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Old 12-23-2011, 08:34 PM   #1
Xiaoxi
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Fugue!

Update: Check out a completed fugue with analysis in post #68

Update #2: you can now view the above fugue in video form:


Alright, let's get this thing movin'!!!

http://soundcloud.com/xwanhosting/fugue-in-d-minor


So here's the exposition, in which the subject and all the voices are introduced one by one. I'm writing with 4 voices, but you should probably stick to 3. The basis for all of this starts with 3 voices. If you can handle 3 voices successfully, you can handle any number of voices with the same strategies.

Alto (green) introduces the 3 bar subject. Notice the rhythmic and intervallic motifs here. The things that stand out is the pickup to the 8th notes pattern starting with F Bb G C. When you make your subject, you need to identify what part of it makes it distinct, as this will help you get ideas for development later. It's also important to identify the harmonic implications of your subject. You should probably stick to a 1 bar or 2 bar subject that's harmonically simple (ie I V I, or something similar).

Then Soprano (blue) "answers" the Alto by coming in on the dominant. The Alto started on D, this starts on A. But notice that Alto is D -> A (up 5), and Sop starts A -> D (up 4). Why is this? Well, at this point, the tonal center is still D minor, so if we did A -> E, it wouldn't be a convincing modulation. So we're still enforcing D minor on the first 2 beats of m.4, but check out Alto, which is now trying to point to A with F# G# A. Now we can introduce B natural and other notes diatonic to A minor.

Notice by the time we have 2 voices, every 8th note beat in the bar is filled by at least one of the voices. This is a distinct feature of fugues known as motor rhythm, and it just keeps the music moving and ticking like a clock. So from here on, there's always at least one voice addressing an 8th note. Check out how I'm balancing the rhythmic activity between all the voices so that it doesn't get too cluttered. The more voices that are playing, the less they individually need to do. Keeping this balance also makes it MUCH easier to avoid counterpoint issues like parallel 5ths, octaves, unresolved tensions, etc because you can put off where the notes meet until it's good to do so. Check out m. 12-15, where this is crucial.

At m.7-8, we have a "bridge". Notice the Sop finishes answering by the end of m.6. But we're still in the key of A minor. We need to get back to D minor. So we develop another motif that compliments what we have so far. The Sop B E D C E A (and m.8 sequence) is kinda like the F Bb G C motif. In these 2 bars, we can drag the voices back to D.

In m.9, Bass (red) states the subject in the tonic. This is where things get easier and harder at the same time. Check out Sop here and compare that to Alto from m.4. It's basically using the same line with a little modification. It worked before, so it should work again, right? This creates what's called a countersubject, and you can see when we get to Tenor (orange), Bass takes over the countersubject. So this is kind of on cruise control. The hard part is managing the other voices. So as we stack voices, take full advantage of suspensions and long held notes. And don't feel like every voice has to be playing all the time. Check out Alto at m.12, it has a quarter rest because it resolved what it was doing, and for a brief moment it can just chill for a bit. It picks up again at m.13.

So hopefully this will get you started. I know I mentioned almost nothing about how you should handle intervals and all that, but I think we can just take a look one by one with what you have. Just start coming up with a simple subject and go for it!
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Last edited by Xiaoxi : 03-28-2013 at 07:21 PM.
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Old 12-23-2011, 08:39 PM   #2
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Yeahhhhh buddy
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Old 12-23-2011, 09:35 PM   #3
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My attempt, just the exposition. I've never tried writing a fugue before. Also, I haven't played this to see how it sounds on an actual piano (family is watching tv/on the phone).

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Old 12-23-2011, 10:44 PM   #4
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Keinezeit:

You have a good, simple idea that has lots of room for counterpoint to grow. Sweet. I have these suggestions for you:

Repeated notes in the straight fashion that you have for the subject sounds a little dull. But if we tie the 2 B's, this can become a great suspension device later. Also, you resolved to E at the end, which kind of closes things off. Change the E to a D# and now you're inviting more things to happen.

You have a lot of just straight 8ths or quarter notes. There needs to be some rhythmic variety and gaps for various voices to switch in and out of. And try to be a little more adventurous with the melodic contour. They don't need to move in stepwise motion all the time.

Be careful of your intervals. We should always be trying to target 3rds and 6ths. Everything else can occur but they should be leading to a 3rd or 6th. So for example, m.3 when you have the E F# G# A# against the B C#, that's basically running 4ths and 5ths, which is gonna sound out of place.


Here is what I suggest you start with:
http://soundcloud.com/xwanhosting/keinezeit-fugue
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Old 12-23-2011, 10:52 PM   #5
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I have nothing and no way of contribution, but I'm just going to lurk the shit out of this thread.

Your fixes to Keinezeit's effort are a good start, I hope he comes back with more.
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Old 12-23-2011, 11:17 PM   #6
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Thanks Xaoxi. Your revision is definitely more interesting to listen to. I'll try to build on it tomorrow.

I haven't really studied fugues at all though so I'll have to take a look at some first. Just last week I was about to buy an urtext version of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier (this would have been a bit difficult for me to play) but I got his Inventions and Sinfonias instead, now I wish I had gotten it anyway.
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Old 12-23-2011, 11:32 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KeineZeit
I haven't really studied fugues at all though so I'll have to take a look at some first. Just last week I was about to buy an urtext version of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier (this would have been a bit difficult for me to play) but I got his Inventions and Sinfonias instead, now I wish I had gotten it anyway.

Well, I've given you the basic start. What's harder to explain is the language of the lines. There's a billion textbooks out there that analyzes all this with numbers. But if you just treat each line as a character and pay close attention to how each behaves under various circumstances, I think it opens a lot of doors.

