Listening Log

Seven Bagatelles

I found the context of this musical work most fascinating! when this work was written (1971) Some composers believed that folowing the second world war, the only way to prevent another war from happening was to try and improve the academic intelligence of the nation! because of this musical culture was being driven towards modernism, experimental music and serialism by names such as Arnold Schoenberg, Igor Stravinsky and Anton Webern. I believe that Gordon Jacob’s aim was to look back upon some of the Neo-Classical music techniques and introduce some light-hearted music to deliberately try and avoid modernism.

Movement I – March

In the March I see a Motif straight away. This phrase ends on a Bb above the stave following (possibly) a diminished 5th (Gb), a minor third (Eb) and ending on a major 7th. (Bb) that’s assuming that we were in the Key of C major. However with the second motif response we have gone back to a solid B natural. The rhythm is then developed incorporating the use of of triplets and flattening the 4th. The flat 4th or diminished 4th is a recurring theme throughout the 7 bagatelles. At bar 7 we see a repeat of the original theme transposed down a semi tone. The phrase ends on a G# this would be a typical minor note if the scale was in the A minor harmonic scale. Following the G# in bar 13 we have the same rhythmic theme as before but where we were holding a solid B natural before we are holding a solid Eb, This is the minor third of C. The use of changing key signatures, combined with the ambiguity of they key signature and the variety of different intervals may have been tactics adopted to deliberately try and avoid the mathematical approach that was used in serialism.

Movement II – Elegy

To me the Elegy is developed of four main phrases which are stated in bars 1, 2, 3 and 4. In Bar 5 we have a slightly developed inversion of the first phrase where Jacob used semi quavers instead of quavers to get through the intervals. Typically there is a lot of ambiguity in deciding the key signature of the music. I can’t tell whether we are definitely in the tonic major key of Ab or in the dominant minor key (F minor) or are there any points where Jacob has used a transitory modulation where the played is actually in a key but only very briefly.

Movement III – Waltz

This movement has a very different feel to it. . We see the frequent use of intervals of a fourth that I have previously mentioned. There are various passing accidentals for instance the passing F# in bar 6 which are simply used as escaping notes. Where the key heads towards the tonal centre of G I would not say that it was in the Key of G major.

Movement IV – Slow Air

In the slow air we have a quaint and beautiful melody played Where the first bar wants me to say the key is definitely G major, the second bar, however, makes me want to say that the key is Ab major as if the key signature has been transposed up a semi-tone. This sort of Ab key sticks around until bar 4 where we have gone solidly back to the tonal centre of G. Before going in to the new key of E minor possibly for bar 5. It is because of the frequent use of both F# and Bb, Eb and Ab that it is hard to tell whether we are in the Key of G or the sub-dominant C minor.

Movement V – Limerick

As I analyse the limerick I cna see straight away that the 3rd bar is a mirror image of the 1st bar (after the anacrusis)the use of staccato with the groupings of 3 quavers brings a playful feel to this movement.

Movement VI – Chinese Tune

The Way Gordon Jacob achieved the oriental feel in this beautiful little bagatelle was by using the eighth note scales that are popular in eastern culture. If we treat this piece as if it were in A minor we see the re-occurring interval of a fourth in numerous occasions in the first four bars (A – D) we then here the end of the first phrase on an E (the minor dominant of A) In bar 7 we see all the notes of Gordon Jacobs chosen Scale until he punctuates the end of the phrase with a G, suggesting we might be in the relevant major (G is the Fifth degree or dominant of the key of C major). We then here the same theme decorated with escaping notes (Eschapé) – grace notes that do not agree with the chosen key signature. About 3 bars from the end we see them same rhythmic and melodic pattern where Jacob illustrates all the notes of the scale but with decorated escaping notes before he takes the phrase and repeats it up the octave to finish the piece on a top G – the dominant of C eighth scale minor.

Movement 7 – Gallop

To start we see the interval of a fourth followed by the interval of an octave before before the phrase is answered with again another interval of a fourth which goes down the major scale before going back up the octave in bar 4 (after the anacrusis)  before we are then taken to a minor third of Bb – the “blues notes” that I believe are a nod back to the neo-classical era.  This phrase is then repeated down a third in bar 6 and again in bar 7 but with the addition of an interval of a fourth in the second beat of the bar. The phrase ends on an F# – the leading note of G. The original phrase is then repeated and instead of using the same notes – in the second part of the phrase we have been transposed up a semi-tone in bars 8 and 9 and the responding part of the phrase has been transposed up a tone where technically we are in the key of A major. Until we revert back in to C major in bar 13 in bars 16-18 we see a definite tonal centre of E minor before repeating the initial pattern   from bars 5 and 6 – only this time they are in the key of E but with the major 3rd (G#) In bar 25 we have gone in to F major with a solid arpeggio of the F major chord in one bar and then the G7 arpeggio in the next bar then the arpeggio of A minor in the next bar. After this quick succession of chords we come back to our initial tune in bars 28 and 29 the tune is then repeated in an inverted state and we carry on travelling through the different chords relevant to the G major Scale. When we get to the key change we see a new variant in this movement. Jacob has gone to a dotted crotchet quaver rhythm. This helps to keep a lively feel but introduces some rhythmic contrast to the gallop. We then revert back to the original theme from the next key signature. This helped give the gallop a clearly defined A, B, A structure. The ending plants us firmly in the key of C major with the use of E natural (the major third) rising to the Tonic of C.

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