Thursday, December 31, 2015

Fugal Science, Volume 1, Number 2: Three-Voice Fugue v1.1

I've had a major breakthrough, and now this piece and the two-voice solo guitar fugue are finished! The breakthrough came in the form of a rhythmic subtlety that actually lead me to modify the subject, which is proof that constantly working with thematic materials one develops over the course of years leads to ever greater perfection. After all, I devised this fugue subject all the way back in 1993, so it was in the same form for over twenty-two years!

Here is the audio for today's Fugue for String Trio

It's an AIFF file, so you'll need QuickTime activated, and opening it in another tab will allow you to listen and follow the score.

The modification to the subject appears in measure four, where the half-note is now tied to an eighth note, followed by another eighth note, instead of the former dotted-eighth-note and sixteenth. This provides another level of resistance, and it's just super tight. I hit upon this minor masterstroke when a cross-rhythmic clash occurred, which left me with the choice of modifying the accompaniment, allowing the cross-rhythms, or... modifying the subject. It was a deeply satisfying moment, and I'll point out how this rhythm first appeared, and how it became viral, infecting the entire piece, when we get to those points.

This rhythm mod is also applied to the tonal answer, obviously, and otherwise, all the music on this page is the same as before, so no additional commentary is necessary.

Our new rhythm is also in the bass in measures nineteen and twenty, but it was there already in the previous version. This is not, however the point of origin. That comes in the next episode. Aside from the modified thematic statements, all of the music on this page is as it was before too.

We also get the new rhythm in the bass of thirty-four and thirty-five, but it was this way before. Measure thirty-five is the point of origin, though: In the two-part fugue for solo guitar, the dotted-eighth/sixteenth versus the sixteenth-note sextuplet was way too hard to play, so I made the eighth notes straight. The eight-note triplet against the straight sixteenth note will be played as a descending flam, which sounds cool and is not hard to execute.

At measure forty-seven, we get the new rhythm in the subject in parallel with the same rhythm in the bass, but this is just an infection point I went back and changed, not the point where I decided to modify the subject. Again, the music is otherwise the same.

Measure fifty-eight is also another infection point I changed after the fact, and it's amazing how profoundly this seemingly minor modification changes things. The effect is much better this way. Other than our new rhythmic elements, The Song Remains the Same.

It was at measure seventy-two that I hit upon the conundrum that lead me to modify the subject. In all previous iterations of the episode/interlude, the mod appeared, but it rhythmically clashed with the subject if I did it here, so I avoided it at first. Not satisfied with that, I tried the cross-rhythmic clash, but that was no good either. Finally, I decided to modify the subject, and Eureka! The music on this page is otherwise the same, but wow, what a difference this seemingly insignificant modification makes. This is the kind of thing that makes being a mature composer so fun and rewarding.

I did add a dotted-eighth-rest in the lead at measure seventy-six, but that was to get rid of the unison, which due to phase amplification, was way too loud with the soundfonts.

The final infection points are in measures eighty-six, where I used the modification as the pickup into the coda/hyper-stretto, and then in ninety-four, where I used the mod to lead into the conclusion. This creates a very interesting rhythmic canon in diminution with the modification of the augmented subject in the bass, which is like the cherry on top of this piece. Finally, I've obviously decided to let the viola play only accompaniment for most of the piece, as it gets the first thematic statement in the exposition, and also the first one in the recapitulation/three-part canon. The piece is perfectly balanced by this.

Now I'm going to finally, after twenty-one years, start working on the rewrite of the string quartet, v1.0 of which I handed in for a graduate level Invertible Counterpoint and Fugue class all the way back in 1994, when I was doing doctoral work at UNT.

Happy New Year!


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