Project 1 – Debussy and Impressionism
I was asked to listen to Debussy’s piece “Prelude a l’apres-midi d’un faune “; the entry can be found in my listening log. Debussy uses a chromatic chord sequence, which can be heard in the following example:
By just looking at the notes, one might assume, that it would sound disharmonic, but every second chord seems almost like a chord is resolved. In comparison to Händel’s Dixit Dominus or Bach’s chorale harmonisation (which I worked with in the previous parts) this extract of the piece doesn’t involve a huge range of chords. I nevertheless didn’t have the impression that the sound was emptier or missing something – on the contrary, I initially had the impression, that there was a wider range of chords involved. This may be due to the fact, that the chords Debussy used involve more than just the normal triad or minor 7 (which both where mainly used in the previous epochs).
Project 2 – New harmonic fields
Debussy’s piece „ La Cathedrale Engloutie“ starts with an interesting chord progression of parallel rising 5ths. The chord G (only consisting of G and its’ 5th D) , which is played over a whole bar in both hands underlays the chord progression G- A- E- G-A, (also all without the maj. 3), is followed by a deep echo playing the notes from the Key of G (G + D) again.
In bars 3 and 4 are the same as the previous ones, apart from the two bass notes, which have been put one tone lower. The chord sounding now involves F, C, D and G, the chords moving in parallel fifths stay the same. The echo has been put one tone lower as well – from D and G to C and F. (The following image shows two bars which are meant to be next to one another, the clefs are there due to a pagination)
Within the 5th bar Debussy starts with the same motif again, but then continues in a different way. The chord at the beginning has again been lowered, this time by half a note, to E and B.
The next phrase is working in this scheme as well can be seen in bar 14, were the bass notes are playing C and G.
For the passage in between, bar 6 to 12, Debussy uses the Lydian mode, starting on E. (From my former musical education I already know that the notes of the Lydian mode can be defined by playing only white notes from F to the next F on the piano – the amount of whole and half notes then can be transferred to any other starting note. The Lydian mode staring on E would therefore look like the following:
*The parts of the score were provided by the Petrucci Music Library. Available at : http://ks.imslp.net/files/imglnks/usimg/0/0c/IMSLP521885-PMLP2394-Debussy_Claude-Pr%C3%A9ludes_1er_Livre_Durand_7687_scan.pdf [Accessed: 11.11.1019]
Before starting this exercise, I was introduced to Arnold Schönberg’s “Serialism”, sometimes also called “Twelve-tone-technique. This kind of music is based on a more mathematical system: Every note of a twelve tone row has to be played only once, but all notes have to be used. The row can be played as retrograde (backwards), inverted (mirrored intervals) or as a retrograde inversion (backwards with mirrored intervals).
I was asked to create my own row and add the other named versions to it. Even though I didn’t have to, I tried to follow a certain pattern by always using a neutral note, a note with a sharp, another neutral note and a note with a flat. Seeing that I was able to use sharps as well as flats, I only had to be careful not to use the same enharmonic notes. The only difficulties I came across by following this scheme, was the very end, were I had only two white notes left (E and G). By using Fb instead of E, I managed to continue the pattern to the end of the phrase. I furthermore tried to avoid tri-tones as well as intervals higher than a minor 6th.
Even though it was given in the example in my study folder, that I could transpose the inversion (and the retrograded inversion) I decided to invert around the same note, the previous part had ended with, that way it is possible to hear the same note twice in a row three times, even though it is technically not allowed.
The last bar of the normal row only happened to be a four ascending notes with small intervals by chance. They nevertheless, make all 16 bars sound more interesting and seem to give it a bit of structure. This effect can especially be notices, due to the order of the following row versions: Having the retrograde right after the normal row reflects the fourth bar right after being played, this works in a similar way in bars 9 and 10.