Posted in Project 7: Examples in Different Scales

Example 4: Salamander

Note: Prior to looking at my example, you can read my research about the saxophone and Hungarian minor scale, which I used to create this piece.

The fourth example is the one that concludes my musical portraits of the four elemental beings. It is based on the lizard-like Fire spirit – Salamander. Below is the full score:

salamander - Full Score-1

Here is the audio version as well:

I chose to use the alto saxophone for the piece, mostly because I think that its timbre, comparing to other saxophones, has an interesting mixture of darkness and brightness. Since the most compositions I looked at were written for the alto instrument, I also felt like I was best acquainted with it. The scale I chose is the Hungarian minor scale: C D Eb F# G Ab B C. While it is not the same as the octatonic and nonatonic pitch-collections, the many half-steps still give the feeling of shifting tonal centers. I believe this ambiguity really gives spark to the piece.

The form is once again ternary ABA1. Section A is the long first bar without time signature in the slow Lento tempo. It sounds more as an introduction with a sense of improvisation, which I didn’t explore that much in my works. It is marked ad lib, giving freedom to the performer. It is entirely based on the dominant region of the scale. I imagine this part to be the ignition of the flame, and the lizard-like fire spirit crawling out of the darkness.

Section B (bars 2-18) is the fast dance section of the composition. Contrasting the free-flow of the previous section, it in almost moto-perpetuo-like Allegro guisto. Another thing that contrasts the legato A is the use of staccato notes. The rhythm is mostly the 5/8 zortziko dance, which gives a bit of primitive flavor. I may have chosen this because it is in the primitive societies that fire has become something that forever separated man from animal. I was also inspired by the dance-like nature of the movement of candlelight and flame, which I try to portray in this section. I used zortziko rhythm in the previous part of the course. You can read more about it here in my research, and there is also a composition I wrote called Zortziko Fantasy. Interesting thing, I used it there to represent the snake.

Section B consists of subsections. Subsection a (bars 2-5) is a four-bar musical sentence ending on dominant. Subsection a1 (bars 6-9) is another four-bar sentence similar to a, however more sequential. Subsection b (bars 9-18) focuses on the dominant region, exploring the lowest, deep and dark register of saxophone. In the first part of b (bars 9-13) the time signature switches to 4/8 with a rhythmical figure similar to flamenco, that then returns to the zortziko rhythm repeated on the D pitch. This is when have interesting dynamic shading, with the first bar of zortziko on D being forte, then suddenly to pianissimo. The 4/8 of second part (13-18) repeats the first, only a third above. The zortziko rhythm on D with the same shading is higher, slowing down in preparation for the recapitulation of A.

Section A1 (bars 19-22) in Lento repeats with the slight changes the first 6 beats of A. Besides altering some pitches, the register is changed for certain parts, which adds more shadowy feeling to the theme. In bar 20 and 21 the zortziko briefly returns, only for the piece to close again in the free-flowing Lento, but with a slight accelerando and two staccato notes as the ending.

That’s it for the Four Elemental Beings series! I enjoyed immensely writing these musical portraits and exploring the unique sound characteristics of each woodwind instrument. The individual qualities of instruments really helped me shape the different characters: the clarinet – the mysteriousness of Water Undine, the bassoon – the heaviness and darkness of Earth Kthonios, the flute – the fluttering of Air Sylph, and the alto saxophone – the playfulness of Fire Salamander. Using new scales was also something exciting, as well as trying out new rhythms and time signatures. I really feel a huge progress in both my knowledge and my composition skills. In the next examples, I will continue building onto these ideas. Take a look here.


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