Saturday, July 11, 2009

finished another sonata

My sonata for viola and guitar, that I have been working on for longer than I'm going to say on this blog, is finished.

I'm relieved. This was an immensely difficult sonata to complete and I would bore you to tears if I explained the whole process and what it has meant to me. I have completed just this year two duo sonatas written for classical guitar and a stringed instrument. I am, as one local musician put it, working to fill a vacuum that doesn't exist. The vacuum exists, and it is simply a matter of recognizing that vacuum and working hard, working steadily, and working knowledgably to address that vacuum. Why do what everyone else is doing and has done?

I have temporarily tabled my project of preludes and fugues for solo guitar. I have yet to wrap up the prelude in B flat minor but finishing the sonata for viola and guitar and finishing the sonata for cello and guitar were both quite a bit more important. Now the sonatas are finished but the preludes and fugues for guitar my still be on hold. I have string quartets to get back to.

Sunday, July 05, 2009

blogging and composing

I haven't blogged so much about composing in the last half year (or have I and have I just been scatterbrained?) because I have hit an impasse as a composer that I only recently got around. When you write classical music you can't really get around the necessity of reading about music before too long. I owe a great deal to Charles Rosen's analysis of the Hammerklavier sonata's finale, a fugue of just sort of proportions and bearing I needed to study in order to make progress on my own piece.

The idea that a six minute fugue could be described as a "grand fugue" by a musician I was running the idea by seems ... weird. I have investigated fugues thoroughly enough to know that even from Bach's pen a six minute fugue is a little uncommon and his longer fugues tend toward more leisurely (or, if you prefer more stately) tempi. Beethoven was the one who took fugues on decidedly upbeat subjects and just ran with them. Or he hybridized sonata form and fugue. I have since taken it as a given that what the fugue provided for the Baroque era the sonata form provided for the Classic era, a way to explore ideas rigorously and with a suitable set of contrasting concepts. In fugue the contrasts are set up within the exposition while in the sonata the contrast is more discursive in the rather obviously titled "exposition".

So sonatas and fugues both have expositions. My sonata I've been pecking away at employs the same thematic seed in each movement so that it becomes a kind of monothematic sonata form by way of variation and distortion. Themes 1 and 2 respectively derive from the introduction and the embellishment of theme 2 works itself out into the middle mvoement as an independent movement before the third movement begins, which simultaneously recapitulates and mutates the concepts from the first movement. I suppose it's not for nothing I found the Hammerklavier so useful since the level at which I develop and explore the implications of the opening six measure idea would fit the bearing and conceptual architecture of the Hammerklavier. It just so happens that instead of writing that sort of sonata for piano I have written a sonata for viola and guitar ... which may or may not turn out to be any good.

There is only so much self-confidence a person can have even in the thing for which they may be known. Friends may tell me I'm a good guitarist and a good composer but that doesn't mean I really beleive it a third tohalf the time. As they say, even supermodels feel insecure about their appearances and I'll never be a supermodel.