Posted in Project 9: Descants

Descant 1: for Na haste do castanheiro

Note: Before you take a look at my descant, you can also read my research on the origins and forms of descants in general. There, you will see that descant had different meanings depending on the historical period in question. Here, descant denotes the meaning it received in the 20th century in hymn singing – the free-flowing contrapuntal melody above the main melodic line. 


Here is my first descant, written for oboe and flute, on the theme of Na haste do castanheiro, where I also added in the tambourine:

descant 1.PNG

Click here to download the audio file.

I really enjoyed this short Portuguese folk melody.  I decided to start my descant in imitative way, although free and not strict imitation. The melody sounded quite modal in certain parts, which is why in bar 5 I go into the natural B-minor or the Aeolian mode. It also sounded a bit dance-like, which I have highlighted with the added staccato, subito piano and other articulations – I was perhaps too detailed.

Because of this dance like quality, I added the tambourine, which I keep in gentle pianissimo with a slight crescendo in the end. My favorite part is bar 6, where the melodies move in a harmonic way in parallel 6ths, giving a very special sound – a contrast to the all surrounding polyphony.

I loved writing this descant. I come from quite a strict school of music, where we didn’t have much freedom in exploring counterpoint, so I would constantly fuss about parallel fifths and other rules. It’s really nice to just play with the sound sometimes.

Take a look at my second descant here.

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