b Riding East: Opus 7: Inferno: Andante Agitato

Friday, August 25, 2006

Opus 7: Inferno: Andante Agitato

Opus 7

Inferno: Andante Agitato
Inferno: Andante Agitato score

Under construction. Not complete. Missing violin solo in B theme, setting of text to chorus,...

This work is based on text from Dante's Divine Comedy, Inferno, Canto II, 127:130
Copyright © Princeton Dante Project.

As little flowers, bent and closed
with chill of night, when the sun
lights them, stand all open on their stems,
such, in my failing strength, did I become.

The chorus text is of the same Canto II, lines 88-90 [Beatrice]:

'We should fear those things alone
that have the power to harm.
Nothing else is frightening.

As far as influence for the piece, I've been listening to a lot of Stravinsky lately, including his Symphony of Psalms. What a masterpiece.

In this piece, I attempt to explore overtones. The concept: any fundamental, particularly in a bass register, should not be considered only as the fundamental but instead as the set of partial tones it produces and the implied harmony. Hence any fundamental is not a 'point' but rather a vector through the tone space. Timbre obviously alters the trajectory of that vector, or perhaps more accurately the fundamental (start point) and partials (trajectory) define the timbre. The 'tendency' of the trajectory is influenced by context, namely previous tones and/or combined tones.

The question for me: when fundamental vectors intersect, does this influence the sound of the combined fundamentals, or perhaps their tendency? Or taken another way, can an implied melodic line shape the progression (tendency) of sets of fundamentals?

I noticed on the piano that certain combinations of fundamentals intersected at various points, or pitches, in higher registers. (This experiment of course depends on the type of tuning, but let's keep it simple for now). There are several cases where three tones in a register (so three of a possible twelve) have a common intersection point in a higher register. There is only one case where four tones intersect, and ironically, this case is the dominant 7th chord, the intersection being a major second three registers up. So, the fundamentals C-2, E-2, G-2, B-flat-2 all intersect D5. If you play this dominant, do you hear D5? It works even better if you slightly flat E-2. The concept becomes a bit more interesting if you can use semi-tones or altered tunings.

I admit this is little more than a restatement of the obvious, but yet the insight helps me to visualize tones and progressions, and perhaps better understand their relationships and tendencies. I no longer think of tones as static points, but rather dynamic vectors with a defined trajectory. The tendency of these vectors is bent and shaped by the context.

This piece attempts to define an harmonic progression based on the implied melodic line: chromatic up, and then whole tone up. All chords are inverted dominant sevenths that form the intersection of this implied melodic line. I use dominant sevenths to maximize intersection points, and thereby implied melody.

I use a uniform (tedious?) meter for context throughout, with the nuance of a sub-meter: an 'upbeat to a beat', two-upbeats to a beat, and then three. I'll add a solo violin on the recap of the A theme in the near future...


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