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Topic: A Fugue in Bb

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  1. #1

    A Fugue in Bb

    Or maybe it's better described as a three part invention with certain fugal characteristics.

    But whatever else it may be, it is most definitely my most recent attempt at contrapuntal composition.

    I am at present a student of composition and this is a student work so I welcome all comments, critiques, pannings and praise.

    It's here:

    http://youtu.be/KevrO_w2dGk

    Realized using Garritan Authorized Steinway.

    Thanks for listening!

  2. #2

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    I'm hearing some counterpoint issues, like unresolved dissonances, misused non-chord tones, what seems to be some parallel 5ths (hard to tell without actually seeing the score), I think some 2nd inversion harmony...

    here's a simple plan for a fugue, in case you'd like to try your hand at it again:

    exposition: which means Subject - Answer (in the dominant) - Subject - Answer (if it's 4 parts.. if not, well, don't add this one)

    once you've exposed all 3 or 4 parts, you create an episode. An episode is relatively free counterpoint based upon one of the LESS characteristic elements of either your subject or your counter-subject (if you have one).
    Generally, your episode will be "total number of voices minus one". So if it's a 4 part fugue, episode will be 3 parts. If it's a 3 part fugue, episode will be 2 voices. this is totally option, but it DOES give you more variety in texture.

    The episode is generally modulating. Generally speaking, you create a layout for your fugue, with the number of expositions, the number of episodes, and which keys you will be visiting. Stay away from the dominant as a destination, until the very end. (explained: because you already USED the dominant in your initial exposition, for the Answer)

    Then you bring in that missing voice with the Subject. (this is why generally an episode loses one voice. when that voice returns with the Subject it has more impact).

    Then another modulating episode.

    Another return of the Subject, in a new key.

    Rinse and repeat a few times.

    As you approach the end of your fugue, you want to modulate toward your dominant.

    A few choices at the end are stretto (where the subject is played at tight spacing: for example, at a half measure interval, rather than the full length of the theme... think of a very tight canon), or dominant pedal.

    And your final cadence.

    That's a simple guideline for a simple scholastic fugue. It's a good place to start.

    avoid 2nd inversion chords.
    avoid parallel 8ves and parallel 5ths.

    when you have a dissonance in a voice, be sure that you are resolving it properly.

  3. #3

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    I'm hearing some counterpoint issues, like unresolved dissonances, misused non-chord tones, what seems to be some parallel 5ths (hard to tell without actually seeing the score), I think some 2nd inversion harmony... here's a simple plan for a fugue, in case you'd like to try your hand at it again
    I didn't start out to write a fugue here...and based on your comments, it looks like I didn't finish up writing one either! I'm going to try again, incorporating your suggestions, some of which I'm familiar with and some not. Thanks for this info, it's going to be very helpful. (But first, corrections to the current 3-part invention). One thing that I wasn't aware of is that fugues (after dominant entries at the beginning) often put off modulation to the dominant until the end. It's kind of weird, but my little piece does the same thing although that was not my intent at all.

  4. #4

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Quote Originally Posted by Mabry View Post
    I didn't start out to write a fugue here...and based on your comments, it looks like I didn't finish up writing one either! I'm going to try again, incorporating your suggestions, some of which I'm familiar with and some not. Thanks for this info, it's going to be very helpful. (But first, corrections to the current 3-part invention). One thing that I wasn't aware of is that fugues (after dominant entries at the beginning) often put off modulation to the dominant until the end. It's kind of weird, but my little piece does the same thing although that was not my intent at all.

    you're welcome.

    for the "avoid modulating to the dominant" thing in a fugue, it's relatively simple: the initial exposition gives us the subject/answer in tonic, and dominant. if you return to the dominant too quickly, in a sense you are announcing the final cadence of the work (generally, in a fugue, the final modulation is to the dominant, which leads to the return of the tonic).

    even in non-fugal works, remaining "stuck" in a limited number of keys can lead to stagnancy. and there IS a strong sense of direction from using dominant and tonic. it has a "finality" to it which few other key relationships share.

  5. #5

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    you're welcome.
    If I could bend your ear a little bit more here...or at least your typing fingers...the theme for my piece isn't strongly Bb major, in fact, it's kind of G minor given that I spell out a G minor triad in notes 4-6 (albeit no f# leading tone). If this is G minor, then my answer could be said to be in D minor and not the dominant F major. In any case, I'm just wondering what the common procedure is for fugues in minor and how they tend to differ harmonically from those in major. One thing I did intend to do in the early stages of writing this piece was to try and bring out various aspects of the theme when presenting it in both major and minor contexts after the other two voices had fully entered into the picture. Later on, that intent fell by the wayside and I never really pursued it, at least not consciously.

