point in analyzing it: These are just other and closer stretti with minor mode statements as transitions.

This page will survive intact, however. The opening statement is a four-voice contrapuntal statement of the subject, which has not been heard to this point. It is in E minor, which is on the leading tone of the piece, and so it's "out of bounds" for a fugue, technically speaking, but this is a ricercare so no problem.

This relationship enabled me to compose a variant of the original episode that went from the major to the relative minor. Here, it goes from the leading tone to the tonic. How cool is that?! I again travailed through well over a hundred versions of this before the perfect solution appeared, but it was more than worth it. Through the chromatic rising figures in the bass the tension builds and builds to an almost unbearable level until the major mode version of the elongated half cadence is reached. The arrival at measure ninety-five is truly sublime. Again, that little eighth-note anticipation in the piccolo part at the end of ninety-two is the detail that makes it happen.

The two parts of the original version of this episode were 4:3 (The perfect fourth's ratio) but here they move up the series to 5:4 (The major third's ratio. Now that I have this in my noodle, I'll use these and/or other related ratios in the middle entries.

The introduction of the recapitulation - the double canonic stretto - at ninety-nine is positively dramatic. Notice again that I am aoviding the secondary leading tones in the answers, so they are modal instead of strictly tonal. In fact, real, tonal, and modal elements can be combined in answer statements, as they are here, on pretty much any immitative interval. Like I said, I'm glad I've internalized this little nugget of information.

The concluding canonic stretto ends in measure one-hundred-seven in a false ending, and then the hyper-stretto coda begins in measure one-hundred-eight: The piccolo has the rectus form of the subject, the clarinet gets the inversus form, and the bassoon gets the augmented form. I had to make a tonal adjustment to the inversus in measure "eleventy-one" (one-hundred-eleven) to make it work, but hey, it's a ricercare.

After the piccolo finishes its statement, it gets a diatonic form of the figure from the last episode's bass line which leads into a final extended trill. The clarinet moves to a free line, and the oboe has been free all along. With a touch of ritardando the piece ends convincingly.

If you want to hear this, I have posted an MP3 of it on my .Mac Downloads Page along with a PDF version of the score as it stands. I must warn you that the MP3 is 9.4MB.


My putzing around on lead to my meeting a distant cousin! My great-great grandfather Parker Pepper moved from West Virginia to Kansas along with some of his family, so that's where she's from and we share the same great-great-grandfather. She sent me this amazing photograph of my great-grandfather Lorenzo Dow Pepper and his brothers that must have been taken in West Virginia around the turn of the last century.

My great-grandfather Lorenzo Dow Pepper is on the left. Is that cool, or what? Three weeks ago I wasn't even sure what his first name was, and now I have a photo of him!!!


Marilyn Monroe through the eyes of Baz.


Blogger paul bailey said...

nice piece. i don't think dufay or palestrina would "bust" you for the minor 7th leap. as long as you create a convincing contrapuntal universe they would probably applaud you interesting use of the overtone series. that's the difference between counterpoint "teachers" and composers, one side teaches music and the other aesthetics.

12:52 PM  
Blogger Hucbald said...

Thanks Paul,

That's an excellent point about teaching music versus teaching aesthetics. I had never thought of it quite that way. Good one.

The way I approach students who want to compose has always been with this line, "I can teach you how to think as a composer does, but I can't teach you how to compose: Every composer develops his own methodologies."

Hope "The Ensemble" is kickin'. Rock on. ;^)


3:03 PM  

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