Monday, January 09, 2012

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2

As I mentioned at the end of the first post in this series, I could have turned that fugue at the octave - the two-part invention format - into a fugue at the twelfth above just by changing measures six through ten with a tonal answer and a counter-answer, but then the piece would be less than perfect, because you'd only hear the answer once (You'll want to read that post before this one, because I'm not going to explain all the details the same way in this post).

So, in this version, I have changed the exposition to include the tonal answer and a counter-answer, and I have added a section near the end in the subdominant region that has both a subject and and answer. If you are keeping up, you'll realize that the answer in the subdominant is on the tonic level, and I use this relationship to re-modulate back home. The philosophy here is to change as little as possible to bring the piece back to a state of balance and perfection.

Any time you change something in any piece of music - especially when you add a new element or section - you will usually lose something you like, so the criteria for whether to change or not is this: Do I gain more than I lose in this transaction? I got an emphatic yes, because I added a clever section.

Here is the M4A: Fugue Number 2

As you can easily see, I only changed the second five measures by replacing the previous subject and countersubject combination with an answer counter-answer one. Measures 1-5 and 11-16 are still exactly the same. The new tonal answer/counter-answer section adds a lot of energy to the piece, and the way the voices converge by step into the first episode is superior to the previous version.

There are no changes on this page whatsoever, but the perfect dovetail now means something different to the listener, because this is the first time you hear the countersubject.

As an aside, varied repetition adds meaning to music. This second episode makes the first episode mean more by being a varied repetition of it, and this episode means more because of the previous version: Win/win. IMO, what makes a lot of fugues tedious is that there is not enough repetition and corresponding added meaning. Just because you can compose a new episode whenever you need one doesn't mean you should: It may not even be the most effective thing to do.

No changes here either.

I only had to change measure 54 to change the modulation from the tonic to the subdominant, and I was sorry to see the cool pedal meld go, but the following section more than makes up for that trivial loss.

Starting in 55 we get the subject and countersubject on the subdominant level. At 59, however, the answer interrupts, which leads to a very cool musical structure...

... which is a second perfect dovetail joint, only this one modulates. Cool huh? The rest of the previous answer is now accompanied by the countersubject, not the counter-answer, so we get a perfect dovetail and a re-modulation back home. Well, this gives the listener, "Deja vu all over again" because this episode is exactly like the first one, only it leads into the final canon now. That is all I absolutely had to change to bring the piece back into balance and a state of perfection, but it certainly is not all I could have changed.

No changes here, of course.


Personally, I love this austere, ascetic style, but most people crave a little more personality in the music - including me - so there are a few opportunities to ornament these lines that will add a bit of acerbic wit to the ascetic style, and elevate the piece above a study to a more artful level. That will be for the next installment.

My brand new copy of Sibelius 7, in the trash with the eggshells and coffee grounds, where it belongs. I have zero tolerance for abjectly idiotic user interfaces and crippled feature sets. Sibelius is exactly garbage.


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