Thursday, June 20, 2013

7.) Ante Meridiem June 19, 2013


As I've made use of Messiaen's modes of limited transpositions both in this project and prior to it, I've noticed that their use alone does not guarantee my work to sound like Messiaen's.  I'm happy about that.  But I'm also curious as to what makes his music sound like it does.  It seems to have a radiant, gleaming quality to it, while I've found that many of my pieces sound dark.   I think Messiaen's harmonic choices have a lot to do with it, but his rhythmic choices must not be overlooked either.  Often times he wrote successions of chords in the middle-high register of the piano with faster rhythm that leave me hearing and feeling the mode and its overtones in totality.   Ante Meridiem is an attempt at lightening my work a shade or two.  

In The Technique of My Musical Language there is a chapter about added notes, meaning notes that he added to more traditional chords.  And in the chapter about the modes themselves, he gives each mode as a scale, and then shows a harmonized scale (the harmony being composed of notes in the mode).  Many of these harmonized scales feature chords with added notes.   The harmonization of mode two is an alternating between a major triad with an added augmented fourth, and a dominant seventh chord with the fifth being replaced with the sixth.  I used both of these chords in Ante Meridiem, especially the major plus augmented fourth, which has a shimmering quality in my opinion.  I also attempted to use a faster harmonic rhythm to bring some lightness, while keeping in mind that I had to learn to play this piece in just a few days.

The pitch material is entirely from the seventh mode of limited transposition, first transposition.   It's essentially a chromatic scale without an E-natural, or B-flat.  I first came up with the melody, which fit the scale, and then harmonized each note with chords of mode seven.  It was actually quite challenging to avoid Es and B-flats, and I kept finding mistakes throughout the whole process.  I think I fixed all of them.  But there was a considerable effort on my part to limit my harmonic spectrum even further than the mode did naturally.  There were a number of chords that I used and transposed to different keys.  Most of them ended up being a triad with an added note.

Things will get interesting and perhaps challenging now because I am heading out of town.  For four weeks I will be teaching jazz piano at the New York Summer Music Festival.   I'm hopeful that my schedule will not interrupt this project.  However I will be without some of the technology I use for it at home, so it might not be as easy.  Although I've got a plan to make it work, the recording quality and the quality of the scoring may suffer a bit.  And I really am not sure how intense my teaching schedule will be.   After NYSMF, I will be in and out of town for the rest of the summer.  But again, I'm hopeful that I'll be able to maintain the project.  I'm committed to getting fifty-two pieces written, but you'll have to cut me a little slack if a couple of them are posted late this summer.

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