A fugue in 1 voice? Ludicrous!

Recently I noted that all 3 of my fugue attempts have been in 4 voices, and so I started sketching a 2-voice fugue instead.  While doing that (which will be a separate piece, btw), a crazy idea occurred to me: what if I took the reduction of number of voices to its (il)logical conclusion -- i.e., a 1-voice fugue?

Well, the debate about whether there is even such a thing will probably be endless, so let's skip that part and just look at what I wrote. The single voice states the subject, then sneakily (or not-so-sneakily) answers itself, then plays modulatory episodes to link various different entries (including pretend-strettos by interrupting itself while stating the subject) and finally rounding off with a coda-like phrase.  There are a few places where it suggests multiple voices via the age-old trick of alternating between high and low notes -- and thus keeps up the pretense of trying to harmonize with itself, fugue-style. :-P

Anyway, this entire analysis is probably completely ridiculous, but at least I can say that this is the first time I wrote an unaccompanied melody of this length that can stand on its own.  While the audio was generated by the default piano patch, this piece can conceivably be played by any other solo instrument that has the requisite range -- harpsichord, say, or perhaps it could pass as a viola sonata, or a ditty for steel drums, or something like that.  (I did try rendering the audio with a steel drums patch, and it seems to be very much in character with the ludicrity of a fugue in 1 voice.)



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  • Interesting exhibition GX. yet another lopsided sounding display. :>}

    I was somehow transported to the outback in Australia. Very 'earthy'

    and primative sounding and yet there was something more subliminal to it.

    Have you considered composing something with other instruments along

    with the jaw harp? There may be some potential there.        RS

  • Sounded like some vocals at the end that would be cool, definitely worth pursuing. Maybe work some of your sample magic on this!
    gregorio X said:

    (A little late to the punch here) As others had mentioned, and prompted by Kris' link, i was messing with the jaw's harp - and the overtones there.. Strangely, i find a machine like quality - should anyone like to listen to a fragment of this piece.

    A fugue in 1 voice? Ludicrous!
    Recently I noted that all 3 of my fugue attempts have been in 4 voices, and so I started sketching a 2-voice fugue instead.  While doing that (which…
  • Thanks for listening guys. I only put it here as a curiosity… I have pretty much failed in making this into a convincing piece.. This minute+ is the only part worth mentioning out of a 7 minute construct (which did have additional instr.)  The electric 'vocality' was the thing that attracted me. I thought it might be of some interest to others as well.

  • @gregorio: I remembered your original post of this with a title something like "variations on a single note"... After listening to your clip and reading up on jaw's harp, I'm reminded of a crazy idea I had about a month or two ago, of an orchestral piece consisting entirely of a single note, where interest is generated primarily by timbral variations from instruments entering / dropping out on the note, or doubling at the octave, etc..  Somebody pointed out that it was not an original idea; it has precedent in Scelsi's Quattro Pezzi Su Una Nota Sola.

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  • I just want to come back to this point because I think it's interesting. It would be really hard to write a fugue for an overtone singer because they are (at least from what I've seen) only able to sing the first few harmonics over any given fundamental which really constricts what the upper voice is capable of doing. If you have the two voices continuously moving independently of each other in both pitch and rhythm (being a fugue after all) you would have to be careful that all of the fundamentals you had them singing were capable of producing the upper voice you wanted.

    You also couldn't ever have a rest in the lower line while you wanted to upper line singing which would be kind of strange in a fugue.

    I've wanted to write a piece with an overtone singer for a while but there aren't many around and most of them can't read music (this woman obviously can but she's the first one I have seen that seems to have a background in formal western music training).


    Of course you can have a fugue with one voice, or even a half a voice, or no voice at all.


    The definition of a fugue contains these words:  it's a piece "in which a short melody or phrase (the subject) is introduced by one part and successively taken up by others"


    So, if the subject is played by one instrument, the piano for instance, and THEN taken up by the viola, and THEN by the tuba, and so on, you have something which (in a modern sense) can easily be called a fugue, even if it only has one voice.


    I like the melody here.  The trills are totally appropriate, and come in at exactly at the right place.  Zero part inventions were also at one time in vogue, but that was during a few months when there was no recorded human musical history at all.  For an exposition, expatiation, interpolation and exegesis, please visit a CF page that exists in an alternative universe.  Extraterrestrials, Celestial Beings, and many beings usually not encountered by humans, have produced fugues, meta-fugues, micro-fugues, sub-nucleonic fugues and many überfugues and ünterfugues of various types. 


    We can go far beyond this, though, and have a "less than zero" part invention.  We can also have multiples (of the square root of negative one) voices in a fugue.  It might seem impossible, at first.  But we do have algorithm generators that can create the sequences, and translate them into musical notation.


    So keep up the good work, Teoh.  The debate about this will not be "endless," of course, though it could be carried on for many generations, as your children and our children's children, carry on the discussion, after we end our brief sojourns on this planet in our current material bodies.  


    Perhaps we should recall that Music Encyclopedias, and other reference books, tell us that in addition to the four part fugue, "Five-, six-, and even seven-part fugues are likewise possible" ...  But I wonder if we can play all the different types of fugues I have mentioned so far, ALL AT THE SAME TIME?  It's worth considering.  [This might be the best thread posted on Composers' Forum for several years-- Thank you.]

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