Listening Log

Lake of Tenderness – Ben Hollings

Whilst on Holiday, I listened to a stunningly mesmerising piece of music called “Lake of Tenderness” (Lacus Lenitatis) This piece evokes a real sense of zen. The beautifully contemporary chords remind me of the progressions used by Morten Laurdisen in his tranquil meditation “O Magnum Mysterium.”

The piece starts with a faint percussion effect, created by a contrasting vibraphone and marimba gliss. In the second bar the cornets announce a chord of Bb whilst the back row cornets drone the notes F and C. These notes are the dominant of the Bb and the composer avoided using the medient (A) to avoid the clash with the Bb chord. The repiano starts the tantalising I-V pattern which occurs throughout the composition. This creates a delicate and sensitive pulse throughout the piece and utilises the hierarchy of beats.

The next bar progresses on to an F sus 2. This highlights the G which is going to come along as the dominant of C (the key the piece is written in) in the introduction the music is scored lightly as to ease us in to the feeling of tenderness. The dynamic is a polite piano and crescendos no louder than Mezzo Piano in an embrace wave of warm sound. it’s a musical hug!

Rehearsal mark “A” welcomes section A. This is an ensemble with a subtle melody performed on 2 Euphoniums. The Harmony is built as the chord of F/D for two bars before progressing on to an Amsus4 (includes the D which is the third of the Bbsus2)up to the Bbsus2, to the Gm7 (dominant of C) which takes us to Csus4. the 4th of the C is the F which ends the phrase as a luxurious F9 chord. The music is scored quite thickly at this point and the dynamic is Mezzo Forte which builds a slight sense of excitement before returning back to the peaceful B section which introduces a simple and lyrical cornet solo.

At Section B (rehearsal mark B) we hear the first melody played as a cornet solo. The scoring is minimal and the Solo horn takes over the I-V pulse. The scoring is so reduced so that the cornet can be heard clearly over the accompaniment. The harmony whilst still contemporary is much less reduced. Hollings has only written the crucial notes of each chord.

at rehearsal mark C we hear a extended refrain from the introduction except Ben has added depth by using the Bb bass in a lower register. This adds a refreshing contrast to the reprise whilst still remaining subtle and un-offensive. The trombone takes over the melody and the soprano highlights the melody – adding a little zest to the trombone sound. An exciting mechanism that I would be interested to explore. The key still remains ambiguous as Ben Hollings explores the relative A minor in bar 24. With the use of the Bbsus6/F we hear the G which brings us back on track in to the dominant major key. In the last 4 bars of D the reprise has been extended to bridge us in to D.

At rehearsal mark D we are taken right back own to the most minimal scoring. there is a recurring theme of building and fading, as in the pulse of the I-V figures played throughout the piece. This is a nod to the movement of the water in a lake as it ripples through its existence. As the soprano takes over the I-V-I figure in bar 40 the listener can sense that something big is about to build. The band builds using the similar progression as the introduction to its climax at letter E.

In letter E the band is in a forte. The cornets play the melody In tutti. Another mechanism Ben Hollings Used that I really like is the alternating notes played in the euphonium section. This adds to the pulse. The band is not to force this part out as sostenuto and legato are instructed. The horn section takes over the I-V-I pattern just before the band decrescendos 4 bars before F.

At letter F the harmony is reduced and only the cornets voice the whole chord as a section. As the harmony dies out some more so does the complexity of the chords. the end of the piece we hear a C/F chord only played from the baritones down. a solitary image of the moon, as the composer mentions.

Listening Log

Bach – Fugue 953 in C Major

In order to explore different methods of contrapuntal diversions I have analysed two Fugues written by J.S. Bach. This is the second fugue I have analysed.

The subject of the fugue is played on its own to start with. This is followed in bar 3 with an imitation transposed to G major. A second phrase is introduced just before bar 4 in beats 3 & 4 of the third bar. The second phrase is augmented through bar 7 and 8. This second phrase is played over the first phrase which is another augmentation of the subject which starts on beat 2 of bar 5.

The newly augmented subject plays through bars 9-13. The second phrase is then added to bar 13 which answers the newly augmented subject as previously discussed. The subject makes a return in beat 2 of bar 13 and is transposed in to A (as represented by the use of G# and F# and the occasional C#) The left hand in beat 4 of bar 13 and bar 14 replicates or “imitates” the right hand from bars 5 and 6. With the augmented addition of extra beats rest in bar 15. The subject that started in bar 13 repeats the developed idea from before until we see the introduction of a completely new idea in bar 17 on the top line of the music which is played over a diminished imitation of the original subject in the left hand.

In bar 19 we see where the subject is diminished the reduced subject allows a transition in to a new rhythmic pattern which uses both quavers and semi quavers to provide an audibly pleasant contrast. in Bar 20 the first half of bar 19 is repeated and transposed down a tone in bar 20 and then repeated as it forms it’s own new musical pattern. This new pattern is then augmented at bar 22 before bar 23 imitates bar 19 but is transposed down in order to modulate through to the next bar. Bar 23 is then repeated and transposed down further by a tone in to B minor. In bar 25 we have modulated on to the dominant G. Beats 3 and 4 of bar 25 are then inverted which brings us back to the original subject played in bar 26. The two lines we hear are the subject and the subject which has been completely inverted until the last two beats of bar 28.