With the inventions, check out #2 C minor. Everything you need to know about what the lines like to do is in there. Suspensions, daring resolutions, modulation by pointing, rhythmic exchanges, etc.
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Old 12-24-2011, 09:24 AM   #8
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I've done my regular canon, doing a second section now with an inverted canon. After I've done that I'll get a start on this fugue exposition. I'll make up some new material (Canon theme has too much decoration in it and I don't want to make things harder than they already are).
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Old 12-24-2011, 06:21 PM   #9
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I have a quick question... in your example, is the Alto line constantly evolving? Where the soprano follows it but it leads it in a different key until the bass comes in when it goes back to D Minor?
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Old 12-24-2011, 06:36 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DiminishedFifth
I have a quick question... in your example, is the Alto line constantly evolving? Where the soprano follows it but it leads it in a different key until the bass comes in when it goes back to D Minor?

For the first question, yes all the lines are constantly evolving. The art of it, however, is keeping that evolution organic and consistent with the main ideas. We don't want the lines to just doodle around randomly, because then that loses the integrity of the idea. So either they're developing/carrying the momentum of what's been established or they're complimenting a line that is doing so, in a logical and consistent way.

Not understanding your second question...
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Old 12-24-2011, 08:07 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Xiaoxi
For the first question, yes all the lines are constantly evolving. The art of it, however, is keeping that evolution organic and consistent with the main ideas. We don't want the lines to just doodle around randomly, because then that loses the integrity of the idea. So either they're developing/carrying the momentum of what's been established or they're complimenting a line that is doing so, in a logical and consistent way.

Not understanding your second question...

I'm just confused at how the lines evolve together. I noticed the soprano follows the alto for 3 bars, but then it does its own thing, but the bass does the alto part exactly. How did you decide to have the bass follow the motif, but have the soprano change it up a bit?
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Old 12-24-2011, 08:34 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DiminishedFifth
I'm just confused at how the lines evolve together. I noticed the soprano follows the alto for 3 bars, but then it does its own thing, but the bass does the alto part exactly. How did you decide to have the bass follow the motif, but have the soprano change it up a bit?

Ah! I understand now.

In a textbook standard exposition like this one (I'm writing it for my academic requirement), there needs to be a subject and a countersubject. The concept is that as each voice comes in, they state the subject, and sequentially take on the role of countersubject. So think about the logical order here:

Alto: subject
Soprano: subject | Alto: countersubject
Bass: subject | Soprano: countersubject | Alto: free
Tenor: subject | Bass: countersubject | Alto: free | Soprano: free

But as things move on, as we'll see later, they're not arbitrarily relying on each other verbatim. It's all about switching back and forth in a logical way.

Does that help?


Edit: check out this table It's extremely rigid and academic, but it helps you visualize the concept of ordering.

The table registers not 1 but 2 countersubjects (since 3 voices), which I think is way too boring and doesn't really happen in Bach, who always changes things up a bit. If you're gonna use the same materials every single time the subject comes back it's gonna sound stale and blocky. The best fugues are ones that blur the delineation between a subject entry and developmental sections.
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Old 12-24-2011, 08:46 PM   #13
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Old 12-24-2011, 09:02 PM   #14
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What are some good things to do in the free parts like after the exposition? I just try to modulate around for a bit and use some themes from the subjects but when I do it the piece loses all motion... I've heard fugues that build up alot of tension in the free parts and then resolve it in the middle entry but in my attempts it sounds like the voices stopped chasing eachother completely. :/
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Old 12-24-2011, 09:08 PM   #15
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^Post a screencap or scan of what you have so far.
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Old 12-24-2011, 10:03 PM   #16
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http://soundcloud.com/emergent-1/fugue/s-5rD0K


I shouldn't be doing this kind of stuff so late.
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Old 12-24-2011, 11:18 PM   #17
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Hey Keth, good start! You're definitely getting the right idea with the rhythmic balance. Now let's refine the sound:

m.1: it'd be more interesting with a E D# E. The D# makes it more colorful.

m.3: these 8th notes aren't resolving to a 3rd/6th. You leave off the Sop. E with a B in alto, which is a 4th, so we're looking for an E or B in the alto next to resolve that tension with Sop's G. Start thinking strategically like this from here on.

m.4: Careful with the F. We're in E minor now, so that should be an F#. Again, same sorts of interval issues: You started with a G octave to 7th on the first beat, which doesn't get resolved by the 2nd beat (A - G), so it's pretty weak harmonically. Also, you haven't really been supporting the tonality of E minor, and you should do that by introducing a dominant gesture before you get to the very last bar. That D# should be way earlier.

m.5: You've skipped using a bridge, which Bach often does. But the problem is that you were supposedly in E minor, and now the convention is that you should be back in A minor by the time the 3rd voice comes along (but hhere you're still in E minor). When Bach skips the bridge, he's able to do so because he quickly establishes the dominant key and then back to tonic during the 2nd voice's answer. That's why you need a bridge here to modulate back.

Also be careful of the gap between your lines. In m.6, the lines start becoming too far apart for 2 hands to play. So you should consider that factor when writing and shaping the direction of the lines.


Here's my suggestions:
http://soundcloud.com/xwanhosting/keth-fugue
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Old 12-24-2011, 11:26 PM   #18
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I'll put something up in a few days when I remember how to write a fugue/am not in a plane over the ocean.
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Old 12-24-2011, 11:46 PM   #19
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I'll put something up in a few days when I remember how to write a fugue/am not in a plane over the ocean.

Considering that "fugue" means "flight", the best place to write one would be exactly in a plane over the ocean.
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Old 12-25-2011, 12:47 AM   #20
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