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Another finished fugue - I think I'm starting to improve after two years of writing them

https://soundcloud.com/psllbof/fugue-in-b-minor-tranquillo

The 3 part form seems to be the norm for me - triple fugue (as in 3 subjects all exposed individually) in the slow - fast - slow format. I like the space that it gives and its nice to have cadences really hang in the air.

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How about a score Tom...

No score sorry Mike - written straight into the DAW. I could score it out but it would take time and I'm already working on the next fugue :)

Hi Tom, this may not be well received but I have to ask, Why bother?

Why bother to spend time, in your short life, writing a fugue?

I'm asking objectively. I know that there are some subjective reasons.

i.e. a personal challenge.

Should a composer write pieces for him/her self? Should we compose for

'posterity'? Should we aim our efforts at an audience? And then there is the

other aspect of Art in general. The idea that art, which is alive and cogent,

and expresses our subliminal consciousness,( much like a webbot might

uncover linguistically) and speaks to an unseen , yet to be realized

direction and evolution of the human psyche.

I guess the bottom line- real question is, what purpose does, and/or should,

music serve ?   RS

Hi Roger, I enjoy writing fugues. The purpose is to provide something enjoyable to listen to, both for myself and others.

I don't find fugues that challenging anymore, but more of an excellent way to generate an entire piece out of a single melody. I enjoy how free-form the fugal form can be - there is no set way to write one, especially after the exposition (which can be handled a variety of ways, even without resorting to Anton Reicha's extended techniques ;)

Did you enjoy the fugue?

Hi Tom--I enjoyed this very much as a piece of music, and not because it was a fugue..but maybe even in spite of it being one :) Beautifully calming and reflective..it engulfed me.

A very very minor point-the ending of the piece in major ("Picardy Third" IIRC) was slightly jarring and unexpected, and kind of broke the magic of tranquility that the entire piece had held me--I actually wanted to just rest in the minor.

Very nice job!

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Thanks bob, I definitely agree the end section could be expanded - perhaps even a minor cadence would be interesting... Even Bach occasionally did that :)

I think these are questions deserving of a thread of its own..

Im not a big fan of fugues especially those that copy and rewrite the great works of the past, over and over, in almost the exact same way, minus the genius-- but to ask someone why do they bother is in my humble opinion really questionable.

And if I was asked this Id answer:

1) because I want to,

2) and enjoy doing it, and

3) bottom line because I NEED and have to compose music and express myself and make a personal choice to do it this way, this time.

And each composer decides the answers to all your questions on a personal basis--why not start a new topic about this, instead of it possibly hijacking this one?

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito


roger stancill said:

Hi Tom, this may not be well received but I have to ask, Why bother?

Why bother to spend time, in your short life, writing a fugue?

I'm asking objectively. I know that there are some subjective reasons.

i.e. a personal challenge.

Should a composer write pieces for him/her self? Should we compose for

'posterity'? Should we aim our efforts at an audience? And then there is the

other aspect of Art in general. The idea that art, which is alive and cogent,

and expresses our subliminal consciousness,( much like a webbot might

uncover linguistically) and speaks to an unseen , yet to be realized

direction and evolution of the human psyche.

I guess the bottom line- real question is, what purpose does, and/or should,

music serve ?   RS

I don't mind "hijacking" - Fugue threads are always a good place to discuss fugues :) we do often have this discussion - "why write fugues in the 21st century"? They certainly have gone out of style in the last 100-200 years...

Your answer Bob is the same as mine - "I enjoy it and I want to"

I've loved fugues and polyphonic music since I was a teenager, and only recently learned the "correct" way to write them (having tried to transcribe Bach's art of fugue by ear around age 14...). Once I learned I was hooked and realized just how free the form was - I could do anything. A big problem with much of my older music is there were too many ideas, the fugue allowed me to focus on economy of material - the hallmark of all great composers.

>I don't mind "hijacking" - Fugue threads are always a good place to discuss fugues :)

Sure,  but there were also:

Should a composer write pieces for him/her self?

Should we compose for'posterity'?

Should we aim our efforts at an audience?

I guess the bottom line- real question is, what purpose does, and/or should,music serve ?  

These are way off the discussion of fugues, and really should have a topic of their own, IMHO. You might not mind hijacked threads, but some here have gone on forever..:)

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

Tom Jensen said:

[...] A big problem with much of my older music is there were too many ideas, the fugue allowed me to focus on economy of material - the hallmark of all great composers.

I think there is a place for having many ideas... depending on the purpose of the piece and the character it wishes to convey. Of course, one still needs to exercise great discernment in what to include or exclude, and the result still has to be convincing as an overall piece of music.

However, I agree with you on economy, not only of material, but also of means.  In my younger days I used to entertain megalomanic fantasies of unrealistically huge orchestras playing unrealistically complicated pieces, but in recent years I have come to appreciate economy of means -- rather than pile on all instruments at once, use only the minimum necessary to fulfill a particular function (this does not preclude climactic tutti passages and the like, of course -- but it does mean not writing in tutti from start to finish without any breaks; in fact, it means to reserve tuttis for those special moments when it is actually called for).

On the material side, I have also come to greatly appreciate the fugal form, because it not only forces you to derive the maximum you can from the minimum of starting materials, and subjects you to the rigors of counterpoint, which at first seems an unbearable yoke but once mastered it is actually a freedom on a level not before conceived; it is also greatly flexible and amenable to all sorts of creative treatments that you would not otherwise think of if you had stuck with "simpler" forms.

