Friday, June 04, 2010

Finished another prelude and fugue for solo guitar

This one is in B minor and is important as a personal achievement for a couple of reasons. One is that I finally finished my hommage to Elizabethan composers generally and William Byrd and Thomas Tallis particularly. I made a point of using material from Byrd's greatest mass, the Mass for 5 voices. Both the lines in the initial kyrie eleison and christe eleison make sequential appearances in the fugue. In fact the opening treble line of "kyrie eleison" is the subject of the fugue. Byrd's gift for melody entwining with melody is one that has rarely been surpassed. I suppose Palestrina and Josquin are "better" but Byrd's music is more personally endearing to me.

By accident that is now on purpose I ended up quoting "e'en the spirit of truth" from Tallis' lovely choral anthem "If ye Love me" that sets Christ's words to his disciples the night of his betrayal from the gospel of John. The prelude is based on the style but not the substance of Byrd's Ninth Pavan for keyboard. In other words, this short little prelude and fugue for guitar is utterly saturated with material from English sacred choral music. I sang too much of Byrd and Tallis to not eventually compose something that reflects upon the artistic debt I owe them even if virtually no one would ever know that about me.

The piece started off as an hommage to the great English choral composers from the Elizabethan period (Byrd first, Tallis by accident) but has ended up as a memorial piece. I had a cousin who died of cancer just a week ago and in the midst of job hunting and saddened by the loss of a cousin who wasn't even yet thirty the prelude and fugue in B minor were the only musical ideas at hand that I could use to work through how I felt about a whole bunch of stuff I'm not going to describe in more detail on this blog than I already have.

Some time ago I had resolved that if I were to end a set of 24 preludes and fugues that I ought to end it with a tribute to Byrd's legacy. The work is somber, though, and a recent death in the family made an already serious project turn into something even more sombre. Nevertheless, I believe it was the right approach to take for this piece. I am sorry my cousin died of cancer so young. There was no funeral and no memorial service, just a cremated body, leaving some of us who live on with a lack of opportunity to work through our sense of loss. In my case I have dealt with it by a new focus on a work I had already begun composing before I even knew my cousin had cancer.

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