  6. #6

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    whether in major or minor, a (tonal) fugal exposition is always tonic + dominant.

    it gets considerably more technical than that if you are being very strict and if your subject contains a leap from tonic to dominant, or dominant to tonic, at some point.

    remember simply that the Answer can, and most likely will, be slightly different than the Subject.. since the subject can lead toward the dominant, but the answer has to lead back to the tonic.
    If you simply transpose the Subject to fit as an Answer, this won't be the case... your Answer will want to modulate toward ii (the Answer's own dominant).

    let's just think in terms of moving "up".
    If your Subject starts on C, then your Answer would start on G, a 5th up.
    If you simply transpose the subject exactly up to G, the end of the Answer will want to move up into D (a perfect 5th higher). When in reality, your answer should lead directly back to C.

    This is all actually a lot to explain via an internet forum. and it's a tiny bit more complicated than I'm making it out to be.

    writing fugue is both one of the simplest and one of the most difficult musical structures.

  7. #7

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Quote Originally Posted by qccowboy View Post
    This is all actually a lot to explain via an internet forum. and it's a tiny bit more complicated than I'm making it out to be.
    I think I'm pretty much with you or at least as much as I need to be before delving into this further. I've written strict perpetual canons at the fifth where the first voice contains the leading tone which of course when transposed in the second voice takes you to the dominant. Then you introduce in the first voice a flatted 7th which moves you toward the subdominant of the original key which leads to the second voice coming back to the tonic so you're ready to start all over again. Old hat for you, I realize, but a good experience before trying to write fugues albeit a much simpler process. Thanks again.

  8. #8

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Hey Mabry! If Fugue is what you want to write, then I would definitely listen to what gccowboy has to say. As you can see, a Fugue has certain things that need to be present, in a certain way, for it to be called a "FUGUE". You could say that BACH wrote terrible country and western songs, because he did not have certain things present that need to be there to fit the country genre. One thing you could do, would be to NOT call it a FUGUE and just call it a 'counterpoint exercise' with no reference to musical period, such as BAROQUE etc. This may help you from getting sideswiped with an overwhelming amount of technical issues, and give yourself a chance to explore good counterpoint use.

    One suggestion that I would make, would be to get control of two part counterpoint. Once you have that, additional voices become much, much easier.

    If you would like to send me a private message, I will return to you some practical useful tips on creating good counterpoint, regardless of musical period or genre.
    Jay

  9. #9

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    Hey Mabry! If Fugue is what you want to write, then I would definitely listen to what gccowboy has to say.
    Oh, don't worry...I'm on it!

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    One thing you could do, would be to NOT call it a FUGUE and just call it a 'counterpoint exercise' with no reference to musical period, such as BAROQUE etc.
    True, and that's pretty much what I did in the text of my post. I started out to write a simple fugue and basically just carried that title on all the way through but I should definitely have changed it once I got to posting time.

    Quote Originally Posted by jaynkate01 View Post
    If you would like to send me a private message, I will return to you some practical useful tips on creating good counterpoint, regardless of musical period or genre.
    Jay
    That would be great if you have something ready. I'm sure it will be a good addition to what qccowboy has said and to all the other internet and hard and soft cover references I already have.

    One thing I would like to have an opinion on is how my little invention comes across structurally and musically regardless of what it is called. Oh, and did the realization sound somewhat realistic?

  10. #10

    Re: A Fugue in Bb

    Mabry! When the second voice came in, I thought that the resulting harmonies were a little harsh because of the lack of 3rds, 6th's and 10th intervals in key positions in a measure (downbeats and particularly beats 1 and 3). Harmonies suggested by interval choices can sometimes sound vague or to ambiguous if a tertian interval of 3rd 6th or 10th is not used fairly often to lead the ear to a some sort of recognizable harmonic motion. This is a more traditional classical counterpoint approach. Of course, in reality, anyone can do anything they want as far as the interval selection is concerned. My preference has always been to imply harmonic motion fairly clearly whether it is in classical or jazz. Once you got into the development, a more clear harmonic intention was present because of the multiple voices.

    One thing that you will hear Bach and Mozart do, is build an interesting contrast between two voices by playing in the rhythmic holes of each part. That is to say, if part one has a dotted quarter note, eight note pattern, then part two could contrast part one with a quarter rest, quarter note.

    I thought that the piano itself sounded pretty good and the reverb was just about right for me.

    I studied counterpoint in school, and one thing I learned was that no note is golden. That is to say that if the melody in the second voice seems to be going in a particular direction, its ok to change a note or two in the first voice to compliment the second voice.

    I think you did a good job on this. Counterpoint is not an easy thing to master but you have shown that you have a sense of what is going on with it. Just like all of us, the more you write, the better it gets.

    I am attaching a two part counterpoint piece that I wrote. Maybe this will give you a better idea of what I am trying to say.

    www.jesse.us.com/cobbler.mp3

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