Author Topic: Fugal Variations in C Minor  (Read 520 times)

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Offline krummholz

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Fugal Variations in C Minor
« on: July 21, 2020, 06:08:58 AM »
This is a 22 minute contrapuntal study on the D-S-C-H motif, for chamber string orchestra, rendered using Sibelius and NotePerformer. The title is provisional and might be a little misleading on all three counts.

First, because although it starts as a fugue and there are no fewer than 3 fugal expositions in the course of the piece, a lot of the development abandons fugal technique for a freer approach - maybe it's an "anti-fugue" like in some of Havergal Brian's symphonies.

Second, because there is a fugal exposition followed by 5 main longer sections (separated by shorter "episodes"), each with its own distinct character, but they aren't really formal variations, rather different approaches to developing the basic material... it's perhaps along the lines of RVW's "variations in search of a theme".

And third, because although it starts in C Minor and ends on a chord of C Major, there is very little of either mode of C in the piece. The harmony is very restless and moves constantly from key to key. There are even fleeting hints of bitonality in a few places.

Anyway, I'm open to suggestions for a better title. ;)

Expressively, the piece is my creative reaction to the COVID pandemic, sort of a "song of comfort and hope" as in Yo-Yo Ma's project - though it is brooding and elegiac for the most part, and the theme of "comfort and hope" only really emerges in the last 5 minutes or so. (Though there is a hard-driven climax midway that I intend to be bracing and even exhilarating - I kind of wonder how listeners will hear it.)

It's up on SoundCloud, but I'm linking to a file on Google Drive because I don't like what SoundCloud is doing to uploaded files these days. The MP3 is almost inaudible, and they add to or bring out a subtle distortion that I think comes from NP's sample library, or the samples plus the way they're processed during playback. I'd still download the file if you can (28 MB) and play it in your favorite audio player - don't be afraid to turn up the volume a little, it's not supposed to be a very quiet piece.

See later posts for updated renderings of the piece, and for a current version of the score.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 10:49:47 AM by krummholz »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #1 on: July 26, 2020, 06:37:38 PM »
See later posts for updated versions of the piece.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 10:48:51 AM by krummholz »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #2 on: July 31, 2020, 03:19:26 AM »
See later posts for updated versions of the piece. The attached score is also out of date.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 10:49:21 AM by krummholz »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #3 on: August 04, 2020, 05:02:04 PM »
Since this has been up here for two weeks and no one has commented on it, I'll risk coming across as crass and pose the question: why? I have no way to track accesses on Google Drive so I can't tell whether it's because people just didn't feel like commenting, or because no one has ventured to listen because of the length (understandable) or because folks are afraid to click on the link for fear of malware since it's not on a public server dedicated to media files (which would also be understandable)...  thus, some feedback on why would be greatly appreciated. I have never used YouTube and as stated in the OP, the file is getting greatly attenuated on SoundCloud. If the issue is Google Drive and there are other audio file servers I might try, that information would also be greatly appreciated. Thanks in advance.
« Last Edit: August 04, 2020, 05:06:50 PM by krummholz »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #4 on: August 21, 2020, 04:18:54 AM »
See later posts for an updated version of the piece.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 10:50:31 AM by krummholz »

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #5 on: September 13, 2020, 07:36:23 PM »
I thought I'd keep this thread updated with the most recent version in case someone, someday, takes an interest in the piece. Since the last update I've tweaked tempos and phrasing, and added a measure of silence just before the cadence leading to the concluding section. This rendering is also a bit better than the earlier ones.

I have not uploaded this revision to SoundCloud as I have limited space there. The rendering is on Google Drive only and the score is attached.

https://drive.google.com/file/d/1aowHfds4fLEHuRMxABwG2oCDPoeXagJw/view?usp=sharing

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #6 on: September 14, 2020, 02:36:23 AM »
I am someone without formal music education trying to learn myself. I understand a lot of music theory, but every now and then there is confusing stuff.

D-S-C-H. "S" is a new notation for me.  I would write this motif as D-Eb-C-B. It confuses me the motif doesn't start from tonic and only the third note is tonic.

