Results 1 to 11 of 11

Thread: Having trouble discerning harmony

  1. #1
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    36
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default Having trouble discerning harmony

    I am writing a fugue and to write a good fugue I need to know what the harmony of the subject and countersubject is. Some chords I can discern easily but others I can't and I was wondering if you could help. By the way, the fugue is in the key of C minor.

    Fugue Excerpt.jpg

    The lower voice is the subject and the higher voice that has just quarter notes is the countersubject.

    Harmony I can discern:

    Cm, Bb major?, AbM7, Fm, C minor?, Ab, Gm7?, F minor?, Eb major? F7?, Gm, Ab, Bb, Gm, Ab major?, Eb, D minor?, Cm, EbM7?, Cm, Bb major?, Fm

    Those chords with question marks are those I am thinking are right but not sure.

    I mean going from I to VII in C minor seems weird but then again, it is transitioning to IV And that is just 1 example of what I'm talking about.

    I am aiming for a Baroque style fugue because the counterpoint I have been studying is Baroque counterpoint. Also I love how Bach's fugues get complex but are still playable by most if not all pianists.
    Last edited by caters; Aug-25-2018 at 01:51.

  2. #2
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    3,775
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default

    It would help if you would notate the subject and countersubject and post it as an image. I can't figure them out from what you have posted. But …

    There are some basic questions that need to be answered first. Like, what style you are intending to compose in? From your harmonic choices you are clearly thinking of common practice harmonic language. Is it to be a Baroque style fugue like Bach? A Classical style fugue more in the manner of Haydn, Mozart or Beethoven? A later style?

    In any of those cases, however, I would say that when you write a subject, the harmony should already be "baked in" in its writing. If you have decided on a subject and countersubject without being able to discern the harmony, you are likely doing things quite backwards and in a way unlikely to succeed. Also, ideally, there will be several possible ways to harmonize a passage depending on which part is in the bass and which part above.

    But apart from harmony, rhythm is crucial to consider from the beginning. In a fugue, it can help to have the active parts of the subject correspond to less active parts of the countersubject. One fills in the gaps in the other like fitting together mosaic tiles.

    Anyway, tell more about what style you intend and others on the forum might be more likely to be able to help.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Aug-24-2018 at 23:35.

    'Ere I am J.H., the ghost in the machine.

    Terry Gilliam, Brazil

  3. #3
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Ford Nation
    Posts
    3,206
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    My approach would be just to wing it, write a subject first, have a countersubject of the first voice form the harmony with the subject in the dominant in the second voice, etc. and modify and reiterate as necessary. Having the harmony already precomposed in your head may not necessarily be the most interesting thing to listen to, as least when I try to do that.
    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

  4. #4
    Senior Member EdwardBast's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2013
    Posts
    3,775
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    8

    Default

    Another important question is: How many voices in the fugue?

    Knowing now that it is a Baroque style fugue, I can see several problems with your counterpoint:
    -The M7 on the 3rd beat is not going to work within the style.
    -In measure 3, the third going to an open fifth by similar motion is problematic.
    -In measure 4, the motion from a 4th (C-F) to a 5th (C-G) is likely to be trouble.

    In any case, you should sketch out as much of the exposition as you can. As you know, the countersubject will appear for the first time a 5th higher than you have written it — and you will have to alter a couple notes to keep it within the key. Then continue with the third entry of the subject and see how things go. But …

    I would start over fresh. Don't worrying about harmony in the beginning. Just write a subject with personality and a sense of forward motion. When you add a countersubject, if the voice-leading is smooth and the two voices together still have a sense of forward momentum, you will know you are on the right track. Only when the third voice enters are you likely to have to make decisions about harmony.
    Last edited by EdwardBast; Aug-25-2018 at 14:06.

    'Ere I am J.H., the ghost in the machine.

