Jan. 15, 2017

Getting Started With Writing, Part VIII

(con't from Part VII)
As the act of writing for the organ the quick and easy way [See blog, Ten Steps, Getting Started with Writing, Part VII] becomes more second nature to you, it's time to have some fun with it.
There's no more fun, exuberant little dance piece to write, play, or listen to on the organ than a brisk "Jig" fugue [See blog, Audience Appeal].
As the late concert organist Dr. Virgil Fox said on one of his tours regarding Bach's famous "Jig" Fugue in G Major, a work that invariably was on every one of his all Bach programs, "the tune comes one, two, three times in the hands, and the 4th time when it comes in the feet I dance the jig."
This is dance music that, when it's performed with vigor, gets everybody's toes tapping, the kind of stuff that stimulates every creature with ears and legs to get their feet moving.
After performing a "jig" fugue you want people in the audience to feel like they've danced.
If the pedals are still intimidating you a bit, you might want to check out the score for the D Major Fugue a la gigue Op. 6 for 2 hands only, and study that one first [See blog, Audience Appeal]; without a 3rd staff to read, it's a bit simpler.
Your fugue will begin with the subject, or theme, in compound duple (6/8) time entering in one of the 4 voices all by itself which, after it runs its course, will be repeated either higher or lower in a different voice, which is called the answer.
The 1st voice meanwhile will go on to play another melodic line, a "(1st) countersubject," which complements the answer and creates a perpetual 8th note or 16th note motion when combined with it; similar motion between these 2 lines briefly is permissible, but when one line goes up, the other one should go down in contrary motion or at least remain stationary (oblique motion), if possible, with contrary motion being preferable.
Once again, it's important, when you're writing your fugue, to work out in advance on a separate sheet of paper how you're going to present the subject and its countersubject(s) in the various entries [See blog, Getting Started With Writing, Parts V, VI].
Obviously, if a fugue in 4 voices has more than 4 entries subsequent to the exposition it will be necessary to repeat the same melodic line in the same voice in more than one entry; this is just a fact of life.
In general however, you should strive to move these melodic lines around in the various entries and leave nothing to chance; the idea is to avoid duplication as much as possible and try to give each melodic line (subject and both countersubjects) a chance to enter in all 4 voices.
Ideally, the subject and its countersubject(s) should appear at least once in all 4 voices (soprano, alto, tenor, bass); you can trust and count on your own judgment and your ear to guide you with this as your piece takes shape [See blog, Poetic License].
The order of key entries of the 4 voices in the exposition is typically tonic, dominant, tonic, dominant when the subject begins on the 1st degree of the scale; if the subject begins on the 5th degree of the scale the order of entries is typically tonic, subdominant, tonic, subdominant, but this is subject to change depending upon the shape of the countersubjects.
J.S. Bach in fact HAD to adopt this latter method in the exposition of the Fugue in his "great" d minor Toccata & Fugue due to the reiterated dominant note in the subject, which dictated that the answer be in the subdominant [See blog, Bach d minor, Parts I, II, III, IV].
It was also Bach's habit, when writing an organ fugue, to save the lowest octave of the pedals for the final entry of the subject in the home key, which exploits to the fullest the downward sonority of the instrument.
We would do well to consider and adopt this, as well as all other habits of his, as a fugue writer.
I find it easier, when I'm writing an extended fugue, to work out the several entries of the subject and countersubject(s), including strettos if there are any, in advance.
By dividing the task into smaller "chunks" like this, after these entries are worked out to my satisfaction in their various keys (typically this means the tonic, dominant, subdominant, and their relatives, up to 6 keys in all) and have these separate chunks of work saved, all I have to do at a later time is pull them up on the screen, begin connecting them together like a string of pearls using additional episodic or transitional material based upon fragments of the subject or countersubjects and their inverses, and the fugue will seem to assemble itself [See blog, Ten Steps].
These chunks of entries and episodes can be set apart by double bars in the score as you're working through your first draft; this will help you save time finding what you want when you're scrolling through the screen; they can be changed to single bars when you're done adding notes and are proceeding with the final editing.
It's a good idea in a piece like this where the subject is 8 bars long to allow 8 bars or more of episodic (transitional) material between entries, with maybe the first 4 bars remaining in the key being left and the second 4 taking the music into the key being approached, and stick to this basic plan throughout the course of the fugue for the sake of consistency.
If the key being left and the key being approached are related, this will sound smooth.
The texture of these episodes, or transitions, can drop to 2 voices, one in each hand.
This was the method used when writing the Op. 13 Fugue a la gigue in A Major (photo).
It will be instructive to download and print a copy of this score and examine its construction while reading this narrative.
