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: 697


Reply to This

Replies to This Discussion

Interesting - what you mention:  "Sibelius once said: 'Whereas most other modern composers are engaged in manufacturing cocktails of every hue and description, I offer the public cold spring water.' "

At the age of 63, Sibelius was told by his doctor that he must forever stop drinking and give up cigars or he would certainly die very soon.  He was so distraught, always having them intwined w/ the compositional process.. He did quit.  Lived another 30 years, and didn't put out even one more piece.  … 'Spring water', indeed.  :) 

That's very interesting, Gregorio. I was unaware of what his doctor had told him. This seems to be another important piece in the puzzle Sibelius fans like to talk about, that is, the enigma of his 8th symphony (or rather, the lack thereof).

There is much speculation about why he didn't complete his 8th symphony, leaving his last major orchestral work as Tapiola, also a rather enigmatic piece. There is evidence that he did begin work on an 8th symphony, or at least expressed some intent to do so, but at some point or other stopped for unknown reasons. It seems to be connected with a particular incident his wife referred to during those years, where, being really distraught, he had brought a stack of manuscripts to the fire and burned the lot of them, with his mood much improved afterwards.  Some suspect that these may have been 8th symphony sketches, though there is no evidence either way.

There is also speculation that he has said everything he wanted to say in the 7th symphony, with its climactic conclusion being his final "farewell" to the musical world, and thus there was nothing left for him to say in an 8th symphony.

But perhaps it's just a case of spring water. :-D  (And a doctor's visit. :-P)

Hi Lawrence,

It seems that I neglected to reply to your comment until now. Sorry about that.

I see your point about the tempo, and perhaps it would be more effective as a traditional fugue that way.  I still feel like the slower tempo is closer to how I envisioned the piece, though.  Perhaps my compositional skills aren't yet good enough to write in such a way that the notes would be more effective at this slower tempo than they are now.  I guess I'll chalk that up as a lesson for the future.

As for changing key signatures: the only reason I introduced that in mm.18-21 was because I felt it was more readable that way. In the original score I actually didn't have the key sig change, and those bars were a big ugly mess of accidentals. Well, there are still a lot of accidentals even now, but it's a lot better than before. So it was more out of expedience than anything that indicates the nature of the music at that point, because those bars are actually still highly modulating and don't settle until near the end. I was hoping would-be performers would appreciate reading this rather than the splatter of accidentals that would otherwise result.

Lawrence Aurich said:


     This is a good fugue, a little Bachish, but with some modern chords.  I enjoyed it.  I've written maybe two fugues but played quite a few on piano, so no expert.  Part of a fugue's appeal is the repeating rhythms and patterns.   When a fugue gets a few layers thick it is difficult to hear the individual melodies but you can sense the patterns.  When it is played too slowly the patterns are lost and all you hear is notes.  A faster tempo not only gives it life and bounce but allows the listener to feel the rhythms.  Up the tempo and you have a great fugue.

     About 2/3 through you change key signatures.  When Bach is going through a circle of fifths he may change keys every two measures and go through six or seven keys.  He uses accidentals without changing key signatures, so keep the same signature unless you are introducing a new section.


This fugue fever needs to stop. Why are Fugues "in" right now? I am going to vow to break the Fugue Fever with my next composition, maybe we can start a different type of fever- that will be my goal at least. 

I enjoyed the piece from a composition perspective. It kept me on my toes. I do like the main theme (that you opened with)

I agree the dissonances are well placed too. 

I really have nothing critical to say, it is a well written fugue. 

On a side note, that is the weirdest sounding MIDI piano I think I've ever heard! What is that? 

My only real critique would be, and this is not your fault- what happened on the last page of the score there? Scanning malfunction? 

I (proudly) claim responsibility for fugue fever.  It all began back in fall of last year, after the summer contest, when a bunch of us, having been quite inspired by the contest, chatted about holding another one. During the discussion the topic of counterpoint came up, and I suggested a fugue-writing contest, since fugues have a reputation of being difficult and so would challenge us composers to test our skills. Sadly, the would-be fugue contest never materialized, though it did get me working on my first attempt at fugue. It wasn't very well received, and for good reason -- I had no idea what I was doing :-P and the piece was more like a hybrid between a fugue and a canon than a "true" fugue.  Nevertheless, it got me thinking about fugues, and in the meantime prompted one or two others to write their own. Then in September of this year, a fugue subject occurred to me, and I started working on it, eventually producing my Fugue in 7/4. The lively discussion that ensued when I posted it here inspired Mike Hewer to write one too, and then I wrote this fugue, and the rest was history. :-D

Anyway, the MIDI piano is an ancient one, from the ancient SoundBlaster Live! soundfont technology, which I found online under the name "WST25Stein_00Sep22.SF2".  It's among the better ones in my collection of soundfonts, which isn't saying much because most of them are pretty lousy. :-P

As for the last page of the score, I've no idea what you're referring to. Is there something that's off?

P.S. Well actually, I forgot to mention the most important influence on my fugue-writing (and possibly our present fugue fever): Gregorio's fugue, which he posted here last year, which was a major inspiration for me to write my own.  Things seem to have come round full circle now, as Gregorio, AIUI, is now engaged in writing another one. I'm looking forward to the results. :-P

@Gregorio:  I played around with mm.22-27 today, based on your comment that the new m.23 seemed a bit redundant, and came up with a somewhat hackish solution: have the tenor enter 2 beats earlier, and basically shift everything up to m.27 two beats to the left. To connect it to the current m.28, I extended the 16th note descending run and tweaked the other voices somewhat to accomodate this change.  What do you think of this new version?


HS, I always love a good challenge, but life is too short.

The idea of writing a fugue appeals to me about as

much as learning to juggle or tap dance. All seem a bit 'passe' to me.

As an exercise in honing ones musical skills, it may have constructive merit,

especially if you are young and talented.... I am neither :>}

Plod on, all you pugilistic fugue-ists, I'll be content to sit back with my ole

buddy Phil Harmonic and weigh the results from my Lazyboy.     RS

HS said "@Gregorio:  I played around with mm.22-27 today, based on your comment that the new m.23 seemed a bit redundant, and came up with a somewhat hackish solution: have the tenor enter 2 beats earlier, and basically shift everything up to m.27 two beats to the left. To connect it to the current m.28, I extended the 16th note descending run and tweaked the other voices somewhat to accomodate this change.  What do you think of this new version?"

Yes, dropping former m23,  and flipping the second entry to the tenor (instead of the soprano) does work (in a servicable way), … it doesn't sound like a hack.. my only momentary pause was the adding a 16th to the end rhythm of the subject - . I'm curious why you didn't have it end with the c# on beat 3 m23 - with the beginning of the tenor's entry. (could it be that you didn't want to cross voices?)  …Though on second listening, i didn't feel a 'bump' there.

ps… if you were to have the c# on beat 3 m23 .. then proceed to the 2 eighths - D# and C# for b.4, to the downbeat m24 f double #.. which would also 'retrograde'  the shape, staggered by one beat  of the tenor's entry.. i think that would sound good :)

in essence, dropping G# and E in alto b.3 m23- and substituting a q.note c#.

Am I understanding you correctly? Here's what I have in mm.22-23:

Is this what you meant?

Reply to Discussion


Sign up info

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


© 2021   Created by Gav Brown.   Powered by

Badges  |  Report an Issue  |  Terms of Service