Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Imitation Study Number 2 in A Minor

Well, this series has found a name now: Imitation Studies. I'm not calling them inventions because, 1] They do not all answer at the octave - some of these are fugues, IOW - and 2] Bach already used that. lol. Believe it or not, I've completed five of them so far, and the previous one was "perfected" by simply changing the dotted-eighth/sixteenth rhythm of the episodes to quarter/eighth triplets. This works better because the triplet feel comes right out of the tail of the subject. Since that was such a minor change, I decided to move on to the next in the series.

With this piece, however, the dotted-eighth/sixteenth rhythm is in the subject, while the written-out trill is in the countersubject: Therefore the episodes sound more natural and organic with the dotted-eighth/sixteenth figuration of the subject. Nice discovery.

I composed this subject back when I was a doctoral candidate at UNT in the early 90's, and it was the final project for the graduate level Invertible Counterpoint and Fugue course I took there. Since I composed it as a four-part canonic stretto with one measure delays, it took the form of an epic string quartet piece (You can also see the score in PDF format if you want).

Well, while writing this guitar invention version, I discovered some new facets of the subject, so that got me to thinking about revising the fugue. I think I'm coming up with a new compositional process here: Guitar invention or two-voice fugue first, then execute the final fugue for whatever ensemble turns out to be most appropriate. Bonus is, I get a bunch of guitar pieces out of all my ensemble fugues. Go me!

Number 2 here also ended up in A minor, but two of the next three are in the "cool" keys of B minor and F-sharp minor (Number 6 I'm working on is in E major).

Here's todays MIDI to M4A conversion:

Imitation Study Number 2 in A Minor

This is a five measure head, body, and tail subject, so we get the desirable odd bar length and an accelerating rhythm until the point of resistance in four and the cadential figure at the end. The countersubject is straight quarters until the final measure, and then there is a dotted-quarter/eighth followed by the written-out trill (I've come up with several of these written-out trills now, and they are becoming a thematic sub-language for me).

For the main episode I chose a descending chromatic line... hey, I like those.

... and this first iteration is non-modulatory.

Since the subject works as a four-part canon, the organizational scheme is of ever closer answers. Starting in 17 we hear the countersubject above the subject for the first time, but this is interrupted in 21 by the subject overlapping itself by one measure. Then, the rest of the countersubject seamlessly continues out of the subject's cadential figure due to the way I constructed it to work like this (I rock).

In 26 the former episode reappears, but this time it's foreshortened by a measure and modulates to the dominant minor region. Sorry I crammed it onto a single system, but it was a matter of keeping the page count down for this post version.

The sweeping rising thirds in the bass starting at 31.5 - me, sol, ti, re, fa, le - sound wicked pisser, as we used to say at Berklee, and then we get another mesure of the countersubject before the next interruption with now two measures of overlap.

For my esthetic, the third episode has to be different - with Bach everything is beautifully, maddeningly, and organically different - and here I discovered that the subject works over the descending chromatic figure of the episode. This leads to some unusual contrapuntal motions, the coolest of which is the perfect fifth into a diminished fifth from 41 into 42. I need to put this in the string quartet, because it will be even more effective with three or four voices. At the end I modified the tail of the subject and the bass part to set up the modulation to the relative major region. Hot, or not?

We're down to two measures of delay/up to three measures of overlap now, and I changed the second measure of the countersubject in 45 just because it sounds really beautiful this way (Hey, I do have a heart). Same with the bass part in 49 (Mahler said, "Interesting is easy; beautiful is hard"). I thrive on interesting, but I go for beautiful whenever I can.

By the way, the inversion of this stretto would not work, because parallel fifths would be implied. The implied elevenths sound fine (I tried it the other way for grins... but those turned to frowns).

The original episode then reappears at 51, but yet another measure shorter as the piece returns to the tonic for the final stretto... or so it would appear.

The trill figure takes the final canon from five measures to six, and the end is a bit underwhelming, which sets up the hyper-stretto coda: Subject over subject in rhythmic augmentation. This is admittedly a bit weird in two voices, as there is a leapt-into minor ninth at the beginning of 64. Since the implied harmony is so obviously a V(m7m9) though - and this is immediately strengthened by the appearance of the major third - it actually works, IMO. Bach would never have done this (Well, he never did, to my knowledge), but I think it's kind of cool.

I worked up to a nice flourish in 71 and 72 with an implied V(4/2)/iv and then an augmented sixth into the primary dominant. A final - and new - trill figure finishes things off with a final chromatic flourish.

As it stands now, this is a better composition than the original fugue... which is why I have to re-write that puppy.

No doubt about that being hot.


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