Instead of starting on the 1st or 5th scale degrees, which are the 2 strongest anchors harmonically, or even the 3rd scale degree (a more bold move), the subject of this Fugue commences on the highly unusual 7th scale degree (leading tone).
The subject is supplied with a real answer in the dominant; the first note of the subject is also adjusted accordingly to begin on a different note (i.e. scale degree 2) whenever the subject enters in the bass.
In addition, one of the notes in the outline of the 1st countersubject is also tweaked when it enters in the bass to permit a smooth execution on the pedals.
It was decided to have the subject of this Fugue to enter 1st in the soprano, 2nd in the tenor, 3rd in the alto, and 4th in the bass; here the top line gets out of the gate first thing ahead of the middle voices.
So we have the subject first entering in the top (soprano) line and is answered in the dominant in the tenor; it enters next in the alto in the tonic and finally in the dominant in the bass.
With the 3rd entry in the alto line the (1st) countersubject continues in the tenor and a 3rd line appears in the soprano; because this 3rd line is retained throughout the Fugue it becomes a 2nd countersubject.
A fugue need not have a countersubject at all, and the subject may enter each time without the same contrapuntal line reappearing with it, but if that melodic line along with a 3rd one is retained in each and every exposition, we have a fugue with 2 countersubjects.
In this exposition, following many examples of J.S. Bach, it was decided that episodic material (of 8 bars) would follow the answer and precede the entry of the 3rd voice to help prepare a smooth return to the home key.
The next thing to happen is the entrance of the 4th voice, which enters in the bass with the 2nd countersubject entering in the tenor, the 1st countersubject in the alto, and a free voice on top.
After this, an episode of 8 bars brings about an unexpected return to the home key where in this entry the subject and both countersubjects are inverted or, more correctly, written in inverse movement [See blog, Inversions].
The inverted subject enters here in the tenor, the inverted 1st countersubject is carried in the bass, the inverted 2nd countersubject appears in the alto, and a free voice is assigned to the soprano.
Here, for the sake of variety, a secondary dominant chord (in this case, a dominant 7th chord with a raised 3rd on the 2nd scale degree) was employed to impart color and give this entry a harmonic character all its own.
Another transition of 8 bars follows as the music modulates to the relative key of the dominant (f# minor) for the next entry.
Here all the voices return right side up; the subject remains in the tenor, the 1st countersubject moves to the soprano, the 2nd countersubject moves to the bass, and a free voice fills in the alto.
Another transition of 8 bars follows and takes the music into the key of the relative of the subdominant (b minor) for the 4th entry.
Here the free voice is assigned to the top line with the subject in the alto, the 2nd countersubject in the tenor, and the 1st countersubject is carried in the bass.
Another episode of 8 bars returns the music to the home key for the final and 5th entry; the music gets louder at this point.
It sounds less abrupt to bring on another level of sound halfway through the preceding episode when there are only 2 voices playing low on the keys.
This could be done by merely adding a stop or two or maybe a single coupler; a massive change in the sound using piston memory here should be avoided; subtle layering of sounds is what's required for this or any other type of contrapuntal music.
Following the habit of Bach, the theme is carried in the bottom octave of the pedals; the 1st countersubject shifts to the soprano and the 2nd countersubject moves to the tenor, with the free voice in the alto.
The subdominant key (D Major) was selected for the stretto section which follows; by saving the subdominant key like this for the closing of the Fugue it helps to reestablish the balance of tonalities and reaffirms the original key.
Here the music gets louder still, with the addition of another level of sound, and remains at this volume level straight through to the end.
The stretto begins with the theme in the bass as a soprano line continues its voice movement so there is no falling off of the energy level; the imitation then takes over this soprano voice at a distance of 2 bars.
These overlappings of the theme then continue with another imitation in the tenor line followed by the addition of a 4th free voice to the alto to complete a 4 voice harmony.
A coda of 10 bars follows which reiterates the theme and its 2 countersubjects in inverse movement; using segmentation the final 4 bars recalls the "tail" of the theme and brings the music to a strict rhythmic close in 4 voices, with the drawing of a 32-foot stop to provide additional gravity and "punch" at the end [See blog, Segmentation].
The top line in this coda is ornamented with a trill which is written into the notation to facilitate the intended execution; since the upper auxiliary note precedes the trilled note, the trill starts on the note itself.
This is a virtuoso work at its indicated tempo but also a toe-tapping crowd pleaser with wide audience appeal and is just one more example of what at first appears to be a daunting task (of writing a successful dance fugue in 4 voices for organ) being reduced to 10 familiar steps [see blog, Ten Steps] and the exercise of one's imagination using some familiar tools.
(con't in Part IX)