In a previous thread about H. S. Teoh’s Fugue in E minor we were discussing fugues that “broke the rules”, where I mention that I once wrote a fugue based on the Double Harmonic Major Scale (DHS); this is the piece:




Score and Audio  



I am not really happy with the piece. I think the climax is too rushed, and too forced.


I started writing the piece with the idea of writing something based on the DHS, but you will see that in the subject I have a chromatically altered note that does not adheres to the scale. The first statement of the subject is based on the D DHS you will that I have an E natural instead of the Eb of the scale. It does however only last for a 32nd note. I tried using the Eb in the subject, but it just did not work for how. However when not in the subject the Eb (lowered 2nd) is used. As in a traditional fugue the seocnd entrance of the fugue enters on the fifth, which is A, at this point we are using the DHS based on A as the root. You will again see the Major second (B natural) is used in the subject, but in the other voices Bb is used.  This leads to a false relationship between B and Bb in bar 8.


When I first shared this on another board the reactions where basically negative, “boring”, “too repetitive”, … .




 Solitude_00__Full Score_2021-10-29.pdf 

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  • PS: While the piece starts on the D DHS, it ends on a G min/Maj9 #11 chord derived from the notes of the D DHS. (The Sharp 11th is en-harmonically spelled as Db instead of C#).

  • Interesting piece.  It's certainly a harmonic language I wasn't expecting based on your descriptions of it, though it does sound quite reminiscient of, say, a slow movement in a Shostakovich symphony. :D  Perhaps with some more work it could become a slow movement of an actual symphony?

    The subject itself is pretty easily recognizable, and appears throughout the work as one might expect.  However, one point that I would consider needing more work is the counterpoint. Or more specifically, the "dialogue" between the various voices. As I understand it based on your scoring, it's a 4-voice fugue with voices variously distributed to instruments in a typical 5-part string section.  However, in listening to the work, I didn't hear much in terms of dialogue between the 4 voices; it was more like block chords accompanying one or two primary voices.   Since we're talking about breaking rules, I wouldn't say this is strictly necessary, but my gut feeling is that working out the counterpoint a bit more might just be the secret juice to giving this piece more forward momentum and a more satisfying climax.

    Another possibility is to break up the phrasing structure a bit more, i.e., stagger phrases in different voices so that the start and end of phrases don't coincide across voices. That's another typical fugue technique to impart forward momentum: the music never truly comes to a stop until the very end because there's always at least one voice that hasn't finished "speaking" yet. That provides a constant propulsion to keep moving forward.  Of course, again, this isn't strictly necessary since we're talking about breaking the rules.  But I'd say, consider using it in some shape or form as a convenient source of forward momentum. This might help make the piece more convincing if you're feeling not very satisfied with it.

    Just my uneducated $0.02. (Caveat: I only listened to this twice, once without score and once with, so I may have missed stuff. Sorry, have to run to something else now, I might return to this later when I have more time.)

    • Pretty much on point.  This is a piece that never could figure out what it wanted to be. 


  • Hello Ed! Can I ask you to upload your score here in forum (in PDF)? It is not easy to watch it because of text about "illegal copying"!


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    • Once I figure out how to do it.



      • I mainly use Google Drive to share both scores and audio. The caveat is that the listener should really download the audio to listen to it, as listening directly through Drive the playback usually cuts off unpredictably.

  • I agree with H. S. Teoh's comments about the counterpoint - despite the fugal entries, it doesn't quite work as a fugue. Still, I wouldn't necessarily say that this is a fault - I can think of many symphonic (and other) movements that begin fugally but then turn into something else. Here the "something else" is an extremely intense and severe meditation on the very clear subject with its double-dotted rhythms. I guess I was hoping to hear more variety in the working-out of the material, more contrasts of dynamics and harmony. (I also agree that this could be a slow movement of an actual symphony with a little work.)

    Overall I actually liked it - agree that it has a somewhat Shostakovich-like flavor, very gloomy and angst-ridden. I don't think it deserves to be scrapped - I hope you keep working on it.

    Best, Liz

    • Dear Liz,

      thank you for taking the time to listen and comment.  It has been several years since I wrote this piece and I am trying to remember what I did.  I suspect that I was not thinking it would be fugue, but then the intro turned into what it is.  I could never really make up my mind about it.


  • I'm not at all sure that this is boring --in fact there seems to be a genuine depth of feeling which I so often miss with others and I'm largely attuned to your harmonic world as well. This comes perhaps as a bit of a surprise when reading the initial purely technical commentary. But it is too monophonic (in fact the cellos and double bass exclusively so which is perhaps deliberately?) with the first violins tending to dominate. The counterpoint seems largely restricted to the upper strings.The climax from bar 74 is strong but definitely a couple of chords too many -- there isn't the previous momentum that has to be stopped at such length I would say. On the other hand, bars 106-9 actually work very effectively to me.

    Don't ditch it --there's definitely something there!

    • Dear David,

      Thank for you comments and taking time to listen.  I have never been happy with the leadup to bar 74, it feels rushed too me and too short.  And as you say BAr 74+ might be unbalanced given the lead up to it.  Thank you.



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