Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Blues Interruptus

Sorry there haven’t been many new posts recently: the Move at the Station has taken up a lot of time and, mostly, energy, and though I have managed to complete the rough draft of the “Blues Interruptus” scherzo for the violin & piano pieces, I hadn’t taken the time to transcribe it into the Finale NotePad to post here. But when the back-ache and the head-ache and the buzzing in the ears from the new building’s insidious “white noise” masking system preclude any creativity today, it’s something I can do and still feel moderately productive.

This is the “recap” of the A-Section Blues from my last post. It’s a condensed version, not a literal restatement and, unlike the traditional A-B-A tonal scheme, starts elsewhere in the scheme of things before returning to the “expected” tonal centers (I hesitate using the term “key” since it will only confuse people who are too literal in the old definitions of things). I use “centers” in the plural, also, because the violin is in one center (basically B) while the piano is in another (basically A-flat) – thank you, Darius Milhaud, for inspiring a little bit of poly-centricity...

I’m not keen on a lot of literal or mechanical repetition or, more accurately, restatement – finding our way around a 19th Century sonata form relies on our ability to remember themes and different details, to whatever extent we’re capable: this explains why the exposition is repeated, to reinforce the principal material. In something that evolves more organically, it relies on shapes and patterns rather than themes and modulations to assist the listener's memory. So the problem here was coming up with recognizable fragments of the opening blues segment with recognizable signposts along the way, condensed yet keeping the idea of some kind of linear melodic flow in the violin part while the pianist chugs along with the chords: cadences are reached but are never really “closed,” always pushing ahead with new elements and degrees of tension. But there are linear shapes we are used to – either from the traditional blues style or the patterns we’d heard earlier – that signal “here’s a phrase-cadence” and so on.

This excerpt begins with the end of the B-Section’s “rock interruption,” a pattern which sneaks in at the very end, once more, where the violinist, figuratively speaking, gives up with a kind of Neapolitan “oh well” tag and one last “uh huh” chord in the piano with added tones, all still based on the same hexachords. In the A-Sections, fore and aft, all the violin’s material comes from the inversion of 6-Z47 which is a blues scale pattern; all the chords in the piano are either 6-Z47 (prime or inversion) or its complement, 6-Z25 (prime or inversion).

There are still a few minor details to work out and some notational things that Finale NotePad isn’t designed to do that a pencil on paper can still do better (or more clearly), but that’s basically it.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Blues Monday on a Wednesday

This past Monday, I managed to finish transcribing the opening section of the Scherzo -- the middle section is basically done already. So here's my "take" on The Blues. Remember, I'm not trying to write genuine Blues or imitate Gershwin (that's a little out of my league), just trying to absorb it into my own style. This may be a little different than my original scratchings.

The violin part may sound bluesy, even if it begins to lose track of the tonality and the 12-bar structure fairly quickly (it is, after all, a scherzo), and the piano part may sound fairly bluesy with its repeated chord patterns (if you let your imagination roam), but together they probably sound like two guys in a smoky bar who've started to improvise but haven't really figured out which planet they're on.

The tempo is fairly relaxed (quarter note = 90 according to the ol' metrognome). There are a couple of "uh oh" and "oh yeah" chords in the piano part I need to figure out, and the pedal pattern continues throughout the piano's chords, too. But basically, this is it:

and so on...

I wasn't trying to pay hommage to or imitate Ravel's Violin Sonata, either -- rather than embrace it, I thought about just devouring it and moving on. The trick is, now, moving on to the next paragraph. One of the tricks is the interruption of the "rock-n-roll" motive in that next-to-last measure before the pianist gets back on track, as if "oops, sorry, another phrase to go, sorry." Then he ends up restarting on the wrong beat: should I have the violinist continuing adamantly in the strict meter or should I have him drop a beat, too? Maybe a little later.

Today was going to be the day to break through the bar-line to the next paragraph, but it didn't turn out to be a good day, creatively speaking: there were five things about concentration that just gave me the writin'-the-blues blues...