Posted in Project 11

Free Counterpoint, Part 2

Note: You can read my research regarding free counterpoint here. You can also take a look at the posts about the definite-pitched percussion I’ve used here – vibraphone and marimba. Regarding the woodwinds, I did the research about the specific instruments in the second part of the course, and the indefinite-pitched percussion in the first part. 

The second part of the project is to compose two new melodies, 8-10 bars long, contrasting in character, and add the companion melody for each.

The first melody I’ve composed with its companion melody looks like this:


You can listen to the audio below to see how it would sound like:

The nine-bar melody is free flowing with alternating time signatures, from 7/8, 5/8, 6/8, 4/4 and finally to 3/8. The tempo is moderato. It is quite modal as well. Because of the varying tones, I can’t pinpoint the exact mode. For example, the beginning until bar 3 follows the acoustic scale, but then F appears, which makes the tonality closer to the Phrygian scale in A. Because of the D# that occurs in bar 5, the tonality may also remind of the octatonic scale based on A, version semi tone/whole tone, however it lacks the F natural pitch. Also, B natural that appears in marimba in bar 6 is the result of a kind of non-strictly transposition.

Because of these modes, the melody sounds very oriental, although this is of course in the sense of European exoticism, since the true oriental melody uses the semitones and many other techniques in the construction of the phrases. I wrote several blog posts on this subject. You can read it here.

The choice of the instrument – flute and marimba, also influences the orientalism. The brief of this part of the project also mentioned that I can add the indefinite-pitched percussion, so that’s why I included the suspended cymbal. I mostly used it for the coloristic effects, again playing into the exoticism.

As for the companion melody played by marimba, I first use a short inversion C Bb A in the imitation of A Bb C. Another imitation occurs at the end of bar 3 – E D C Bb, with C being a bit lengthened. I also invert the voices in a short sequence in bar 5 and 6 – A E A Bb A (tonic) of the marimba becomes the diatonically transposed E B E F E (dominant) of the flute in  the next bar. The same with the other voice, except it is less strict. All the other contrapuntal parts are quite free. Finally, I think the tremolo and the glissando in the last few bars suit the marimba quite well.

This is the second melody together with its contrapuntal accompaniment that I composed:

ex 4.PNG

Here is its audio version:

This time the main melody is played by the definite-pitched percussion – vibraphone, while for the companion melody I chose the bassoon. I added the triangle, but because of its metallic sound, I kept it in pp dynamics, since I think it may collude with the vibraphone in louder dynamics and perhaps even overpower it. Triangle has good projection, so even pp should be clear enough. Unlike the suspended cymbal in the previous example, here I wrote musical phrases for the triangle, so it is used not solely for the coloristic effects. I also included the pedaling for vibraphone.

Contrasting the previous melody, this one is a lot more relaxed. Not only is it dance-like, but it’s also tonal and harmonically relatively stable. There are a few instances where I blur the tonality of C major with some secondary dominant, first time with C#, then with D# and once again C#, until just before the ending when it seems as if I completely left the field of tonal music with a brief whole-tone scale. However, even this whole-tone scale is rather ornamental – the bass notes in bars 7-8 are F# E D, which could easily be dominant for G – I simply modulated to the dominant tonality. I think this is somewhere in-between romantic and impressionist style.

Once again there are some instances of imitation, sequence and inversion, regarding the latter – both between the voices and the inversion of the notes of the musical motives.

To conclude, it was really fun writing these examples. I was particularly amused to explore the counterpoint through the combination of the definite-pitched percussion instruments with the woodwinds. I thought that their somewhat dissimilar nature, especially in the sustainability of sound, wouldn’t allow many of the polyphonic techniques to be accomplished. Proving me wrong, this new possibility was a very pleasant discovery.

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