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I must confess I have added the following discussion to another website but hope you also find it interesting.

La Folia (pronounced lah foh-LEE-ah) which literally means madness, folly or empty-headedness is possibly one of the most remarkable phenomena in musical history. This simple but intriguing tune was first published in 1672 with roots going back to the 16th century. It has been a major challenge for many composers up to the present day, ranging from being part of a Bach Cantata to being incorporated into a film theme by Vangelis. Perhaps the most striking feature is that the theme is not better known despite more than 150 composers making variations of it over a span of nearly 350 years.

It strikes me that this would be an excellent basis for a competition among our members - just out of interest...sadly no cash prizes. Because sometimes I see myself fitting neatly into the meaning of 'La Folia' I have had a crack at writing 12 variations for horn quartet. For your interest the theme proper makes its first entrance in the 1st horn part in variation 5 - it is only 8 notes long.

Incidentally, I have become fixated with this so am now attempting a set of jazz variations - crazy or what!

Comments that might lead to improvements are welcome as always.

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I felt weired too Mike!

I fear  'a call to arms' is afoot.. Where's Columbo when you need him? :)

I found a crazy set of non-rule-following variations by some unknown modernist composer

Struth John....parallell fiths

C’mon Agustus, are you a Bach fanatic?

It's a pleasure MMC (is your first name Mike?). Who'd have thought such a simple series of notes could generate such interest over such a long period - fascinating. 

Yes, I've had a look at Socrates link which is very interesting and am about to look at the second one you've given.

@Mike - I also feel weird, and wired....and tired. ;{

You guys - the elephant- the 12 bar blues has had a million variations :)  (Pachelbel's canon comes in 2nd)

And what of the Ragas.. and with just one chord? (melodic quatertones notwithstanding..)

I thought that's how blues begun: I-IV-I-V-I etc, etc  :-)

(any other resulting chords may be taken as substitutions)

gregorio X said:

You guys - the elephant- the 12 bar blues has had a million variations :)  (Pachelbel's canon comes in 2nd)

And what of the Ragas.. and with just one chord?

Good one, Socrates!  (wish i had your clapping imogee)

right click on it-copy/paste image Gregorio.

I have followed this thread with great interest.  It is fascinating how such an unassuming set of notes & chords could have held so many composers in thrall all these centuries!  My two favorites are the Handel and this one by the "rule-breaking unknown modernist composer". 

The Handel stands out because he turned a melody/harmony piece that didn't have much direction into something that built to a climax and then had a wonderful cadential theme.  I think if I were to write La Folia variations, I'd use Handel's version as the basis.

That unknown modernist composer didn't do half bad either. ;-)   I really love Rachmaninoff's variations, which I studied along with his Rhapsody/Paganini variations when I was working on my own variation set.  In my life-view, which is admittedly 20th century and beyond, variations should start as recognizable, then move further and further away from the source until you wonder how it got there!  Then perhaps at the end, a little "memory" of the original theme is cool to remind everyone of how far we've come.  In that respect, Mozart's "Twinkle" variations are boring in the extreme.  Even the kids in my under-10 set start yawning half way through the Mozart.  "He never even changes the key!" they cry out, as if in pain.  They all love how Rachmaninoff goes far afield and adds his own stamp to his variation sets. 

I think I'll start a thread on the Paganini theme, which has also inspired scores of composers (pun intended).   After exams and spring concert time, that is!!  Right now is a very busy time for our young student composers, and as their devoted teacher, I'm swamped.

John Driscoll said:

I found a crazy set of non-rule-following variations by some unknown modernist composer

Agustus Stephanos = Steven Gustin = Gone

Thanks for the "lower case clue", Mike.

-- Julie

Steven, you're making up "rules" again that simply DO NOT EXIST. 

You should take some time to educate yourself about variations are.  Here is a link to the Wikipedia page, which has a lovely example from Mozart of exactly what you just incorrectly said could not be a variation:

agustus stephanos said:

because that's what variations are.  you can move them from voice to voice, yes, but this type of work would not be classified as "variations", but a fugue.  variations aren't treated as an adherence to a melodic line.  they adhere to the harmony of each strong beat.  

Stephen Lines said:

I really don't know why you keep saying the ground must be in the bass - it's a melodic line for goodness sake.

agustus stephanos said:

i supplied one possible variation.  please, provide one simple variation the ground in the bass to prove me wrong.  i mean, yes you could reharmonize it with the ground in an upper voice if that's what you mean.  i won't contest that.

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