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Hi All,

Well having talked the talk a bit too much on this forum, I thought it only fair to walk the walk again and put my head on the block. With thanks to Kristofer, H.S and Nate for re-awakening my passion for Fugue, I offer the 2nd of a planned 12 preludes and fugues for piano. Two others are written, but not in Sibelius yet.

Please don't expect Bach here, I have adapted the forms to suit my own purposes, but I have tried to keep the spiritual essence of his music in mine, albeit in a modern language. It's about 5'.30" long

Ok, I've now got my hard hat on...comment away if you wish.....

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Hi DriscollMusick,

So glad it got through to you. We all hope don't we, that when we put ourselves on the line with a personal utterance we will manage to communicate to the listener. That I managed it with you and Ingo and maybe a little of HS is very satisfying.

DriscollMusick said:

Mike, I really enjoyed this piece.  It is sophisticated and modern yet wholly engaging.  I wish more composers wrote music like this.  


First off, thanks for giving it a go.

I did wonder if I'd draw some fire for the subversion of some conventions. I confess that you make good points  especially regarding the mono-rhythm (good phrase that, you could also say uni-rhythm perhaps, as in unison!) and if I recall correctly I did start out with the usual type of expo + a CS that was rhythmically independant and even a codetta. But you know what, I kept getting drawn to the hiatus at the end of the subject, so much so that I decided to treat it too as part of the subject and as such, ripe for exploitation as well as using  it as a cadential device too.

It would have been easy to stick to what's expected but for me the subversions had a more musical appeal, so much so that I even emphasised the mono-rhythms with subito ff's. They are also arresting to play and act as a foil to the counterpoint.

The definition of fugue is a tricky one eh? I believe there is enough in there to justify it's title - there is a subject, a counter subject, Episodes, double counterpoint, augmentation. Not every fugue has to employ every trick in the book, right? To quote Spock - "It's a fugue HS, but not as you know it"

I'll post the 1st P +F when I manage to get of my backside and put it into Sibelius, if you find time for that one, you'll find many more techniques in there that may satisfy your definition of fugue. 

Thanks again HS, I appreciate the time you took to scrutinise the piece.....this is fun ain't it......

H. S. Teoh said:

I listened to this twice.  The first time it was difficult to get into... the second time was easier.

Overall, I like the prelude part; I think you did a good job in maintaining a calm yet mysterious mood.

The fugue part wasn't bad either, but I felt that either the title was a misnomer, or it didn't really live up to the promise of a fugue.  I'm not talking about a Bach-style fugue here, mind you, but I felt that there was too much "stop and go": I felt you could have done so much more with the subject in terms of occurrences that don't start on the same beat.  There wasn't that much of the interplay of voices like one would expect in a fugue; what you have is more-or-less a statement of the subject, pause, another statement coupled with an inversion underneath, pause, another combination of subject and something else, pause, etc.. It would have been so much more interesting if the inversion, for example, appeared half a bar late, so that while it's still going on, the RH has moved on to the next idea, etc.. I think you had this in at least one part, which was good, but overall, it felt like the sections were too clearly delineated, with too many pauses in between.

You also had rhythms that coincided far too often; it would have been so much more interesting to listen to if the rhythms in the RH and LH parts are markedly different so that many more interesting rhythmic interactions occur. As it stands, I found too many mono-rhythmic passages, which greatly detracted from what would otherwise have been a very clever, modern take on fugue.  I didn't get too much feeling of "chasing one's own tail" (the two voices imitating each other in turn, one getting ahead then the other, etc.) that makes fugues so interesting to listen to.

I also felt the ending wasn't satisfying enough... I'm not talking about a traditional cadence or anything like that here; but the ending felt somewhat suspended in mid-air, like we haven't arrived somewhere new, but just arbitrarily stopped. Perhaps the climax needs a bit more strengthening so that what follows feels more conclusive, I don't know.

Don't get me wrong; I think the fugue part is a pretty good composition in its own right, but IMO it doesn't quite live up to the promise of "fugue". It has fugue-like elements, certainly, but is missing some important characteristics that make fugues the fascinating beasts they are.

First off, thanks for giving it a go.

I did wonder if I'd draw some fire for the subversion of some conventions. I confess that you make good points  especially regarding the mono-rhythm (good phrase that, you could also say uni-rhythm perhaps, as in unison!) and if I recall correctly I did start out with the usual type of expo + a CS that was rhythmically independant and even a codetta. But you know what, I kept getting drawn to the hiatus at the end of the subject, so much so that I decided to treat it too as part of the subject and as such, ripe for exploitation as well as using  it as a cadential device too.

I would LOVE to see write something with so much calculated form, but, with far less complex harmonies. 

Hi David...check out my website, go to the scores page and listen to the Adagio and/or the Partita Concordia. Or if you like media music, check the commercial page...


I just listened to your Adagio. Very moving piece. That I can get into. Beautiful. Constantly keeps you on your toes. Forgive me if I get it wrong, but it brings me to the feels of a 1920s Contemporary piece, sort of coming out of the 1800's and into the modern 1920s. 

I obviously cannot critique this because the songwriting applied is far beyond my skill set. Are you a string player by nature? The piece seemed extremely well written to the needs of live players.

Did you have this recorded live?

