Note: You can read my research about the cor anglais and the whole tone, octatonic and nonatonic scales. You can also see my cor anglais post in the listening log, which further helped me get a sense of the instrument.
For my second mythical place and the final example for this project, I decided to portray the Lazy-Luscious Land, known as Cockaigne. However, I chose not to use the latter name, mostly because Elgar composed his Cockaigne Overture to evoke London. Instead, I wanted to portray the imaginary land of luxury and pleasures – almost a parody of paradise. I also prefer the translation of the dutch term Het Luilekkerland – the Lazy-Luscious land, because it shows a kind of dualism between idleness and gluttony. This may also relate the piece to Bruegel’s painting.
I initially wanted to choose the oboe, but decided to use the cor anglais instead. My decision was influenced by the fact that usually the cor anglais is known as a somber, melancholic instrument. I wanted to depart a bit from this musical archetype and also add irony to the piece. Here is the full score:
You can listen to the audio version below:
The form is the ternary ABa with added short parts in the ending, cb. The first moderate Section A (bars 1-10) in allegretto tempo represents the laziness and idleness of this imaginary land, where the “houses were made of barley sugar and cakes, the streets were paved with pastry, and the shops supplied goods for nothing”. The scale is the octatonic scale, the semi tone/whole tone version. The notation I chose is C Db D# (Eb) E F# G A Bb C (this is the sounding pitches, transposed in the notation a fifth higher). The tonal center of this ten-bar sentence shifts from the A minor submediant, then to E minor, returning to A, and finally ending on G major. Again, throughout the piece, as in the last example, I tried to use the melodic scale progression more directly.
The next contrasting, fast Section B (bars 11-43) in presto represents the lascivious side of the land, its greed and gluttony. Subsection a (bars 11-26) consists of two 8-bar musical sentences. I should mention that Sibelius plays the presto quite fast. I know that the cor anglais is an agile instrument, but like the oboe, it has quite a few limitations and the tempo may be too fast. Thus, presto is just the direction for the player to play as fast as possible, whatever the speed may be. The first sentence of the scale is whole tone – Db Eb F G A B Db (written a fifth higher). The second modulates to nonatonic scale – Db D Eb F Gb G A Bb B Db (written notation is a fifth higher), version half/half/whole tone. The fast legato 16th notes and quaver staccato tones all represent the insatiable rush of thirst. Subsection b (bars 27-34) develops the material of subsection a, remaining in the nonatonic scale. Subsection c (bars 35-43) provides a bit of a pause, however, still portraying the rising greed with three crochet pitches with octave leaps – B Db D, building back towards the repetition of A. I worry a bit about the playability of the octave leaps, but the slower crochet notes should provide enough time.
Section a (bars 44-47) returns to the allegretto A and its idleness, however it repeats only its first 4 bars – which is why I marked it with lower-case a letter. Section c (bars 49-52) provides new material in 3/4, almost being dance-like, seducing us back to the gluttony. The melody is based on the 4 major 7th chords found within the nonatonic scale – A, Eb, F# and C. With section b (bars 53-55) the presto B and the greed make their return, but only the first two bars, again, the reason why I marked it with lower-case letter. The ending is G major, which gives its own sense of irony.
To conclude this whole project, it was spectacular playing with the different tonalities and the symmetrical scales, which I rarely used up to this point. Not only that, but I also got to play with different characteristics of the woodwinds and their unique colors and qualities. All this together resulted in two unique and interesting series of short pieces. The pieces also provided an interesting musical journey to the world of the ethereal places. Finally, for the assignment 2, I decided to use everything I learned here and create a piece with a narrator, and try to have one instrument represent not just one or two characters, but several, by using different scales, rhythms and techniques. Take a look here.