Thanks for the score. This can be good for me to study and learn.  ;)

I'll listen to the work, but now I need to visit barber.  :P
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 02:49:42 AM by 71 dB »
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Ecclesiastical Secularism"

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #7 on: September 14, 2020, 03:16:44 AM »
I am someone without formal music education trying to learn myself. I understand a lot of music theory, but every now and then there is confusing stuff.

D-S-C-H. "S" is a new notation for me.  I would write this motif as D-Eb-C-B. It confuses me the motif doesn't start from tonic and only the third note is tonic.

Thanks for the score. This can be good for me to study and learn.  ;)

I'll listen to the work, but now I need to visit barber.  :P

That's exactly right! As with B-A-C-H, the German spelling for the notes is assumed. Even with B-A-C-H, the first note may not be the tonic - Gerd Prengel, who sometimes posts here, has written a wonderfully expressive Adagio on B-A-C-H that starts in G minor. Shostakovich used the D-S-C-H motif even in an E major context (10th symphony finale) and others, as well as the best known C minor context (SQ #8). My own piece transposes the motif diatonically, inverts it and the entire main theme based on it, and modifies the intervals very freely. The minor third, in particular, often becomes a major third, and in one passage, even a perfect fourth.

In any case, thank you for your interest in my piece! Your comments will be much appreciated, if you care to offer them.

By the way, please don't use the score attached to the top post in the thread -- it is out of date, as are both renderings on SoundCloud. The score and rendering in reply #5 are the current versions.
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 03:26:25 AM by krummholz »

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #8 on: September 14, 2020, 06:49:50 AM »
That's exactly right! As with B-A-C-H, the German spelling for the notes is assumed.
Yes, but I was wondering the "S", but now that I think about it, it must come from "Es", the German name for "Eb." Sorry about my stupidity here, but my brain is good for logical relationships, not so much for notations and names. I watch Youtube channels to learn and while some of them are very good imho, they are mostly American and use American notation and terms. Sometimes I watch British channels and get "crotchets" instead of quarter notes.  ;D

Even with B-A-C-H, the first note may not be the tonic - Gerd Prengel, who sometimes posts here, has written a wonderfully expressive Adagio on B-A-C-H that starts in G minor. Shostakovich used the D-S-C-H motif even in an E major context (10th symphony finale) and others, as well as the best known C minor context (SQ #8).

Yeah, of course you can start with any note, but usually it is tonic.

My own piece transposes the motif diatonically, inverts it and the entire main theme based on it, and modifies the intervals very freely. The minor third, in particular, often becomes a major third, and in one passage, even a perfect fourth.

My ability to read notes is weak, or may I say SLOW, but I'm getting better at it slowly. So, to go through your score of this length and analyse it would take me a long long times, but I can still learn things from it.

In any case, thank you for your interest in my piece! Your comments will be much appreciated, if you care to offer them.

You are welcome! I happened to check out this thread and got interested, because it is about a fugal piece as I am trying to learn counterpuntal composing myself. I love counterpoint and fuga. I listened to your piece and while the "rendering" doesn't give stunning orchestral sound, I did enjoy the composition quite a lot! I liked how coherent it was and it had a dark serious mood. The second mode of natural minor is Locrian mode and here the motif is in C harmonic minor so I suppose starting with note D the second mode (D Locrian #6) is implied perhaps? That would explain the very dark vibe. Anyway, I like it a lot!  ;)

If I had to propose something to improve the piece further, a section played with an instrument very different from strings could do that. After about 5-10 minutes a few minutes is played on piano for example and then the piano goes away and the strings come back with their heavier sound. I think that would be effective, but then again this wouldn't be a piece for strings only.

By the way, please don't use the score attached to the top post in the thread -- it is out of date, as are both renderings on SoundCloud. The score and rendering in reply #5 are the current versions.

I believe I have the updated versions. Maybe you should go and edit your earlier post. Remove the wrong links.
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Ecclesiastical Secularism"

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #9 on: September 14, 2020, 11:05:17 AM »
Thank you for your very positive comment, I'm glad you liked the piece! I write mostly for myself, what I personally would like to hear, but it is good to know that others also appreciate my music.

