For my next project I have written 3 Descant Lines for various melodies. I enjoyed writing the descants especially as we are coming in to the carolling season. One of my favourite Descants is O Come All ye Faithful. This has inspired one of my descants that I have written for project 9. One thing I found to be a challenge was getting too carried away with passing notes and realising that it put complete disregard to the harmony or it did not stay with in the particular chord that the bar was based around. So if there was a harmonic backing the notes would have sounded dissonant (and not nice dissonance either.) This became most evident in Kakki Se Kukku which sounds more like a theme with a variation being played over the top. The thing I found easiest was writing for the range of the instruments as I (in my bias) chose all brass instruments for this project.
The first melody is a 16th Century German Carol called “Quem Pastores” I wrote this for two trumpets because of the range of the hymn. I knew that with that range, I could write a clear descant which would project over the melody with power and still be in a moderately comfortable range for a good trumpet player. The descant begins within the triad of F major. Briefly visiting G major in Bar 4 and then reverting back in to F major. This reminds me that in an orchestral setting, I would have to be more aware of the chords that are harmonising underneath the melody. I would have to keep the descant within the chord unless it was a passing note. You will note, that, as is typical with the descant – the descant will move in pitch when the melody is mostly still and the Descant will move up if the melody is moving down or vice versa. This provides an effective contrast which helps both lines be heard. I accidentally re-wrote what sounds like a bit of John Williams’ Jurassic Park in bars 9 and 10 however, in my opinion, it helps to build to the bigger moving passage in bar 13 of the descant line. This is because as the player slurs and hits the same note (F) three times, it’s easy to show the dynamic increase in each of those F notes.
I chose Kakke Se Cukoo as my second melody. This is a Finnish folk song. I chose two Euphoniums because the euphonium has a phenomenal range I found it quite difficult to write a descant for this because the melody itself moves near enough every beat. As the descant has to contrast to the melody I chose to use a lot of semi-quavers to move in the descant where you hear crotchets in the melody. As a result of the use of numerous semi quavers I have had to use scale runs to represent the ups and downs which counteract the melody and descant.
My third descant is written from the 17th Century Folk Song “You Gentlemen of England” I believe this was sung upon the British naval fleets war ships at the time. I chose this to be played by two tubas because it seems a fitting instrument for groups of rowdy sailors. The low register of a tuba is something to behold itself. The Melody moves regularly, similarly to Kakke se Kukku. Instead of using semi-quavers, however, I used minims and crotchets. As the pitch changes more frequently I could achieve more contrast from the melody then I could with Kakke se Kukku. The majority of the balance between descant and melody in this particular piece comes from the intonation and the pitch changes as opposed to the note values. This is the main difference between this piece and my previous two pieces.