Hi David,

Thanks, glad you liked it. No I'm not a string player, but have been pro composer for many years and worked with orchestras, musicians and bands in London during that time. I've learnt my scoring skills through study and experience.

The Adagio was a commission from a muso friend of mine and was performed in England. It was not recorded professionally though, I just had a camcorder with me!

Mike, that's a pretty clever idea to treat the pause as part of the subject.  Still, I'd have preferred a bit more variety in terms of contrast between LH/RH rhythms. A "misaligned" pause in either hand, for example, would have added a lot more interest (to me, anyway!) than the entire thing stopping in step.

I'm all for subverting norms, but perhaps I'd do it in a different way. For me, fugue isn't so much about the letter of the law, so to speak, i.e. the technicalities of subject, counter-subject, augmentation, stretto, you know, all of the standard techniques. I don't really see it as a form per se, but more as a kind of texture for structuring your musical ideas. I see it more as a kind of imitative counterpoint where the voices are "playing catch" with each other, hence my allusion to chasing one's own tail. The letter of the "rules" I can dispense with any day -- in some sense, I really don't care so much about the analytical part of a fugue (is it a tonal answer or real answer, does it have a stretto, where are the episodes, is there a codetta, is that an augmentation or diminuation, etc.), even though, where present, those things are certainly also fascinating to study in their own right. And certainly, I don't expect a fugue to employ every fugue device there is out there (in fact, I'd question the artistic value of such a piece, as that would seem to be bordering on the catalogue syndrome). Bach himself rarely wrote a fugue that used more than a mere one or two fugue devices. But to me the "essence" of a fugue lies in the imitative counterpoint and interplay between the voices, the keywords being imitative and interplay.  So in my book, I'd call a piece that breaks every fugue "rule" yet retains the idea of imitation and interplay between voices a fugue, but a piece that obeys the "letter of the law", so to speak, yet departs from the essence of imitation and interplay, I'd have trouble accepting as a fugue.

But then that's my personal definition of fugue, and as you say, it's tricky to pin down. Even Bach himself, supposedly the one who epitomizes the idea of fugue the most, almost never wrote a fugue that didn't break at least one of those "rules" that we seem to get so worked up about these days, so the question of how to define a fugue isn't an easy one to answer. And while I may be a bit hesitant in applying the label of "fugue" to your current specimen, I do think that it's nevertheless a very well-constructed piece, taken on its own terms. And after all, a title is merely a title, right? What's important is the music itself, and I think you did a good job there.


A misaligned pause...wish I'd have thought of that.

I couldn't agree more with you on the rest of your post. The irony to be had by writing in what seems such a technical, restrictive way is evident in the amount of liberty you have for flights of fancy. You can become obsessed with a fragment and have great fun bending it to your whim. I get the 'chasing it's tail' thing but I appreciate the development of material even more so because I'm always banging on about teasing out the full potential latent in an idea. Fugue as a form is remarkably malleable and I like your description of it being textural in nature, so true.

Anyhow, I am really pleased the actual music got through to you, only another 9 to do, mostly a3 and a4 but also including...gulp...a mirror fugue.


Hi Mike.  

I enjoyed your piece.. It has a lot of energy!

I did though wish it could have been at a slower speed - in order to more soak up your  harmonic sense.

As i recall, it is a 2 voice fugue, with would limit certain possibilities with regard to stretti , and also leaving  some need for interweaving rhythms - yet there was much unison there.. Still, although to my mind it doesn't perhaps feel fully fugal, it didn't really matter because i enjoyed the ride! 

Thanks for posting

The Adagio was a great listen, thanks Mike for sharing it. It take me on a journey and was an immersive listening experience. 

I'm sorry this piece was not my cup of tea, but I understand all too well trying something different and a road less traveled. 


Excellent. I enjoyed every moment of this. The music reminded me a little of the Stravinsky that composed Petrushka but that to me is a positive.  I can't find anything to criticize about this and hope that you can get a concert performance. BTW.. its just the right length. IMHO 

Hi Mike--

Just to continue our off forum conversation, I feel this is an EXCELLENT piece--but there are some things that really bother me, (but of course its only my opinion:) Though I did see these same thoughts echoed above after we had spoken, which I found interesting.

The left hand repeated figure after the opening goes on a little too long for me, and after a very short absence returns, unchanged and contributes even more to my tiredness of it.

The cadence bothers me also, as does the title of the piece. I realize its part of a much larger body of works you have in mind but even that Id question. I really dont hear a fugue here, but what I do hear is GOOD music..bottom line being, for me anyways, is that if you were to treat ALL your fugues in this same way way, Id find MUCH more interest and enjoyment in the music, than if they all sounded like the classic standard fugue. Again and its only my opinion, writing a fugue nowadays, though possibly revered by many, doesnt reach me, and I find it almost TOTALLY absent in the music I listen to, and compose ie contemporary classical leaning more toward the avant garde side. Snippets of fugue writing to me are MUCH more effective than total fugues, which seem to have some kind of special pride attached to writing them. Im sorry I dont share this, though I can appreciate one when its well done, but invariably to me it ends up sounding too Bach at the cost of hiding that composers own original voice.

Thanks again Mike--EXTREMELY well done, and hope to hear MUCH more like this..with DIFFERENT titles of course :) LOL:)

Thanks Bob

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