Posted in Project 6: Analyzing Solo Compositions

Analysis 2: Mosaic Gradation in Honegger’s Danse de la Chevre for Solo Flute

The second woodwind piece I chose to analyze is Honneger’s Danse de la Chevre (translated as goat dance) for solo flute. Like the previous analysis, I will outline the structure of the composition, and the observations regarding melodic design and the tonality will be included in each section.

Somehow, comparing to Ozborne’s Rhapsody, the structure of Danse de la Chevre is more mosaic then it would initially seem to be. Some may recognize a mixture of ternary ABA, sonata allegro, perhaps even the rondo-like form. The structure could be A B C Ba B Ca A1, but A can also simply be the introduction and A1 the coda. A is a lento melody, B a dance section, and C is a pastoral melody. The small letter next to B and C denote that the melodies have been varied with the change in tonality.

Section A (bars 1-13) or perhaps introduction, opens the piece, beginning with the lento melody of subsection a (bars 1-6). It is a musical sentence, constructed as 2+4. Although opening with the tritone C – F#, the first two bars pivot around the B minor chord as the tonal centre, as can be seen in the second bar. Despite the interval jumps of 4ths, the phrase moves in a steady wave-like motion with slow crochet notes. In the next four bars, the initial motif C – F# – B – E is repeated, but the new tones – F natural and Ab appear with faster rhythmic figures (quavers and triplets), transferring the pitch centre to E. The melody is then constructed by repeating the D – Ab – D – F – E motif two more times. This place represents a somewhat dead point for the melody – as it cannot progress further, it completely breaks apart into the chromaticism and 16th notes, descending down to D in a scattered fashion. The whole musical sentence is thereby designed with interesting effects of gradation, first with longer notes and several pitches, then shorter and shorter notes with more and more added pitches, creating a nice dramatic effect.

The following bar 7 – perhaps subsection b, is a musical anticipation of the B dance section, heard only shortly and very silently in pp dynamics, shifting the tonal center to C. This bar also demonstrates how mosaic the piece is. Subsection a1 (bars 8-13) is constructed the same way as a – 2+4, but the gradation is achieved faster. The first two bars open with the same C – F# – B – E motif, but this time, the quavers and triplets with added pitches appear right away. In the following 4-bar phrase, the C – F# – B – E motif is played staccato, reaching a higher note than the first time – Bb. From this peak, the motif that is repeated two more times is Bb A Gb F D in 16th notes. Once again, this contour is like a dead slope for the melody, rewinding and rewinding until it doesn’t obscure into chromatic notes, now in 32th notes, all next to each other and falling down to E.

The section B (bars 14-34) is the dance segment of the piece, marked as danse in the score. It may even be regarded as one huge development of b (bar 7) from section A, as it was there that we first encounter the musical idea of the dance. While the lento melody also uses interval leaps, there is a certain gradual rise and fall. Here, with the lively tempo and staccato dotted notes, the melody jumps in a more chaotic way, up and down, from tone to tone. These hectic movements of the melody are a great example of how music can paint the characters, in this case illustrating the clumsy jumps of a dancing goat.

Because of the mosaic nature, the structure of the subsections is quite debatable. The following is the way I would mark them. Subsection a (bars 14-18) is an irregular, 5-bar musical sentence, constructed using the repetition of the same rhythmical motif from bar 7 – 1+1+3. 2nd bar is the literal repetition of the first, while in the third, the motif reaches new, high notes, before descending in a sequential manner. In this way, progressing into the high notes, there is a type of melodic gradation within the repetition. This means that the repetition, which represented a loophole before the chromatic escape in the lento melody, is used now as an important constructional element in the dance section. While the musical sentence is in F major, there are chromatic notes that obscure it, many from F minor.

Next is subsection b (bars 19-23) that starts with the repetition of the previous subsection a motif. Nonetheless, in the following bar, we see that it is a very fragmental development of a, and modulatory – the descending sequence goes from F major/minor to B minor. In the last bar, when the F major/minor is back, the melody climbs to a high C. Up to this subsection, the chromatic notes would usually descend, but here the notes go up. Following this is bar 24, that can be considered a short transition to the repetition of a. The short passage also climbs up, this time more dramatically from low C in 32th notes – another example of musical gradation. Subsection a1 (bars 25-27) repeats the first two bars of a, ending the music sentence with only 3 bars. Following that is the external extension, like a codetta or closing group (bars 28-34) – similar to the allegro sonata form. Though it can also be another transition, since it tonally links to the following section. The climbing chromatic notes motif is even more developed here, contrasting the arpeggiated motif  which has a downward wave motion. The dotted rhythmic figure is also isolated and developed on its own. After several modulations, finally, the fast descending chromatic tones close this extension on A – dominant tone for the next section, with longer note values.

The section C (bar 35-39) introduces a new theme with new musical ideas. The theme has a very rustic quality to me, which is why I called it a pastoral melody. It is 5 bars long, in D major and also quite expressive. The contour of the melody is very floaty, and after the initial climb, it doesn’t move away too much. The musical sentence consists of two identical phrases, one ending on dominant and the other on tonic. Even though the dotted rhythmic figure appears again, it is placed in a completely different way in this theme.

With the fragmental section Ba (bars 40-48) the dance section returns, however this time in modulatory tonalities – first D major/minor, C major/minor, A minor and finally the Bb major. The repetition within the melody is once more used as a halt in progression, until it doesn’t disintegrate into the descending Bb major 16th note passage, leading back to B. The section may also be regarded as re-transition into the recapitulation of B – allegro sonata form. Section B (bars 49-53) repeats the dance in the original key, but only the first 5-bar a subsection. Section Ca (bars 54-57) repeats the C theme, but this time in the F major and a bit shorter. This is one more time similar to the allegro sonata, where in the recapitulation, the second theme would be repeated in the original key. After that is another extension, codetta or closing group (bars 58-59) using the previously seen arpeggiated motifs. In bar 60, the B section theme appears in a lonely way, which reminded me of bar 7. This is where I believe A1 section (bars 60-66) starts. From bar 62, the initial A repeats, backwards. First is the second phrase with F and Ab motif and tonal centre on E, and then the first phrase with tonal centre on B minor. These places are the reason why I call this piece a mosaic.

To conclude, I really enjoyed analyzing both pieces. Each shows an abstract surface, but structure-wise they consist of some conventional elements, utilized in new, peculiar ways, combinations and mixtures of form. However, Honegger’s piece is a bit more mosaic, as I noted above. Comparing to the Rhapsody, the piece also shows a lot more gradation in terms of melodic design, while the former is based more on the variation of the melody. Overall, Project 6 really armed me with all the new ways the form may be manipulated, as well as how different aspects of building the melody may affect the structural shape of the piece. Next, going back to composing, look at my Project 7 examples.

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