In beats 3 and 4 of bar 28 we hear a repetition of the phrase from bar 19. This is a diminished version of the subject. However the left hand is performing the long augmented phrase that we heard back in bars 5 – 8. the right hand in bars 29-33 echo from bar 9. He has taken the rhythmic figure from bars 9-11 and transposed it to start on the G or the Dominant.

From bar 33 we hear two lines being played as an inversion (just as in bars 26-28) Only the phrase is diminished until it finished on bear 2 of 34. In beats 3 and 4 we hear a return of the diminished subject which is then reduced even further in the right hand in bar 35 which modulates throughout bar 35 before finally finishing on a perfect cadence of the Dominant 7 to the Tonic.

Listening Log

Research point – Wöht Tempier Clavier in G minor

“Fuga XVI”

In this page I have analysed one of Bach’s fugues from “The Well Tempered Piano” to see how he used the mechanisms of imitation, inversion, augmentation and diminution rhythms and phrases to build his composition.

Bach’s Prelude and Fugue in G minor performed by Richter. (Fugue starts at 1:58)

The first phrase is completely transparent. It starts just off the first beat of the bar. Bach is just stating the original theme for all to hear the “subject” of the Fugue. The phrase is just 6 bars long. Within bar 2 we hear the phrase comes back in on the right hand as an imitation of the initial phrase. In bar 3 on beats 1 and 2, we hear an inversion of the original theme.

In the pick up of bar 2 Bach uses imitation and slightly develops the rhythm in bar 4 at beats 3 and 4. He also augments the phrase. The phrase is imitated again in bar 5. This time the phrase is an octave lower. The rhythm is imitated at the end of bar 6, only, this time, Bach has augmented the phrase. He also used the same mechanism at the start of bar 7. During Bar 8 Bach sustains a long D note in the bass line. It is my hypothesis that Bach sustained the dominant note in the bass to punctuate a diminished phrase. It also draws more attention to everything else happening in the left hand. In bar 9 the whole phrase is inverted.

In the right hand at beat 4 of bar 10, we hear a diminished rendition of the initial phrase. The original phrase then recapitulates in bar 12 where it is further developed with the addition of further notes and transposed in to the relevant major key of Bb. In bar 15 the subject of the fugue returns but transposed in to F major (the dominant major.) The overall phrase, from bar 12, ends on beat 2 of bar 17. In bar 13, however, we hear a similar rhythm that is augmented on beats 3 and 4 of bar 17.

At Bar 17, we hear 2 versions of the main theme being performed. One is at the start of the bar 17 and the other version ends at the end of the bar. In the bass line the rhythm is slightly developed at the end of beat 3 and in beat 4. This is overlapped with an inversion in the right hand. The phrase then returns back to the original in both bars 20 and 21.

The returning Rhythm inverts at bar 23 from where the rhythm is developed in to the inversions of scales at bar 25. These rolling scales run through until bar 29, where the bass hand announces the presence of the returning theme. Bar 30 is based on an inversion and the theme then re-occurs one last time at bar 31 this then takes us to the end of the piece.

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.

Listening Log

Danse De La Chavre

It is my belief that Honegger’s “Danse de la Chavre” is from an interesting era of music known as the neo-classical era. Some of the leading names of this era called themselves “Les Six” Who’s aim was to bring some more lighthearted music following the sombre  chamber music post World War One.

As I analyse the piece of music its obvious to me that in the music the key signature has been kept open as there is no real tonic or route note. The key is deliberately ambiguous as with the incorporation of an F# and regular use of E you could be forgiven for thinking that the key is E-Minor for the first 7 bars. The first 7 bars us the first phrase from which all the ideas are developed.

One of the key parts of the piece of music appears to me in bar 11 where there is a huge Bb, Now this could be either a flattened 7th of the C major or it could be a flattened 3rd in the dominant key of G major. Either way both possibilities point towards a “blue” note a degree of the scale that has been altered to sound more jazzy as was a common technique in the Neo-Classical era.

Within the bars 8-13 There is a chance for the flute to be as virtuosic as they fancy. The main dance theme comes in at the 9/8 bar. The ambiguity of the key signature still stands with frequent use of the previously mentioned Blues note of Bb. 6 bars in from the 9/8 bar the dance theme is played louder and developed by using more notes (using the semi-quavers) on the 12th bar of the 9/8 the theme has returned for a couple of bars with altered articulation (an accent on the C) still using that Bb blues note. WIihin bar 21 a new technique is used “rhythmic augmentation” where an extra bar has been added that punctuates between the phrases. In bar 27 of the 9/8 we see the same phrase but transposed down a tone. The new phrase carries the same augmented rhythm with the extra bar that incorporates a ritard to build to the final sound of the initial dance theme that starts 18 bars before the end. We are in a new key as the theme has now been transposed up a minor third, first starting on D on the 27th bar of the 9/8 transposed up to start on the F 18 bars before the end.

The last 4 bars revert back to the initial tune we heard at the very begging and ends on the only bar in which you can say that the key signature is definitely C major. That’s the last bar.