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  A series implies common practice harmony?  MartinY at 10:23 on 28 June 2009

I am a continuo player. I have rarely put a 12 note series in the bass clef to work with. It is always written out in the treble clef. I was surprised seeing series in the bass clef, particularly if you put a key signature in front of it, that it immediately implies common practice harmony, all be it strange harmony....

Any use as a practical composing tool?

  Re: A series implies common practice harmony?  scott_good at 08:21 on 29 June 2009

Well, I have a work that isn't exactly what you are describing, but does relate.

I composed a work that was based on a Bingen chant - O Rubor Sanguins. To conclude the piece, I treated the chant with a 12 tone row in a rather unorthodox way.

First, I took the entire chant and divided it up into 12 parts (worked out quite nicely actually!). Then, I took each part and created a mode out of all of the notes. Then, each mode was transposed through an all interval series. Thus, from moving through each mode, all of the possible modulations were represented.

It required some futzing. But, I feel worked perfectly to suit my needs for the piece. The chant is iterated in elaborated fragments in the flutes, and the modes are stated at the beginning of each transposition as a whole - the feel is remotely akin to recitative.

But, in terms of the "complexity" issue, it was this kind of complexity that I felt was needed to balance the whole of the piece. Complexity for me is always contextual, and of course of variable means - rhythm, harmony, melody etc. I think that the harmonic complexity implied with this treatment balances the other more drone like harmonies. In a way, I wanted to put each strain on a pedestal, liberating all of the subtle melodic inflections to have their own place - and the shifting harmonies create the frame.

At least, that was the intent....

The work, "...blood which flowed" was scored for piano, harp, flute, alto flute, viola, and alto trombone! A rather unusual combination, not of my own invention (well, the "alto" parts were). It was composed as a memorial to the victims of the Montreal Massacre. I have posted it here on my sound samples page. 8:30 is when the section I am describing begins. But Martin, as a Baroque music kinda guy, you might like some of what I did in this piece before as well. When the chant is first performed on the trombone with viola counter melody, it is around a pedal on scale degree 2, kind of rethinking the harmonic implications, emphasizing 5 as tonic (which the melody hovers around anyways).

(note, I have subsequently revised parts of this piece - esp tweaking harmony and harp piano scoring, but this recording is stronger, so I will go with it).