My first decision for assignment 2 (a short composition for a solo woodwind instrument) was what scale to use. During my research into different scales, I came across the ‘mystic chord’ – a six note chord that Scriabin used as a basis for some of his compositions, e.g. his symphonic work ‘Prometheus: Poem of Fire’. There is an interesting documentary and performance of this work on YouTube. The notes of this chord closely correspond to the whole note scale, with one of the notes raised a semitone:
I’ve always liked the tonal ambiguity of the whole tone scale and I think this modified version has some interesting potential for a variety of contrasting musical colours, so I have decided to use it as the basis for my woodwind composition.
This scale naturally sets a mysterious, enigmatic sort of mood. When playing around with it at the piano, I came up with a short theme which reminds me of a rocking boat on a stormy sea.
I have decided to write for clarinet which I think is well suited to the drama of this piece because of its large range and ability to produce quite extreme dynamics (this is illustrated really well in Messiaen’s ‘Abîme des oiseaux’ which I studied during my research).
I have chosen 5/4 as the time signature, as I think the unbalanced rhythm is quite evocative of a turbulent ocean. With a tempo of approximately 112 crotchets per minute, I will aim for around 36 bars which will give a duration of around 1 min 40 s. I have decided to try a rondo structure, returning to the opening theme (representing the rocking boat) in between progressively louder and more dramatic storm sections.
[A] Main four bar theme plus two repeats/variations: 12 bars
[B] Storm starts brewing, building up the tension: 8 bars
[A] Recap of theme (modulated): 4 bars
[C] Storm reaches its peak, melodic climax: 8 bars
[A] Another recap of theme to close: 4 bars