Monday, January 30, 2012

Surprise Developments

There are many cool and fun things about the adventure of being a composer, but one of my favorite things is how stubborn thematic material can break at any time, usually out of the blue and for no apparent reason.

Back in about 2003 I came up with an epic five-measure fugue subject that I composed as a five-part canon (This as a logical development of the five-measure subject that works as a four-part canon that the Fugal Science and Freestyle Convertible Counterpoint series are based on). For months, and then years, I tried to write a five-voice fugue out of it, but I could never get it off the ground. Couldn't even get the exposition done.

What did happen, though, is that I discovered a dovetail with an augmented form of the subject that made a five-part perpetual canon happen. You can see and hear that piece, which I realized for string choir, here.

Well, since I came up with the austere two-part style that makes stately subjects work for solo guitar, I decided to see if I could make a two-voice fugue at the octave out of that subject (Two-part invention format). "Viola."

It isn't finished yet - there is one more canonic stretto at two measures of overlap I want to present - but I got the exposition, the conclusion, and a, "magic" sequential episode together, and it makes a very concise piece just like that. That is the criteria I always use, by the way: Is it magical? If you want to be more objectivist about it: Does it seem like more than just the sum of its constituent parts?

So, as a respite from the Freestyle Convertible Counterpoint series, here's this cool little ditty.

MPEG 4 Audio: Imitation Study Number 3



The subject is, as stated, five measures long, and it manages to present eleven of the twelve pitch classes. It works as a five-part canon, but we're only dealing with two here, obviously. The Perpetual Canon uses a dovetail with the augmented head of the subject, and that's what ended up being the breakthrough here: In the lead for voice one in measures six and seven is the head of the subject; do, re, me, fa, sol, ti, le. Then, in the bass starting in measure eight, is the augmented form of the head.

This dovetails marvelously with the rising chromatic sequential episode that begins in eleven. Tres cool, non?

Fifteen through nineteen are just the contrapuntal inversion of the subject and countersubject...



... and then twenty through twenty-three constitute the inversion of the episode. Note how the straight quarter note line is an inverted palindrome from the downbeat of twenty-one to the last quarter of twenty-three: It reads upside-down from back-to-front compared with front-to-back. It is simple, but very elegant. Kind of like some of the simple musical structures that Mozart used so often.

Twenty-four, then, is the concluding stretto. As I said, I have at least one more element to come up with before I can present the intermediate stretto, but this merge works almost too well: I haven't been able to come up with any other continuation after twenty-three yet.

After the recapitulation stretto is the concluding ostinato, which I also used in the five-part canon for string choir, but here it accompanies the complete augmented head/modified tail version of the subject. Also a, "magical" element, IMO: Twice it's interrupted by the sequential episode, and then the third time it is presented in its entirety.

Allright then, back to the Freestyle Convertible Counterpoint project.

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