Composers' Forum

Music Composers Unite!

Continuing in this quarter's fugue fever, here's another attempt at fugue from l'il ole me.

My last fugue elicited a comment that if I was going to break conventions, it should be up front. While I'm not sure I'm successful in that respect in this present fugue, that comment did inspire its subject, which (to my ears) heavily implies a tritone. As such, I used a lot of tritone and diminished 7th leaps in the voice leading here. I'm pretty sure it breaks some kind of rule somewhere, but it seemed like the right thing to do.

I also (tried to) indicate that I'm not after reproducing a Bach fugue, which seems a bit pointless since I'd never be able to do it as well as Bach himself anyway, in spite of my middle initial being S and my last name being 4 letters.  So while this time it just so happens that I lapsed into the "traditional" I-V-I-V exposition, I'm pretty sure the rest of the fugue has a structure that departs from tradition in some way. It seems to be a borderline sonata form, but not quite. Is it a fugue-sonata? A sonata-fugue? A fugal sonata? A sonatal fugue (is that even a word)? Or a mule hybrid of both that fails to be either? You be the judge. :-P

In any case, I decided to mostly follow my own sense of harmonic progression, which definitely doesn't follow what Bach would do, especially in the middle section. I got myself into trouble by starting in C# minor, which landed me in B# minor in the middle section (briefly, anyway), but I had originally wanted to transpose the piece to D minor, but my brain absolutely refuses to think of the subject in D minor. So I have stuck with it, warts and all.  Anyway, I suspect my sense of harmony is closer to Beethoven in flavor than Bach, though I'm sure it doesn't really follow Beethoven fully either.  So I guess I'll just have to settle with being my own voice. :-D

Edit 2016-12-12: Updated mp3 and score with new version, revised based on the feedback and comments I've received. Thanks, all who commented!

Edit 2016-12-19: Updated mp3 and score with latest version. This is probably the final version, as I'm reasonably satisfied with this piece. Any flaws or issues will be left as lessons for the future. Thanks to everyone who commented (even those who disagreed ;-)), esp. to Gregorio for helpful, concrete suggestions.

Views: 692

Attachments:

Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

P.S. About the stretti I also wanted to say that the final result turned out to be not as climactic as I anticipated -- somehow it sounds less dense than it really is -- so I decided to top it off with the augmentation. :-D

I forgot to mention that i really like your sense of harmonic movement..

One other curious thing- When you first introduce the subject it hit my ear that the theme went all the way to the third beat of measure 2.  Though, in all other instances (it seems) that the subject stops at the down beat - or all together - 4 beats plus  an 8th note..  and the last 8th moves down a step - (whereas initially it moves up)… but also that last 8th sometimes seems to also be the beginning of the  first 3 notes  - or similar arc - of the subject. This also may imply, and i'm wondering, do you hear the last note of the subject the last 16th of it's 4th beat or ?  

Again, initially i heard the last note of the theme as c#, which overlaps with the entrance of the soprano, 3rd beat, m2. - but it never comes fully back to that length.. so i am wondering,  how you hear the first few beats of measure 2… is it transition - after the subject? (yet i think that transition does't occur again)... 

When writing the piece, I really only had in mind the subject lasting up to the last 16th of the first bar. But then that's just an incomplete fragment, which needs at least another note to give it some sense of closure. In the opening, repeating the D# seemed to work best for imparting a sense of suspense, so I went with that. However, I couldn't think of a nice way for the 2nd entry to enter over a D#, so I eventually settled on a little extension to land on C# so that the 2nd voice can begin on E and naturally modulate to the dominant key.  But then at the end of the 2nd entry, I didn't find a nice way to lead back to the home key with an A# (the transposed equivalent of D#) at the end, and eventually went with Fx instead. That gave me a nice possibility of a diminished 7th leap that then nicely segues into a natural modulation back to the home key, which leap became somewhat motivic throughout the piece.

Given this backdrop, I later on decided that the note following the last 16th should be either the 2nd degree or the leading tone, just to give a weak sense of consistency. Perhaps one could think of it as a generalization of a tonal answer vs. a real answer, if one wishes to rationalize it? This flexibility in the post-last note also gave me additional flexibility when planning the stretto passage -- in my sketches, in fact, I enumerated each stretto possibility along with whether that note should go up or down, and in a few cases it gave nicer harmonizations than it otherwise would have if I had stuck with a single direction.