As far as learning fugue from my piece, I think it is not a very good example of fugue. Even though I started it as a composition exercise in fugue, it quickly turned into something where I was much more interested in expression than in following the strictures of the fugue form. So I use fugue as a device, a way to start the development. But after each fugal exposition, most of the development proceeds non-fugally, though still contrapuntally. I assume you study the Well-Tempered Clavier and Art of Fugue to learn fugue... my piece is little more than a curiosity from that standpoint. Another great fugue to study is the 1st movement of Beethoven's Op. 131 string quartet. A very different kind of work, in somewhat the same vein as mine, a polyphonic fantasy that includes fugal writing (but much better than mine) is Carl Nielsen's last work, Commotio for organ. Structurally, the Nielsen was actually my main model for this piece. It has two fugues, but as in my piece, both of them give way to non-fugal development.

Thanks for your suggestion for improving my piece, I will keep it in mind! Actually it is unlikely that I will add any notes (not impossible, just unlikely ;)), but someone on another board suggested orchestrating it, and that's a definite possibility. Maybe, thinking about your suggestion, I might add some winds and brass for the "development section", Episode 4 and Variation 4, and return to strictly strings for most of the concluding "Fuga". Hmm...

Oh, and I am not certain where "S" for E-flat came from, but I always assumed the same thing, that it was related to the German spelling "Es".

And thanks, I went back and deleted all the other links. But I don't think I can delete attachments, so I just added a warning that the old ones are out of date.

Cheers!
« Last Edit: September 14, 2020, 03:11:59 PM by krummholz »

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #10 on: September 15, 2020, 12:07:19 PM »
Thank you for your very positive comment, I'm glad you liked the piece! I write mostly for myself, what I personally would like to hear, but it is good to know that others also appreciate my music.

As I said, I have a soft spot for counterpoint and I also like the dark mood.

As far as learning fugue from my piece, I think it is not a very good example of fugue. Even though I started it as a composition exercise in fugue, it quickly turned into something where I was much more interested in expression than in following the strictures of the fugue form. So I use fugue as a device, a way to start the development. But after each fugal exposition, most of the development proceeds non-fugally, though still contrapuntally.

Well, I didn't mean this is to learn particalarly fugue, but to learn composition with counterpoint. It can be a "stepping stone" toward real fugue.


I assume you study the Well-Tempered Clavier and Art of Fugue to learn fugue...

Well, thats one good place, or any organ fugue by Bach for that matter.

my piece is little more than a curiosity from that standpoint. Another great fugue to study is the 1st movement of Beethoven's Op. 131 string quartet. A very different kind of work, in somewhat the same vein as mine, a polyphonic fantasy that includes fugal writing (but much better than mine) is Carl Nielsen's last work, Commotio for organ. Structurally, the Nielsen was actually my main model for this piece. It has two fugues, but as in my piece, both of them give way to non-fugal development.

My study of fugue suffered from the fact that the printer I was planning to use to print the scores on paper got broken so I can't print. Maybe some books? I have so many things on my mind nothing gets done.

Now that you say it, yes, your work does have a "Nielsen counterpoint" feel to it. 

Thanks for your suggestion for improving my piece, I will keep it in mind! Actually it is unlikely that I will add any notes (not impossible, just unlikely ;)), but someone on another board suggested orchestrating it, and that's a definite possibility. Maybe, thinking about your suggestion, I might add some winds and brass for the "development section", Episode 4 and Variation 4, and return to strictly strings for most of the concluding "Fuga". Hmm...

Well, I wouldn't be adding much notes, but just let another instrument play some of it (some brief transition section may be needed, but not mane bars).

Oh, and I am not certain where "S" for E-flat came from, but I always assumed the same thing, that it was related to the German spelling "Es".

And thanks, I went back and deleted all the other links. But I don't think I can delete attachments, so I just added a warning that the old ones are out of date.

Cheers!

