Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.
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Composers' Workshop
Theory and practice of composition and arranging for classical guitar, discussion of works in progress, etc.

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gringo
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 3:36 pm
Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by gringo » Wed Jun 18, 2014 8:59 pm

The attached is the beginning phrase of a composition. I thought that it would be interesting to see how different people would harmonize and develop it.
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Max Karios

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by Max Karios » Thu Jun 19, 2014 3:58 pm

This is difficult for a number of reasons, but here is my take on it:
- The melody spans too big a pitch range. You can do this on the piano, where you have 27 octaves at your disposal, but I'm quickly running out of fretboard real estate with this.
- Jumps of a sixth or more should be followed by a stepwise motion in the opposite direction. This tune does the opposite, which gives me the impression that I am dealing with two separate voices. I actually set it in 3 parts, anything else did not work out for me.
- Still the voices tend to run into each other. There are too many parallel sixths in the example attached, but this just comes from the theme itself. Many attempts to incorporate more contrary motion results in the voices crossing each other.
- I have no idea what to do with the low E on beat 1 of bars 4 and 8. I actually like to have the major 7th in the subdominant, but it sounds off here. It actually should resolve to the 6th, not squeeze its way into the 7th of the following dominant.
- I needed to add a C above the E just mentioned in order to balance out the jumps at least to some extent. The last notes of the phrase B - C, if this should be a resolution to the tonic, requires the bass voice to go downwards, but from where? The bass voice would have to cross the melody line in order to do this, or you need a few more strings on the guitar at the lower end to get to the next low C.

As for a development - I wouldn't do it. There are too many issues for my liking with this theme.
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gringo
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 3:36 pm
Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by gringo » Thu Jun 19, 2014 7:46 pm

Thanks for your input Max. I agree that it is challenging to arrange for guitar. This was originally written for piano and the development was a bit easier. If you play the melody with your right hand on the piano, you will see that it feels quite comfortable.

Here is a 2 part harmonization that is fairly easy to play. I'd appreciate your thoughts.
bartlettsoujourn.jpg
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Max Karios

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by Max Karios » Thu Jun 19, 2014 8:43 pm

That is an idiom that is alien to me. The hidden parallel fifth ("hidden" only as technical term, it actually jumps right into your face) to beat 1 in bar 2 puts me off immediately. I just cannot see any coherence in this. If there is an underlying concept, I may be deaf to it. Usually you can hear if someone knows the rules and breaks them on purpose. You can clearly hear it with Debussy and Scriabin. But this sounds like the output of a random number generator to me. Sorry, it might just be me.

gringo
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 3:36 pm
Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by gringo » Thu Jun 19, 2014 9:16 pm

It seems that the main reason that you are "put off" is the parallel fifths. This is not a baroque chorale! However, even if it were, Bach did use parallel fifths (chorales 88,206 and 329 for example). You might argue that the third beat of measure 1 is also a fifth, but that did not seem to bother you. Normally a counterpoint exercise would avoid consecutive fifths, but the 4th beat of measure 1 has a 3rd. Were the other issues that made you feel that this was incoherent? Would you have preferred to continue with a descending line in the second measure, going down to A or F?

Max Karios

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by Max Karios » Thu Jun 19, 2014 11:35 pm

Parallel fifths or not, I just cannot see any underlying concept. To me there is a lack of necessity. This has nothing to do with tonality. The late Scriabin derived much of his music from his "mystic chord". This is the underlying structure that creates the sensation of coherence outside tonality. Debussy did things like pentatonic scales on top of a whole-tone scale. This creates a strange mixture of tonality and atonality.

I think it was in Dave Liebman's book "Chromatic Approach to Jazz Harmony and Melody" where I read that the further you depart from the listeners expectations, the simpler your basic building blocks must be, otherwise the result just sounds arbitrary. Look for "Cecil Taylor - Free Improvisation #3" on Youtube. This stuff is weird, but I like it. It is quite obvious that Taylor is in total control of what he is doing. The part starting at 3:00 reminds me of Glenn Gould playing Krenek. The section from 8:00 is probably the weirdest piano playing ever caught on camera. Funny enough, the whole thing ends in a simple major triad. I have no idea what this guy is doing, but there is coherence in it.

gringo
Posts: 197
Joined: Sat May 23, 2009 3:36 pm
Location: Miami Beach, Florida

Re: Willensky, Harvey - Bartlett Sojourn

Post by gringo » Mon Jun 23, 2014 12:08 pm

Max,
I appreciate the time you spent to come up with a harmonization. It is always good to hear a variety of opinions.

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