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    Advanced composition evaluation Essay

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    This gradually fades in as M1 and M2 filter out and is passed between the instruments, the first diminishing as the other increases in loudness, creating a form of timbre modulation in which, “where the timbres are dynamically balanced, a new instrumental sound may occur” (P. 113, Cope, D. (1997) Techniques for the Contemporary Composer, Thompson Learning). This is an impressionistic characteristic displayed by Schoenberg in ‘Farben’. This technique is applied first between single instruments and then between combinations of instruments for a thicker layer of sound.

    It is important for the instruments to be played very softly through this passage, as tone colours are more suitable when fewer overtones are audible. For the finale of the piece M2 is re-established first on the trumpet; then on the clarinet, transposed down four semitones and set back a quaver rest; then on the flute, transposed down six semitones and set back a crotchet and a half. This causes different layers of instrument and random accented beats to occur. The texture and rhythm return to their original form as the clarinet and flute drop out and the piece ends with a final solo repetition of the motif on the trumpet.

    Jazz Piece My jazz piece was based on a number of classic jazz standards in the style of early jazz ballads such as ‘The Way You Look Tonight’, ‘Fly Me to the Moon’ and ‘Polkadots and Moonbeams’, the basis of which is a good chord progression with a simple effective melody. I also included a walking bass line, a harmony to the melody, and strings with chords and a counter melody. The form of the piece, in accordance with many other standards, is A A’ B A”. The chord sequence begins with C major, the key of the piece, and moves through a 1, 6, 2, 5 progression, then to E7, a secondary dominant, for a 3, 6, 2 progression.

    There is then a tritone substitution for a Bm7(b5), a step down to Bb7(b5), a perfect cadence to E7 setting up another perfect cadence to Am7, the first chord in A’. The section begins with a 1, 6, 4, 2 with modulates key to a 2, 5, 1 for the C. There is then a 7, 6, 5, 4 (borrowed chord) run down to F#7 for a 5, 1 to Bm7. The B section begins with Bm7, does a 1, 4 to an E7 dominant substitute, then a 5, 1 to Amaj7, then to Dmaj7, then a major to minor substitution to Dm7, then a 2, 5, 1 to C, followed by a run down to Am7.

    The A” section begins with a 1, 3 to C7, followed by a 5, 1 to Fmaj7, a major to minor substation to Fm, a step down to Em, then a 3, 6, 2, 5, 1 frustrated modulation turnaround and a 1, 5 turnaround in the repeat bar. Techniques used in Jazz chord progressions have inspired ranges of artists from The Beatles and Stevie Wonder, with their happy to sad key changes in ‘Yesterday’ and ‘You Are the Sunshine of my Life’ respectively; to Oasis, with their 5, 1 build up in the bridge of ‘Don’t Look Back in Anger’. Use of tritone, secondary dominant, and major to minor substitutions creates more effective chord and key changes.

    The walking bass line uses some standard appropriate jazz techniques. The first and third beats of the bar are usually root or 5th notes of the scales; the second beat is a 3rd, extension note or other note from the chord or scale; and the fourth beat is a passing note, one which is a semitone above or below the first note of the next bar, and gives the bass line its jazzy sound. The first 4 bars of the soprano saxophone melody determine the primary motif, a simple melody where the downward, conjunct movement is balanced by upwards interval jumps.

    Bars 4-8 use the same motif, but transposed up a 3rd and with variety at the end. Bars 9-12 use rhythmic elements from the original motif, and incorporate off beat and on beat accents. At bar 16 the melody returns to the original motif, but instead of dropping, rises in pitch to a more distinct point of arrival. At bar 17, the beginning of the B section, a new 2 bar motif is established; then repeated three times, a step down each time until the third repetition, which has different melodic motion.

    Bars 25-28 use a variant on the 2nd motif, repeated identically three times, over different chords. The piece finishes with a melodic frustrated cadence to the root note. The alto saxophone plays a direct harmony to the melody. The pitch of the harmony part is kept below that of the melody, to keep the two lines distinctly separate, and to avoid any semitone clashes. The 1st violin plays counter melodies over the long notes in the melody, and with the 2nd violin and viola, creates long flowing chords over the rest of the piece.

    Examples of phrase transition (bars 4-8) can be seen in ‘Polkadots and Moonbeams’, ‘Like Someone in Love’ and ‘Fly Me to the Moon; examples of single bar transpositions can be seen in ‘All the things You Are’ and ‘The way you Look Tonight’; an example of a 2 bar motif repetition over modulating chords can be seen in ‘My Funny Valentine’.

    Bibliography Davis, R. (1999) Complete Guide to Film Scoring, Berklee Press Schoenberg, A. (1967) Fundamentals of Modern Composition, Faber & Faber Ltd Cope, D.

    (1997) Techniques of the Contemporary Composer, Thompson Learning Potter, K. (2000) Four Musical Minimalists, Cambridge University Press Appendix You Are the Sunshine of My Life – Stevie Wonder Yesterday – Lennon/McCartney All The Things You Are – Hammersmith/Kern Polkadots and Moonbeams – Van Heusen/Burke My Funny Valentine – Hart/Rodgers Like Someone in Love – Van Heusen/Burke Fly Me to the Moon – Howard The Way You Look Tonight The Rite of Spring – Stravinsky Farben – Schoenberg New York Counterpoint: Movement 2 – Reich.

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