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Hi guys.. A short workout in three-part counterpoint.. have gotten big into Bach and his WTC recently,, wrote a toccata to go with this piece but it's not too good :( In posting this here I'm hoping to discover through you guys how to make this more JS Bach fugue-like ... Hope you enjoy! ;)

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Really nice counterpoint! You obviously have studied the WTC very deeply. I would love to hear this with voicing of the parts so the subjects are heard more distinctly. (I don't use a notation program, so I don't know how one does that with keyboard pieces.) As for the composition, it's all really beautifully composed. There were some places where I thought I heard a sequence, but it might go up (or down) one additional step before morphing into something else, just to sound more Bach-like. Love your work!
Well, there are lots of faults, if you really would like to make this Bach-like. But I guess you don't. I guess you want to allow some rule breaking here and there to make it sound a bit modern. The "faults" I'm talking about is parallel octaves, which make the parts less independent, some parallel 5ths, some strange chord sequences where the polyphony kind of overrules the carmonic development. bach counterpoint was very harmonic. Even though his polyphony was very clear, so was the harmonies, i.e. the chord sequences that the independent polyphonal parts created together. If you are aware of all this in your fugue, it's quite ok. But if you want me to point out more precisely the "faults", I could do that. Though it would be like nit picking. but this is the music dissection forum, right?
Yes Johan, I would very much appreciate some of your artistic advice, thats why I post stuff to this forum! My philosophy is to try to achieve good variety and contrast, taking the principle of parallels into account, but if they occur with little detriment to the music, thats ok. Obviously that will be subjective from person to person,, and I'd like to hear your thoughts on these strange chord progressions!

Johan Halmén said:
Well, there are lots of faults, if you really would like to make this Bach-like. But I guess you don't. I guess you want to allow some rule breaking here and there to make it sound a bit modern. The "faults" I'm talking about is parallel octaves, which make the parts less independent, some parallel 5ths, some strange chord sequences where the polyphony kind of overrules the carmonic development. bach counterpoint was very harmonic. Even though his polyphony was very clear, so was the harmonies, i.e. the chord sequences that the independent polyphonal parts created together. If you are aware of all this in your fugue, it's quite ok. But if you want me to point out more precisely the "faults", I could do that. Though it would be like nit picking. but this is the music dissection forum, right?

Terrific counterpoint.

I really enjoyed this.

Thanks for sharing

Ok, I shall listen one more time to the recording, view the pdf at same time and I'll make notes here about everything. Although I'm no expert on Bach, I've played a lot of Bach and I've analysed his fugues, written one or two of my own. I might sound like my own teacher 25 years ago. This nit picking is kind of judging by the rules of Bach as I remember them, not judging whether your music is good or not <i>despite</i> your rule breaking. Here we go...

When 2nd voice starts in 5th bar, it starts ok with F# whereas 1st voice started in B. But the chord is still like Bm, not F#m, because  1st voice hits B when 2nd voice starts with F#. In Bach's fugues, when the 2nd voice starts, the following bars should copy the harmonics from the beginning transposed to the 5th. You might get the point if you try to change two last notes in bar 4 to A G#, then in bar 5 when the 2nd voice starts, the 1st voice would continue A C# F#.

Bars 10, 12 and 14 should be changed so that you actually have only 2 voices there, since the 3rd voice is introduced only in bar 21. Another problem there is that in bar 10 you have a 6th between the lower and the higher voice which is ok, but in bars 12 and 4 you have perfect 4ths, which are not good. You should keep up the sequence there so that the lower voice would go to E and D in bars 12 and 14.

In bar 17 you have a hidden parallel 8th (or semi-parallel, whatever you calll it), which sounds a bit empty. That is both voices moving down to G#. And in bar 19 a not so hidden parallel 8th. F# -> B in both voices.In your mp3 rendering the harpsichord plays an A# in the 2nd voice in the cadenza in bar 20 together with the 1st voice. In your sheet the 2nd voice has a pause. The 2nd voice should do a conventional octave jump on F#.

At this point I have a feeling that the overall harmonic progression should have moved from B minor to F# minor. A 4 voice fugue might simply let the voices start in Bm, F#m, back to Bm, and finally F#m. Since your fugue has 3 voices and you have the long sequence in bars 10 to 14, touching the C# major, I feel that the 3rd voice should start in a F# minor key, not back to B minor.

In bars 21 to 24 there is not much diversity between voices 2 and 3. You should spot a lot of parallel octaves there.

Ok, at this point, if I were my teacher, I'd say fix these errors, check the rest for similar errors and come back to me. But instead I listened to a longer section of the composition to figure  out if there was something else to be said. As a whole there are larger sections that sound good. Especially the augmentation of the theme in bar 75. But again if we compare with Bach's WTC, I'm not that sure that you have a structure with several sections, where each section has one distinct idea that it builds on. The ideas of Bach were usually something like augmentation, inversion or stretto (or what's it called when the themes run together only 1 bar shifted). Or the ideas dealt with the overall harmonic progression.

The harmonics in Bach's fugues really had an idea. Even though his fugues are polyphony, the chords can be analysed and the sequences could be identical to some  sequences in his more homophone music. Like say the prelude in Eb minor in WTC I. In bars 67 to 75, before the augmention, you have some semi sequence with a vague idea of the chords. I think they are like Bm, A, F#, Bm, G, Em, F#, Bm - F#, Bm. I think that part would need a more clear chord sequence like Bm, Em, A, D, G, Em or C#dim, F#, Bm - F#, Bm. And bold usage of sequence technique in the voices. Here's a pdf showing a typical sequence with those chords. I actually composed only two bars, then I copied them and transposed each new two bar down one second, changed the accidentals to match the chords and finally did the cadenza. Some music software can even do the diatonic transposition, taking care of the accidentals. Gosh, if only Bach would have had modern software.

Well, as I said, my notes are about things that are not Bach-like. And some of these things could really lift your composition up from the dusty old Baroque, but some of them just sound like you didn't know about them and you would have done different if you had known. And unfortunately I can't point out the difference. Know the rules but be bold when you break them.

Um... I do have at least one parallel 5th in my example.

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