An early start (Day 156/365)

I inadvertently started a string quartet this morning during my toilette. Don’t know how that happened. I’ll keep you posted.

EVENING: I’ve played with it. It’s a fugue in a very Shostakovian (Shostakovichian?) vein. Now, let’s be honest: what do I know from fugue writing? Bupkis, that’s what. But thanks be to Finale, I can plug those subjects and countersubjects in where they need to go and just play with it. And now I’m pretty sure I know enough to fix any stasis in the music, i.e., tinker with it to make it sound like it’s going somewhere. So this may work.

I’m already applying my gleanings from Bernstein’s Norton Lectures to hear some of the patches of the middle of the movement. Maybe later next week. After the Christmas decorations are down.

Because why am I composing a string quartet when I should be working on the underscoring of the Epilogue for next Tuesday/Wednesday?

3 thoughts on “An early start (Day 156/365)

  1. You raise a question for me (as someone who has spent time, perhaps foolishly, pouring over monographs on “the fugue”, even becoming remotely acquainted with the debate over the nature of the “Answer”). Is “the Fugue” unavaoidably an academic issue rooted in issues of harmonic theory and ultimately classical practice or can we just say that a fugue is various voices entering at various times with the same line? It’s like wondering if the invention of perspective represents the Year Zero for Western art such that all subsequent graphic acts are historical reflections. Must all “fugal” writing nod in some way to common practice-era dictates. In many ways, I think, this was THE question Schoenberg was grappling with. I was going to throw “modulate to maintain interest” into my non-academic definition of fugue, but even that notion implies academic concerns.

    Fugue-effects are certainly thrilling. Sounds like somebody’s paid his or her dues when you hear one.

  2. It’s very academic. If it’s just the same tune entering after itself, it’s called a fugal passage if it doesn’t follow the academic rules. At the moment, mine is following the rules as I understand them, but that won’t make it successful, of course.

    The thing that really makes me wary is a story from Shostakovich’s conservatory days: he was given a theme and assigned a fugue. He struggled and struggled and finally made it work. When he went to turn it in, his instructor pointed out that he had copied the theme incorrectly from the board. Hence his difficulty in making the harmonic structure work.

    I can’t imagine what this mistake would have been or how it would have impacted his ability to harmonize the theme. Of course, I’m fairly sure his instructors would have expected him to follow strict 18th century harmonic rules; his own personal harmonic structures could admit of almost any quirkiness in melodic line, viz., 24 Preludes & Fugues, op.87.

  3. For me the personal milestone was grokking the second voice’s modulation to the Dominant (having chosen that as a goal).

    He probably learned more by having to make the “incorrect” theme work out

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