Now of course, all of this are technical considerations... Musically speaking, the ear obviously wouldn't hear what I technically delineated as the subject as a complete unit especially in the opening, so it's not surprising that you heard it all the way to the C# -- that's the phrasing I had in mind even though it includes that little extension past the technical end of the subject. The other occurrences of the subject pretty much treats it only up to the last 16th note plus the flexible up/down note following that, occasionally with some weak imitation of the 2nd entry's upward leap of a dim7th, as a kind of lip service to what might have been a longer subject. :-P  Well, also as a nice allusion to the form of the subject heard in the exposition in the 2nd entry.

And as a related little anecdote to this topic, in my earlier drafts of mm.13-14 I actually wrote the end of the bass entry as a B held for a dotted 1/4 note followed by two 16th notes (B-A-B) where I currently have B 1/4, A dotted 1/8, B 1/16, which would actually correspond to the extended form of the subject in the opening, except with an upward sweep rather than a downward one. But I found over several listenings that the D-D# in the upper voice in m.14 sounded strange, maybe because the harmony became too ambiguous with that arrangement. (One sign of this ambiguity was that if I listened to those bars repeated in quick succession, it sounded fine, but if I took a break and came back to the piece later and listened from the beginning with fresh ears, it sounded off. So I suspected that I was hearing what I knew was supposed to be the harmony into what was actually not at all clear to a listener who didn't already know.) So I tried several variations until I eventually settled on the present version, where the tritone formed by the A against the D# gave (to my ears at least) a sufficiently strong affirmation of the implied harmony to alleviate the sense of the D# being a "wrong" note.  So, sadly, this potential allusion to the extended form of the subject had to be compromised, leaving the exposition as the only place where this extended form appears, besides the verbatim repeat in m.23 which I'm planning to revise based on your feedback.

Hi HS,

Very nice weaving here and some nice touches.

My only criticism ( this is just my proclivities at play here of course) is that at the tempo you are at, it sounds like a practice tempo to get the notes articulated correctly and balanced. As a player, I'd prefer a more moderate, faster tempo, perhaps around bpm 75-90. I felt that the passages marked delicately where too slow and would benefit from a more flowing tempo. The faster speed would give more impetus to the striking staccato start too. It's funny how we hear differently isn't it? You have marked it stark and somber, yet to my ears it isn't that at all, not that it isn't a serious piece of course - I just think a higher tempo would bring out a different quality to the notes.

If I was buying a recording of this and the choice was between Schiff or Gould, I'd probably go for Gould, so long as he was in a quirky mood and not playing that piano with a dodgy b flat he used on his 2+3 part inventions recording!!

All the same, well done - perhaps we should just start a fugue thread and keep adding to it......

Mike

Hi Mike, thanks for taking the time to listen and comment.

It's interesting that you're the 2nd person to comment on the tempo being too slow... In fact, I was considering whether to slow it down even more! But I decided to try out your suggested tempo of bpm 75 anyway (with the riten.'s scaled accordingly), and found the result rather ... unsatisfactory? It sounds too rushed and somewhat even a caricature at times. Well, here's the resulting file so you can hear it for yourself. What do you think?

Attachments:

HS, I agree... I think 75 is too fast.... how 'bout  60?   :>}

I usually don 't enter into the fugue discussions because although I have certainly heard plenty of them and even played a few (not well) I've never studied the form and I don't feel qualified to comment, but with that in mind.

I agree with Mike that the faster tempo is better for this. This piece depends on a certain flow of ideas and the faster tempo makes that flow more attractive to my ear at least.

The opening is abrupt but I think it works. The ending, to my ear, doesn't seem to work as well however. Somehow I would expect a well prepared feeling of inevitability to sweep me into a strong conclusion here, kind of like how the plot of a well written novel ends with finality.

But I do appreciate and enjoy the quality of your work on this.

Hi HS,

I think it's too slow still, so have a listen to this.

BPM 90 - Most important though is the phrasing which is why I programmed half of it for you. This to me feels about right and brings out a latent quality in the music that's lacking at your tempo.

It's your piece though HS and I wont be offended if you don't like it - I understand that this is a paradigm shift in interpretation, but as a player, this is what I'd like do with it.

