Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 3

To recap, the first version of this fugue was a fugue at the octave - what Bach called a two-part invention - and then, I made it a fugue with the answer at the fifth above - actually a twelfth in this guitar piece - by changing only the second five measures, and adding a new section in the subdominant. I had to add the new section to present a second statement of the answer. Otherwise, you would only hear the answer once in the exposition, which is an obvious imperfection (You need to read those posts first, or this won't make much sense to you).

As I stated at the conclusion of the previous post, I love the spartan and ascetic style I developed for those two fugues, but I've noticed a couple of opportunities to add some spice to the accompaniment parts (Countersubject and counter-answer). This, I believe, elevates the piece above a compositional/technical study into a genuine piece of music.

Here is the M4A audio file: Fugue Number 3

The only thing I added to the countersubject is the little lick in measure seven. Remembering that this started as a four-voice fugue for string quartet, that lick is in the counter-answer there. It adds gobs of color because - reading top to bottom - C, E, and G-sharp spell an augmented triad. This is also, due to fortunate placement, not overly difficult to execute on the guitar either.

This lick alone won't send shock waves through the fugue, because the counter-answer is only heard here in the exposition...

... but the corresponding lick I added to the countersubject will. In measure eighteen is the run I added, and it is a diminished scale - also called a 1 + 2 scale - that approaches every note in the diminished seventh arpeggio by half-step. Seven of the eight notes of that scale are in the lick, with only F-double-sharp missing. This idiom did not become, "normal" until the Romantic era - I can remember this same lick from Sergi Taneiev's Fourth Symphony off the top of my head - so it's not something you'd ever encounter in a Baroque fugue.

When you sharp so many scale degrees in a diminished scale lick like this, it's metaphorically like kicking up some dust: It takes it a while to settle, and it only settles by re-presenting the diatonic degrees. The following gradual descent of the countersubject fulfills this need perfectly, with the A-sharp altered tonic degree only being cancelled out by the A-natural in measure twenty. I absolutely adore this affect.

The new lick also makes the perfect dovetail joint here more obvious when it appears in measure twenty-two. After that point, the rest of the page is the same as it was way back in Fugue Number 1.

The already dramatic modulation to the dominant level is also enhanced by the new lick, and even the surprise entrance of the subject in measure thirty-four plays a part, by extinguishing the raised tonic degree early, like a gust of wind suddenly blowing the kicked-up dust away. After that point, the new feature does not return until the statements in the subdominant; nothing else on this page is changed.

And there it is in measure fifty-six, adding drama by kicking up some dust.

Here too the new lick aids in setting the perfect dovetail into sharper relief, and appropriately - as this is near the end - this modulating dovetail is more dramatic than the first one.

For the previous fugue, the goal was to alter as little as possible to bring the piece back into balance and perfection - and on that level the piece is successful - but since this is the third appearance of a version of the first sequential episode, I felt it needed one last feature, and that is a proper pedal point section.

I achieved that by inserting a two measure sequential pattern after measure sixty-eight. Returning to the theme of adding meaning to the music by varied repetition, the augmented sixth at the end of sixty-eight was heard once before in a different context when the piece modulated to the dominant region.

Those two measures are not an arbitrary addition either, since they briefly tonicize the dominant and subdominant levels, which are the first and final regions the fugue traverses, respectively. It's a cool device that provides a moment of resistance before the recapitulation canon, and you really, really feel that, "the end is near" because of it.

Still no changes on the final page, so it's the same as in Fugue Number 1. The three versions respectively are 73, 88 and 90 measures long. I view Fugue Number 2 as a transitional form, but 1 and three are fully formed. Number 1 will end up in some collection or other, but this one will certainly end up as a movement in my next guitar sonata. I already have a killer Scherzo to go with it.


After completing this, I wrote a couple of three-voice versions for guitar duo, but the piece needed to be opened up an additional octave, so Fugue Number four is for string trio. That's next.

For the story behind Sibelius 7 in the trash, the grim details are here and here.


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