Ok, good.  ;) Hopefully you get other comments on your nice composition and not just mine!
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Ecclesiastical Secularism"

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #11 on: September 16, 2020, 06:14:45 AM »
As I said, I have a soft spot for counterpoint and I also like the dark mood.

If you like dark music with a lot of counterpoint, you will probably like a lot of Holmboe's middle work (the fellow in my avatar picture). If you haven't already, you might check out his Kairos, also for string orchestra, from four separate string sinfonias arranged in an unusual order. I'm especially fond of Sinfonia II.

Quote
Well, I didn't mean this is to learn particalarly fugue, but to learn composition with counterpoint. It can be a "stepping stone" toward real fugue.

Okay, but even there, it's not a great example to learn from. I don't particularly follow the rules - if something sounds okay to my ears, I let it pass even if it's verboten technically. I have some parallel fifths in my piece, many direct fifths, and in one spot, two consecutive notes in unison. Normally that would bother me, but they are the only two voices at the time, so it's like the texture thins out to two, then to one, then thickens up again. I like the effect so I kept it.

Quote
My study of fugue suffered from the fact that the printer I was planning to use to print the scores on paper got broken so I can't print. Maybe some books? I have so many things on my mind nothing gets done.

Ah, I understand. If you don't have a tablet to put the electronic score on and follow along that way, that makes it hard if you have no way to print it out. Hopefully you can get the printer fixed. Yes, books are good but not a substitute for studying real music.

Quote
Now that you say it, yes, your work does have a "Nielsen counterpoint" feel to it. 

I think my counterpoint comes more from Holmboe. The harmony that modulates all over the place is from Nielsen.

Quote
Hopefully you get other comments on your nice composition and not just mine!

So far, no, but thank you very much for your very nice comments!

Offline 71 dB

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #12 on: September 16, 2020, 09:14:48 AM »
If you like dark music with a lot of counterpoint, you will probably like a lot of Holmboe's middle work (the fellow in my avatar picture). If you haven't already, you might check out his Kairos, also for string orchestra, from four separate string sinfonias arranged in an unusual order. I'm especially fond of Sinfonia II.

Oh? Holmboe is one of those (so many) composers who have been off my radar and I never imagined his music would have lot of  counterpoint. Thanks for the recommendation! I will certainly check out Kairos.  ;)

Okay, but even there, it's not a great example to learn from. I don't particularly follow the rules - if something sounds okay to my ears, I let it pass even if it's verboten technically. I have some parallel fifths in my piece, many direct fifths, and in one spot, two consecutive notes in unison. Normally that would bother me, but they are the only two voices at the time, so it's like the texture thins out to two, then to one, then thickens up again. I like the effect so I kept it.

Yeah, but at least it's an example of not following the rules strictly and still make it work well.

Ah, I understand. If you don't have a tablet to put the electronic score on and follow along that way, that makes it hard if you have no way to print it out. Hopefully you can get the printer fixed. Yes, books are good but not a substitute for studying real music.

The printer is re-cycled electronics waste. It's about getting a new one.

I think my counterpoint comes more from Holmboe. The harmony that modulates all over the place is from Nielsen.

Ok, I need to check out Holmboe.

So far, no, but thank you very much for your very nice comments!

Somehow other people doesn't find this thread...  :P
Spatial distortion is a serious problem deteriorating headphone listening.
Crossfeeders reduce spatial distortion and make the sound more natural
and less tiresome in headphone listening.

My Sound Cloud page <-- NEW track "Ecclesiastical Secularism"

Offline krummholz

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Re: Fugal Variations in C Minor
« Reply #13 on: September 16, 2020, 12:28:33 PM »
Oh? Holmboe is one of those (so many) composers who have been off my radar and I never imagined his music would have lot of  counterpoint. Thanks for the recommendation! I will certainly check out Kairos.  ;)

His later music, less so, but his early and middle works are full of a free polyphony that harks back to the Renaissance more than to the Baroque. Knud Jeppesen was one of his teachers, the same one who wrote the classic text below. Have fun exploring his music!