    Terry Gilliam, Brazil

  5. #5
    Senior Member Vasks's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    2,483
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    19

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by EdwardBast View Post
    I would start over fresh. Don't worrying about harmony in the beginning. Just write a subject with personality and a sense of forward motion.
    Yes, start over with a single voice that states most or all of your subject. And indeed the subject you wrote (all quarter notes) is not a good subject. As Edward said a subject has to have "personality" which means a nice blend of different rhythms, combination of steps and leaps and a clear motif or two that can be explored later in the fugue.
    "Music in any generation is not what the public thinks of it but what the musicians make of it"....Virgil Thomson

  6. #6
    Senior Member ArsMusica's Avatar
    Join Date
    Apr 2018
    Posts
    131
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    In measure 2, you have a parallel octave: F/F to Eb/Eb on the third beat. This is strictly forbidden in 18th century counterpoint.

  7. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2014
    Location
    Paradise, Montana ... on
    Posts
    1,928
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Ah, where is Bach when you need him. He could certainly straighten this fellow out.

    Good luck with your composition, caters!

  8. #8
    Junior Member
    Join Date
    Aug 2018
    Posts
    36
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Vasks View Post
    Yes, start over with a single voice that states most or all of your subject. And indeed the subject you wrote (all quarter notes) is not a good subject. As Edward said a subject has to have "personality" which means a nice blend of different rhythms, combination of steps and leaps and a clear motif or two that can be explored later in the fugue.
    The all quarter notes is the countersubject, not the subject. The subject in the first 4 measures of the fugue itself and below the quarter notes in the excerpt has half notes and eighth notes as well

    In measure 2, you have a parallel octave: F/F to Eb/Eb on the third beat. This is strictly forbidden in 18th century counterpoint.
    That would be measure 6 in the actual fugue and yes I know I have that octave but why make such a fuss out of it? Bach himself used parallel octaves in some of his fugues. His Toccata and Fugue in D minor has several places where the bass and tenor voices are in unison an octave apart, even on strong beats. And really, why not have those octaves.
    Last edited by caters; Sep-05-2018 at 19:52.

  9. #9
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    466
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Bach himself used parallel octaves in some of his fugues.
    No, he did not. That is 100% false. Post evidence to this claim if you keep insisting this is true. Specific fugue, bar number. Video, time stamp.

    His Toccata and Fugue in D minor has several places where the bass and tenor voices are in unison an octave apart, even on strong beats.
    In the Toccata or the Fugue? What is the context? Strict Species Counterpoint or homophonic texture? Is the voice intentionally doubled? Did the polyphony intentionally cease? What is the bar number. Video and time stamp.

    And really, why not have those octaves.
    Because the goal of polyphony is independence of lines and parallel octaves destroys that linear independence. That's why. It clumsily makes two lines temporarily become one.
    Last edited by Torkelburger; Sep-05-2018 at 21:56.

  10. #10
    Senior Member Phil loves classical's Avatar
    Join Date
    Feb 2017
    Location
    Ford Nation
    Posts
    3,206
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    i was curious myself. But the octaves were doublings of the bass voice rather than independent voice as around 3:13 of here

    "Forgive me, Majesty. I'm a vulgar man. But I assure you, my music is not.“ Mozart

  11. Likes Torkelburger liked this post
  12. #11
    Senior Member Torkelburger's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    466
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Phil loves classical View Post
    i was curious myself. But the octaves were doublings of the bass voice rather than independent voice as around 3:13 of here

    Exactly. It is one single voice in octaves. It is the same exact rhythm and not 2 independent lines. Therefore, it is not parallel octaves. It’s an idiomatic doubling for a keyboard instrument. In order for this to be parallel octaves and for caters’ position to hold true, the sixteenth note figure in the soprano at 3:06 bar 2 beat 2 would need to be e-f-b-d then c, creating parallel octaves with the bass; or the sixteenth note figure in the alto at the same spot would need to be g-a-b-g then c, creating parallel octaves with the bass.

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •