Posted in Project 3: Exploring Chromaticism

Exercise 2.1

The task is to compose three ornamented versions of the given four-bar melody in the exercise brief, aiming for Chopin’s nocturne style:

I have composed the following versions:

Version 1
Version 2
Version 3

The first variation begins with the climbing notes that fill in the gap between B and G# with only slight chromaticism introduced by E#. From the following bar, the ornamentation go around the notes chromatically and fill the spaces in between, except the jump in bar 3 from F# to B, however, this gap too is soon supplied with ‘missing’ chromatic notes that descend back. I tried to not overcrowd the main melody with ornamentation, and tried to balance moments of chromatic density with moments of stillness.

The second variation has a longer, denser climb to G# that extends to bar 2, in the septuplet. From there, however, the ornamentation is a lot calmer, mostly in the quaver notes, which make the scarce, more chromatic semiquavers stand out.

Contrasting the previous two, the final variation begins with the repetition of the quaver B note that jumps to G#. The tone of the melody in bar 2 is a lot more lyrical with the floaty chromatic movement of the quadruplets. The last beat of bar 3, however, introduces the dramatic, faster chromaticism. There are overall more jumps, such as F# to B and G# to E in bar 3 and octave jumps on A in bar 4, with repetitions that echo the opening anacrusis.

The brief also gave an optional task to extend the passage by four bars and ornament them in the similar way. The four bars I have added start sequentially:

Having ornamented them, here are the whole variations:

Variation 1
Variation 2
Variation 3

Overall, the ornamentation of the extended four-bars follow the procedures in the previous bars, such as repetitions, rhythmic figures, etc., by which I tried to keep the motivic integrity, though there are a few places that provide surprises, such as the upward octave jump that changed the timbral color into the higher register, in variation 3.

You can listen to all the variations here:

To conclude, I really enjoyed this exercise and experimenting with chromatic ornaments. While I have written variations before, I have never done them in the style of Chopin’s nocturnes, which introduced me to a new kind of variation technique based on the chromatic coloratura. I hope to include this freshly discovered process in my future compositions and enrich their melodies.

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