Yesterday I completed project 11 where my task was to first compose a contrapuntal counter melody for the examples given on the OCA student handbook. (1.)
I used the principle of contrary motion for this example. This meant that where the first melody was moving – the second melody would remain steady and vice versa for the whole first phrase and half the second phrase. the counter melody was strictly mathematical. I used the sub-divisions of each beat to write the counter melody. For example, the dotted crotchet at the start of the melody line housed 3 quavers (as performed in the second melody line.) As a general rule anytime the melody rise in pitch, the counter melody would drop. The articulation between the two is also slightly different. I employed the use of phrase marks regularly in the first line to make the piece very legato and smooth, where as, in contrast the second line varies between staccato and tenuto.
In Example B, I took another strict mathematical approach but in a different way. As you will observe the intervals directly correlate to each other but heading in the opposite direction. I started the Inversion on B and it has produced some very dissonant clashes. Unlike my first countermelody that was mostly consonant. One of my favourite cases of inversion was the romantic composer Sergei Rachmaninoff in his “Rhapsody on a Theme by Paganini” where he inverts the melody, places it in the major key and transposes it to Db Major and slows it down. (2) as you will see in exampe 47 B, I have used directly contrasting articulation which gives the inverted counter melody a whole new character of it’s own. While I would say I enjoyed using a mathematical approach I must confess, in this particular exercise I don’t like what I hear!
I then went on with the project and wrote two melodies. One is a hymn with a variable time meter. This allowed for interesting and unique phrases. The other is quite a lively piece with the instruction of “FrÖlich” (cheerful, joyful) (3)
The video above, is the hymn tune and changes it’s time meter frequently the idea for doing this came to me from listening to Blachers Piano concerto No. 2 in variable meter. In bar 2 I augment the first bar by a beat and in bar 3 i introduce my next technique of contrasting motion. This forms the basis of the counter melody it is mostly written in contrasting motion that, almost like a descant. I chose a xylophone and clarinet because a xylophone is quite low in pitch with a mellow wooden sound. I kept the clarinet in that register so that both melodies blend. Whilst I instructed “Maestoso” or “majestically” which to me indicates detached and pronounced individual notes – I kept the xylophone legato and smooth so there is a subtle contrast in articulation.
Above is the next video of project 11. I called it Upside Down, Inside Out as a relevant indicator to the composition mechanisms I used to devise the counter melody. The first three bars are the same melody but performed a bar later. This is a technique knows as “imitation” the last 6 bars of the counter melody are in retrograde. I mirrored the melody line from bar 5. One of the challenges I enjoyed about this technique is making sure that when I was in retrograde, the piece will remain as consonant as possible. Most of the longer note values work in with the main melody line. They are related in a harmonious chord. I was particularly happy with this composition project as I got to utilise a variety of different techniques including rhythmic augmentation, retrograde, inversion and contrary motion
If I were to evaluate my compositions I would try to expand on different composition techniques that I have not used. I would utilise the technique of rhythmic augmentation more, because though I touched the surface I still think I have more to learn about this particular mechanism.
- 1 – OCA student handbook example 47 A & B
- 2 – youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c33q87s03h4&t=121s
- 3 – Eric Taylor AB guide to music theory Glossary