Assignment 4 – A Contrapuntal Composition

Today, I completed assignment 4 which is a contrapuntal composition based and built around a couple of musical ideas. I used the ideas of Augmentation, Diminution and inversion to create this assignment. I learned about these composition techniques from analysing two of Bach’s Fugues as mentioned in my Listening Log.

A Contrapuntal Composition

The first musical idea you see is stated right at the very start. The subject is 8 bars in length and is played in the opening line on the Saxophone. The Marimba answers with a diminished version of the subject which only lasts one bar. From that diminution, I built by repeating the rhythmic phrase once. We then see the original diminished subject again in bars 6 in to bar 7 before I augment the whole phrase in bars 9-13.

Meanwhile back in bar 9 the saxophone has picked up a new rhythmic figure. This figure is related to the first diminution as though it is the same notes I have altered the rhythm in to two groupings of three. I add F#, C# and G# to lead us in to the transposition of the original subject that is now played in A major. I used this technique as a salute to J.S. Bach and his Fugue from “The Well Tempered Clavier.” (1.) While the transposed subject is being performed, the Marimba is playing a reduced version of the subject on the dominant of E using only the highlighted (accented) notes of the subject.

In bar 20, we hear an altered version of the second musical idea as played in bar 9 on the alto sax. The two groupings of three dominates this part of the composition until about bar 42. However the Marimba and saxophone take it in turns to play imitations of the second subject a performed by the marimba in bar 13. In bar 39 we hear a brief reprise of the diminished copy of the subject heard in the Marimba party during bar 2. During bars 40 – 43 we crescendo in to the return of the original subject. This is a reduced version of the subject as it only lasts 4 bars and is played on top of the altered subject from bar 17 on the Marimba.

As we get to bar 48 we hear the subject in full again. It is played on the saxophone over an inversion of the subject as played on Marimba. This inversion finishes at the end of bar 55. The marimba then takes over for two bars (56&57) giving the saxophone a quick breather by playing a briefly diminished version of the subject that lasts for only a bar before inverting in the next bar. We then hear the full original subject played again on saxophone. This is accompanied by the two groupings of three which starts from the C# the major 7th, then leads back in to the tonic where the triad of G major is played. This gives us an ambiguous feeling because the accompaniment is in the dominant G major where as the tune is being played in C major before we revert the marimba back to C major in bar 62. This is a 4 bar diminished repetition of the marimba line in bar 17 that has been transposed back in to the tonic to bring us securely to the finish of the composition.

I found that this method of composition was very tricky because I had to take one or two ideas and use those ideas to build a composition. Whilst I enjoyed the academic approach to creating this composition, I can’t say I’m particularly pleased with how it sounds. That might have something to do with the choice of the two instruments. I chose these two instruments because I saw a score for clarinet and marimba in the OCA student handbook (2) as a provided example and I wanted to see if I could make it work with a saxophone. I feel that if I was to write for woodwind and tuned percussion again I would chose a flute or clarinet to give me a more varied range for the leading woodwind instrument.

1.) J.S. Bach fugue from “Die Wohlttempiert Klavier” 953

2.) OCA student Handbook example 52


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