Assignment 4: ground plan

Assignment 4 is an exercise in imitative counterpoint, and we are asked to compose a piece about 3 minutes long for two instruments (woodwind and/or tuned percussion). I think counterpoint can be particularly exciting when used in fast, energetic pieces as it can create some really compelling climaxes, so this is the effect I am going to attempt to create!  I have chosen to write it for flute and vibraphone, both very agile instruments which should suit this style well.  They also complement each other nicely as the flute has a breathy tone whereas the vibraphone is very clear and metallic.

I have created a four bar motif which I will use as the main subject for the composition, along the lines of a fughetta (very loosely).  It is in 4/4 time and seems to work best at a tempo of 118 beats per minute.  My draft structure is in ternary form:

A – Main subject in E minor introduced decisively on the flute, and imitated on the vibraphone starting in bar 4 (it works with a slight overlap between the voices).  It will then settle back into a quieter, anticipatory mood, allowing the counterpoint to develop and new musical ideas to be introduced before building up to the first climax of the piece. This section should be about one minute long: 30 bars.

B – Sudden change of character, more dreamy and contemplative.  Time signature change to 6/4 to stretch out the bars and change the grouping to 3 beats.  I’ll also modulate to a major key, possibly to C Lydian, which shares many notes with E minor. I’ll aim for this to be a one minute interlude, which is approximately 20 bars in this new time signature.

A’ – Re-cap of the opening subject, then a build up to the final climax of the counterpoint. I want the piece to end as decisively as it starts, possibly using the voices in unison.  This final section should also last approximately one minute / 30 bars.

Some of the imitative devices I plan to try and use are:

  • Straight imitation of the full four bar motif
  • Imitation starting on the dominant (as used in fugues)
  • Inversion
  • Stretto (starting the second voice very shortly after the first voice)
  • Augmentation (by doubling the note values)
  • Echo (short fragments passed between the voices)

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