Part 4 - Project 11, Projects

Project 11 – Inventing free counterpoint

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)

A Contrapuntal Hymn

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.

Upside Down, Inside Out

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.


Part 3 - Project 10, Projects

Project 10 – A Contrapuntal Trial

Today I have written “Folk Law” which is a short piece of music scored for three flutes. The aim of the project was to write three independent melody lines which would work together to create a Polyphonic texture.

I thoroughly enjoyed this project. I wrote the piece in C# minor as it is a personal favourite key signature. As the time signature jumps between 4/4, 3/4 and 2/4 it has an interesting uneven feel to it. This meant that I could get some unique phrases within each instrumental line. I originally hand wrote the melody lines and played them on the piano. When I had the melodies and phrases I liked I could feel there would be a medieval feel. This is the reason that I chose three flutes as they match the sound. My next choice would have been recorders.

The Harmony is created by the overlapping of the melodies. I started my piece on the dominant triad of C# minor. We then venture through the chords of F# minor, E minor, D# Major and in bar 13 we have a G#sus9 which though unintended carried a nice dissonant sound to it, so I kept it in.

You will notice that the melodic lines move in contrary motion so that when the intervals in the top line ascend the Melody in the bottom line will descend and vice versa. The middle line will do one of either. Due to the nature of emphasising the the key signature C#, I kept my intervals small in relation to the tonic. This provided a basic level of intonation that appear frequently in that melancholic medieval style of music.

Part 3 - Project 9, Projects

Project 9 – Descants

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.






Part 3 - Project 8, Projects

Project 8 – Composing Rounds

I have written 3 rounds for this project. Each round varies it’s harmony around one or two chords but contains different voicing of the chords. The Following videos are my Rounds and below them I will discuss each round and my reasons for what I have done:

In round 2 you hear a hymn written from the chords highlighted in example 36 (2.) in my university hand book. The harmony is basic at first just based on the C major triad. As more voices join the round the harmony becomes much thicker. The dynamics just outline the shape of the phrasing. This round is mostly consonant because the chords all form a pretty standard chord progression. Utilising only the 1st degree, fourth degree and fifth degree of the scale of C major.The only dissonance that occurs is briefly in passing in the melody. Bars 7, 8 and 9 are the most dissonant bars before they quickly resolve in to the triad of C major in bar 10.

In all of these rounds, I enjoyed the process of building the harmonies from just one line. It surprised me the rich variety of chordal voicing that can be achieved from just one line of music. Though I confess, particularly in Round 3, With the augmented G I struggled planning ahead with the harmonies. I would write a melody and then realise that when I go to layer the next line in with the existing line, the harmonies are completely out of balance. I addressed this by making changes in the melody as I wrote each phrase.

Round 3, on the other hand, is composed using the chords highlighted in Example 36 (4.) The tonal centre is D major and the university have introduced an augmented G (G#)  in to the progression. This makes for a very dissonant round. I specifically wrote the high line as high as possible to add to the haunting effect of the score. I enjoyed working with this progression as it was such a different sound.

My Final round includes work and is a song about drinking alone. I kept the harmonies simple when I though of the melody. The tune is simple so anyone could remember the words and sing along. I used the two chords outlined in example 36 (1.) from my university handbook. It briefly touches the C major triad as well (for example bar 5) Similar to round 2 – The only dissonance is passing in brief.

Part 2 - Project 7, Projects

project 7

Today I wrote studies for clarinet and flute I used different scales so I could understand and learn about the intervals and characteristics of each scale. I wrote the flute study with the middle Eastern scale as I thought with the clear and pure sound of the flute it would be the perfect choice.

Flute Study

The Study is 24 bars long, 12 bars in the major and 12 in the minor. The study is written in a mix of 3/4 and 4/4 just to maintain interest. In doing this I learned exactly how this technique can help shape the melody line and phrases that I write. In bar 3 – I state all of the scale that I intend on using. This then lands solidly on the D as the tonal centre of the piece. Bars 6, 7, 8 and 9 bring a rhythmic contrast to the piece.

In the bars 12-24, I followed an idea from Gordon Jacobs Seven Bagatelles, I used the interval of a 4th but used the notes of the minor eighth note scale instead. The fact that I used a Bb instantly announces the presence of the minor key. I used triplets because I wanted relationship between bars 1-12 and 13-24th bars. Bar 19 is a direct rhythmic copy of bar 10. The study builds from 21 to climax on the tonal center D before ending on the sub-dominant fourth G.

The second study I wrote was the same format as my Middle Eastern Study – in that it is 24 bars 12 bars major and 12 bars in the minor. I had a lot of fun writing this! Having been in the pit orchestra for Fiddler on the Roof the obvious choice had to be clarinet!

To compliment the character of a clarinet I started the study with a gliss from the dominant to the tonic. The semi quaver triplets are a slight nod to the theme from poirot. I tried to incorporate the full range of the clarinet for the player. I slightly augmented the rhythm in bar 4 from the previous bar. We eventually morendo towards the end of the first half of the study.

The Second Half of the study is a complete rhythmic contrast to the first half. I could not resist the mathematical link in the first 2 bars of A and the 2nd two bars. While they are all noted of the minor Eastern European scale, Bars 3 and 4 of A are transposed down a third. Bar 5 starts the trend of the rest of the study as from bar 19 we descend down through the scale to the tonic of D.