Anyway, getting off the soapbox...

I took a couple of listens to your fugue, and in general I liked it, but felt that you could have developed your subjects a lot more than you have.  The first section was not bad, but it felt like it could use a couple more entries, in various different treatments, to bring out aspects of the subject that perhaps the listener hadn't yet thought of.  I liked the subject of your middle section a lot: flowing and twisting yet subdued -- but again I felt a bit disappointed that you didn't develop the subject further.  IMO it would have been more satisfying had you written a few more episodes before landing in the last section, which I similarly also found a little on the short side.  Perhaps this is your goal, to keep it short, but at least to my ears it sounded like your subjects have more potential for development than you gave them. All just IMO, of course.  It's your call as the composer to do what you wish to do with your music. But I thought it might be helpful for you to know what at least one listener thought might be an improvement.

Hi Bob, I think that this is the ideal place to open and continue a discussion about the

overall 'relevance' of the fugue. I am interested in 'picking the brains' of those who are

writing fugues in our present day music environment. While my questions might seem

a 'hi-jack' to you, that is not my intent. I am not trying to discredit the value of the fugue.

When you sit down, and spend your time composing something, what 'focus' are you

entertaining? Are you just... expressing yourself? Do you have an audience in mind?

What 'form' have you chosen to express yourself by? Do you believe that there are others

interested in hearing you express yourself by and through that form? Or are your efforts

no more than a personal fantasy?

I enjoyed reading your line, those who attempt to rewrite the music of history... sans genius,

over and over again... This is an aspect of my inquiry. 

Both Mike H. and Tom have offered some interesting feedback on the subject.



Bob Morabito said:

>I don't mind "hijacking" - Fugue threads are always a good place to discuss fugues :)

Sure,  but there were also:

Should a composer write pieces for him/her self?

Should we compose for'posterity'?

Should we aim our efforts at an audience?

I guess the bottom line- real question is, what purpose does, and/or should,music serve ?  

These are way off the discussion of fugues, and really should have a topic of their own, IMHO. You might not mind hijacked threads, but some here have gone on forever..:)

Thanks Bob https://soundcloud.com/bob-morabito

I'll bite. :-P

I am of the (probably unpopular -- so be it) opinion that the classical forms have not yet been fully exhausted, and there remains much to be discovered even just within their confines, not to mention much more to be explored extrapolating from classical forms, without throwing the baby out the window with the bathwater entirely, as some modernists love to do. (I do not intend that as a personal attack on anyone, btw, though I do take issue with the general philosophy they espouse.)

The fugal form is one example of where I feel the grounds have only barely begun to be tread.  Certainly, Bach's corner of the grounds is one of the most well-worn, and he has constructed some of the most marvelous edifices upon it, but I am interested in walking outside his fences to see what else lies beyond. I am not interested in merely making (poor) replicas of Bach's edifices; obviously he has done superbly in his corner of the grounds and it's doubtful anyone will ever beat him as his own game. Rather, I'm interested in constructing new edifices that borrow from Bach's designs in some ways but innovate in other ways.

That's why I like to challenge things like the notion that a fugue subject must be followed by an answer in the dominant key, for example.  Sure, Bach's edifices bear that design, but as Kristofer has often alluded to, Bach's designs do not represent the rest of the explored grounds. Pachelbel has plenty of examples of other designs that are arguably just as effective as Bach's, and Beethoven's Grosse Fugue is another, though obviously they shine in different ways.  So what of fugues in non-diatonic scales?  Gregorio's recent fugue Dark Sky is a wonderful example of what could be achieved in that direction -- while we can't say that it rivals Bach, it certainly points to possibilities out there hitherto not yet explored.  Kristofer's fractal fugues are yet another corner of the grounds that, AFAIK, has barely even begun to be explored -- and that without even sacrificing traditional tonality and voice-leading.  There remains much to be explored beyond the fences of Bach before you reach the woods of modernism.

The fugal form, some have already argued, is not really a form, strictly speaking, but a certain type of polyphonic texture that can be put to all sorts of uses.  Mike H has often mentioned its flexibility, in that after the exposition you can basically do anything.  Well, I say that even in the exposition there's plenty of room to do all sorts of things -- as long as you don't get all uptight about strolling past Bach's fences.  And you don't even have to adhere to the fugal form/texture throughout an entire piece; recently I've considered the possibility of using the fugue as the development section of a sonata form, exploiting the inherent forward motion of the fugue to drive the dramatic buildup to the climax at the recapitulation. (Beethoven may have done this in one of his symphonies, IIRC -- but surely it can be taken further.)

Lastly, those who fear the word "fugue" really ought to do themselves a favor and open their minds a bit -- just a little bit -- to explore a brand new dimension of music that perhaps they have never noticed before. It can only enrich you, and I speak from my own experience of having a vast new world of music opened up to me when I finally left behind the childish toys of trivial ABA forms and alberti basses (and their modern derivatives thereof) and entered into a dazzling new realm of intoxicating polyphony, where you're finally free of the bonds of monophony (and monotony :-P) and are liberated into modes of expression never before imagined.  (Or, if it helps you, filter out the word "fugue" from the title of every piece you encounter, and listen to it with fresh, objective ears. You might actually enjoy it enough to get past any preconceived prejudices against 5-letter words that start with F. :-D)

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