Thursday, August 30, 2012

Sonata Two: I - Sonata in E Minor

After taking some needed time off from thinking about compositions, I quite suddenly have had a nearly complete sonata for two guitars appear in my head. As of now, it is a three movement sonata da chiesa - or Church Sonata (As opposed to the four movement sonata da camera - or Chamber Sonata) - with the movements being Sonata, Scherzo and Ricercare. Three movement sonatas are common in chamber music and especially concertos. The Ricercare here is exactly the same piece as the finale of Sonata One for Solo Guitar (Links in the right sidebar), but arranged for two (The solo guitar version is an epic virtuoso piece, but for two guitars it will be pretty easy). So, Sonata One for Solo Guitar and Sonata Two for Guitar Duo: I like the symmetry of that. A lot.

Today's post is about the first movement, which is a sonata with Mozartian and Beethovian overtones.

Here is the MIDI to AAC conversion I made in iTunes using the Realfont 2.1 guitar soundfont: Sonata Two: I - Sonata in E Minor

I usually create a separate tab to listen and read the score.

This sonata uses an unusual rhythmic augmentation curiosity: If you augment a theme - in this case, a fugato subject - that is in 6/8 time, it comes out in 3/4 time, with a constant eighth note. So, the modulation here is going to be both harmonic and metric.

As you can see, the fugato subject is a model of simplicity, but it has a very bouncy and infectious rhythmic aspect to it. Guitar I starts out with the subject and answer, and then Guitar II takes the subject in the lower octave, but the answer is on the same level as before: This was the only way to fit it on two guitars, and it worked out pluperfectly.

During the second statement of the answer, the texture transforms from polyphonic to homophonic, and the modulatory episode begins at measure nine. It is just a vii(d7) in the 4/2 inversion to V(m7) cycle, which has connotations of turmoil.

At measure thirteen, I start the metric modulation by putting the acCENT on the wrong syllABLE, so to speak, and it takes two full measures to get the effect to work out perfectly. Probably needless to say, this looks simple now, but it took a LOT of experimentation to get to it.

The second theme, which, as I mentioned, is the fugato subject in augmentation, starts at fifteen, and I varied the rhythm of the tail section a bit to make it more effective. The modulation, such as it is, is just a regular deceptive movement, but I accented the humorousness of the move by making the major triad on V move in parallel up a minor second to the bVI. Mozart used this fairly often, both up and down. They are usually called side slips, and parallel fifths and octaves are fine in this instance.

I would describe the effect here as slightly jarring and even humorous: Here you are, all dressed up for a serious minor key statement, and it all goes sideways - literally - to a happy sounding major statement in a different time signature. It is a sonata process piece, but it still has many elements of a scherzo.

While it took two full measures to introduce 3/4 from the native 6/8, to get back only requires a single measure - twenty-two - and really, only the second half of that, even.

Putting the second theme in C major versus E minor digs the piece into a hole, so to speak, so to get out of it, I used a series of parallel first inversion triads adorned with linear passages. Beethoven used this to good effect several times, most notably for the closing theme of the first movement of The Ninth Symphony. I needed six full measures, which seems like too much and overly dramatic, but the effect of over-the-top tension is quite beautiful and funny; a tough combination to pull off. Once it gets to the i(6/4) to V(m7) half-cadence, everything is back to, "normal" and the final flourish sets up the repeat.

I would note that the MIDI to AAC conversion does not bring out the fact that the two guitars are trading off, which is a pity, because this back and forth will be awesome in live stereo.

Simple and direct is good, and I guess I'd cite Haydn as a proponent for this kind of tightness in a sonata exposition. Many of his sonata process pieces were just a few minutes in duration.

To get the piece to the relative of G major, I used another octave lick at thirty-three, and then the development starts off with a fugato of the augmented version of the theme. Cool, huh?

Obviously, this is a broader and more stately fugal exposition.

Here too the texture transforms from contrapuntal to chordal, and I again used the major key version of the vii(d5) to V(m7) oscillation for the modulatory episode.

Here, though, I don't actually modulate - key or time - but simply change modes for the second theme, which is presented as a canon. It's an amazing effect, I think.

As the canon concludes in sixty-four, I introduce a written-out trill, which metrically modulates the piece to 9/8 for the new version of the closing theme. I was on a roll by this point, and that is when composing is fun.

The half cadence reverts us back to the major mode, and here there will be an interjection of some type - a bridge, episode or something - in 9/8 and G major. I'm thinking of a Gigue-like feel, but I haven't come up with anything yet. As a result, this is sort of a de minimus version, with the crowning section yet to come.

It works perfectly as-is, however, and if I didn't tell you I was planning a climactic 9/8 section, you wouldn't miss it. Here is the final four-part canon, which is three subjects and an answer of the second theme in 9/8. See how cool this is?

At eighty-three we get the half-cadence back in the home key, and after the concluding lick, everything is set up for the recap.

Everything is unchanged here from the original exposition.

And so it continues unchanged until the second theme appears - the fugato subject in augmentation, remember - now properly in the home key, but still metrically modulated to 3/4. It sounds positively triumphant.

Now that the piece is coming out of E minor instead of C major, the closing theme only needs the proper four reps to reach the half-cadence, and I was able to eschew the overly-dark natural and flat inflections.

The final topper is the linking lick from before the development, now to reaffirm the home key for The End.

I love this little ditty. It's a model of perfection, and the device of having the 6/8 theme transmogrify into 3/4 through augmentation is a tasty one. I've never seen this done before either, so it's at least rare, if not unique.

Next time I show you the Scherzo, which is a swing tune in two part counterpoint, like in Sonata One, but even cooler.


Blogger Minicapt said...



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