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There has been talk about a potential fugue / polyphony contest, and since I didn't even know the definition of a fugue until recently, I thought I should prep for the contest by writing a practice piece in fugue style. So here's my (attempt at) fugue. I probably did a whole bunch of things wrong, so I'd appreciate if people could point out all the flaws

Specific issues that I'm aware of include:

- Too many crossing parts that obscure the voices: what to do? Or is the subject I chose a poor candidate for a fugue?

- There are probably a bunch of discordant notes / unresolved leading tones / parallel voices, etc., that should be fixed.

- The ending seems rather abrupt. Any ideas how to improve it?

Thanks!

(P.S. I'm not submitting this to the upcoming contest; this is just a practice piece.)

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Nonsense, my skills at providing feedback aren't all that great... I tend to ramble on and on saying more or less the same thing, but you get straight to the point. Your feedback has caused me to look more critically at my own work and see where the flaws are -- very important for learning to do better in the future. Especially in creative endeavors like music composition, it's too easy to get too attached to one's work and be unable to see the obvious flaws in it, whereas that's quite needed in order for one to improve one's skills effectively.

But in any case, I fully understand how it is not to have music as a career and therefore be severely limited in how much time can be committed to music, since this is also true of my own situation.  So don't worry about it if you simply don't have the time to get around to this piece. Nevertheless, I do eagerly hope you'll eventually get to it one day -- you seem to have an excellent sense of equal importance of each part in a contrapuntal texture, that I appear to be rather weak in. I'd love to see where you would take this piece.

Thanks, Dave, for taking the time to pull up a Bach fugue for comparison. You're right, that the last section is just very, very busy. I should probably trim it down a little for more variation. But then again, there are a lot of fundamental flaws in this piece, that I'm wondering if I should just call it a good effort, and do better in my next fugue attempt. :-)

Nothing "practice" about this, H.S. It is a "finished" piece ready to go. Perhaps a Finale to a String Quartet? Or an opening movement?

Thanks for the compliment, Joe.  This piece was written as a standalone piece. The ending sounds a tiny bit inconclusive right now, maybe that's why you feel like it should be a multi-movement work? :-)

Or perhaps I should follow Bach's pattern of a prelude followed by a fugue, and write a prelude to this fugue (or pseudo-fugue, I don't know. I was mainly toying with canonic devices, not so much fugal devices, so as it stands it isn't really a "pure" fugue, but some kind of hybrid between a canon and a fugue.)

Actually, I just think multi-movemented. The piece is a fine work as it stands but prelude/fugues often are interesting pieces to open a quartet. And the simple ending might lead nicely into a slow adagio. Follow with a interlude and then a grand finale that ties in all previous themes. Think about it.


H. S. Teoh said:

Thanks for the compliment, Joe.  This piece was written as a standalone piece. The ending sounds a tiny bit inconclusive right now, maybe that's why you feel like it should be a multi-movement work? :-)

Or perhaps I should follow Bach's pattern of a prelude followed by a fugue, and write a prelude to this fugue (or pseudo-fugue, I don't know. I was mainly toying with canonic devices, not so much fugal devices, so as it stands it isn't really a "pure" fugue, but some kind of hybrid between a canon and a fugue.)

I was told the file doesn't work anymore, so just in case, here's a soundcloud link: https://soundcloud.com/user-822291615/fugue-in-a-minor.

I recoginize this... You have been working on it again? Sounds better then (half ?) a year ago! You are making a lot of progress, HS!

Hmm. I'm pretty sure I haven't touched it since I last posted it.  :-P  Does that mean it was ahead of its time and is only now becoming more appreciated for what it is? (Hah! Don't I wish...)

Well, may be. I don't know, but it sounds good to me.

Thanks!

 

 

In the beginning of this post, you say there are a bunch of discordant notes and unresolved leading tones, and asked for suggestions.  I think people are afraid of discords and unresolved tonal anomalies.  I had a dream last night, where snakes and monsters would pop up out of the floor in ordinary public places, out of nowhere, and would appear very terrifying.  But when I awoke, I realized there was nothing at all terrifying about these images.  I wonder if it's the same with discords.  Maybe the discordant notes should remain as they are, or examined, and made even more discordant.  And maybe new discords should be added, deliberately.   It occurs to me that we afraid of and startled by too many things.   There are still White South Africans who are afraid of Black and Brown skin.   Maybe it's similar with chords and structures that are simply unfamiliar to one.   

 

It's funny that so many people are afraid of spiders, which have eight legs, even as the traditional scale has the octave.  Fewer people are afraid of dogs, cows, horses and cats, which have four legs.  But I think only a few Asian cultures have a four tone scale.  

 

If you have a few notes that appear discordant somehow, I think it's a good idea to shift them around, and see if you can create a new and original kind of discord. Or perceived discord.  Some people are afraid others will think they supposedly don't know the rules, or made a mistake.  But it's only by knowing the rules that you can make the music deliberately discordant or in accord with traditional methods.  What people perceive as discordant also seems to change from culture to culture.  The more you play with the rules, the more you learn.  It's just an idea.  

As Tyler pointed out, the subject does span two octaves, which does make avoiding collisions harder.  Then again, look at Bach's B minor fugue from the WTC, book 1– this also has a lot of potential for discord, and the subject is highly chromatic and long.  I think one thing that could help with clarity and density is your use of register– things tend to be pretty dense in the middle.  For instance, in bar 3, instead of having the viola and second violin stay in the same register and cross over each other, you could move the viola down an octave.  If you spread the register out a little bit, I think it would be easier to listen and hear what was going on.  This is a problem I've had to grapple with too :) 

Something else that could help is studying Kennan's book on counterpoint (or Fux).  If you wanted, you could also look at Jeppesen, but that's more relevant for modal counterpoint.  The Kennan, in particular, covers how Bach-era counterpoint works.  That being said, studying Bach scores (in particular, the B minor one), would be good.  

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