Just another thought, having got to know it a bit more, I would have liked a few more bars before the first delicate section as I feel it comes too soon after the opening. This is of course more noticeable at a faster tempo and so might not be valid. 

Good work all the same...

Attachments:

Mike, this version/tempo sounds very good to me... but it does eliminate the 'somber'

mood HS said he was going for. I agree with you though, that your choice is 'richer'.    RS
 
Mike Hewer said:

Hi HS,

I think it's too slow still, so have a listen to this.

BPM 90 - Most important though is the phrasing which is why I programmed half of it for you. This to me feels about right and brings out a latent quality in the music that's lacking at your tempo.

It's your piece though HS and I wont be offended if you don't like it - I understand that this is a paradigm shift in interpretation, but as a player, this is what I'd like do with it.

Just another thought, having got to know it a bit more, I would have liked a few more bars before the first delicate section as I feel it comes too soon after the opening. This is of course more noticeable at a faster tempo and so might not be valid. 

Good work all the same...

Hi Mike, I'm honored that you took the time to sequence a significant chunk of my piece. At 90 bpm it has a completely different feel than I had envisioned, quite lighthearted, and in fact even feels like some notes could be trilled, like Roger was alluding to. :-D  It also sounds a lot more Bachian. Perhaps that's why you prefer it at this speed?  You're right, though, that at this tempo the "Delicate" section seems to come a bit too early. Or at least the shift in dynamics makes it sound such, to my ears. I wonder if it would sound smoother without the change in dynamic (since we're going for mood alterations here).

Pushing the tempo up to 90 bpm isn't something I'd do, but it certainly sounds like an interesting interpretation nonetheless.  It makes me wonder if I should have left out the tempo marking and let the performer to decide how to interpret it! It's interesting how the same set of notes can impart such different moods just by a simple change in tempo.

Hi Ingo,

Thanks for taking the time to listen and comment.  I think your feedback is helpful, no matter how unqualified you may feel! I'm no expert in fugues either... attempting to write fugues (this is my 3rd attempt) has been quite an enlightening process so far.  I think I have still yet to come to grips with expressing my musical ideas in this form (or texture, or whatever you may call it). I agree that the ending could be better. I wrote it in a hurry, actually, because of the thrill in completing what I feel is my best effort at fugue so far.  Clearly, it needs some revisiting... or at the very least, closer scrutiny for my own learning, even if I ultimately decide not to change it.

I'm still leaning towards a slow tempo, even though you guys seem to think otherwise... That's not necessarily a bad thing; I like the fact that the same piece can be interpreted in such different ways with such different effects.  To me, that's a sign of the strength of internal consistency in the music, which is something I take pride in in my compositions.  Perhaps I really should just leave out the tempo marking, or at least indicate that it's merely a guideline rather than a hard-and-fast rule, so that performers can still feel free to interpret it differently from what I have envisioned.

I like the idea of an open tempo, in fact it reminds me of Bach too because his music is so adaptable and durable as well; which I think is a sign of a certain design form but also good craftsmanship from both of you. You keep this up and I may have to attempt a fugue myself and we'll all be in trouble.
 
H. S. Teoh said:

Hi Ingo,

Thanks for taking the time to listen and comment.  I think your feedback is helpful, no matter how unqualified you may feel! I'm no expert in fugues either... attempting to write fugues (this is my 3rd attempt) has been quite an enlightening process so far.  I think I have still yet to come to grips with expressing my musical ideas in this form (or texture, or whatever you may call it). I agree that the ending could be better. I wrote it in a hurry, actually, because of the thrill in completing what I feel is my best effort at fugue so far.  Clearly, it needs some revisiting... or at the very least, closer scrutiny for my own learning, even if I ultimately decide not to change it.

I'm still leaning towards a slow tempo, even though you guys seem to think otherwise... That's not necessarily a bad thing; I like the fact that the same piece can be interpreted in such different ways with such different effects.  To me, that's a sign of the strength of internal consistency in the music, which is something I take pride in in my compositions.  Perhaps I really should just leave out the tempo marking, or at least indicate that it's merely a guideline rather than a hard-and-fast rule, so that performers can still feel free to interpret it differently from what I have envisioned.

Reply to Discussion

RSS

Sign up info

Read before you sign up to find out what the requirements are!

Store

© 2020   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service