Friday, December 13, 2013

Canons Away!

I hope this isn't how I got out as a blogger for 2013 (by the way, I'm on sabbatical in the spring, so expect much more blogging), but for lack of a better intro, here's something I thought of and did.

I was thinking about a possible upcoming performance of Pachelbel's Canon, and it occurred to me that, with more than 3 violinists on hand, the canon could easily be more than a 3-parter. After all, in addition to being a very nicely designed strict canon, this overexposed work also features a basso ostinato structure, which basically means any two measures of the violin line can go with any other two measures - more or less - as every cellist knows. In theory, since the basso ostinato line occurs 28 times while the violins are playing, you could have 28 separate violin entries (resulting in a 29-voice texture), which would lead to quite a D Major soup.

I decided, for various reasons, to be reasonable (?) and limit myself to 12 violins. Here's what that sounds like. [If you don't seen an embedded player, try this]

I settled on 12 in part because it's a nice round number, 4x the original, but inevitably, I quickly came to realize that 12 offers one other cool possibility, which is to put each of the 12 violin parts in its own key. And so, here you go:

[Again, if there's no visible player there, try this.]  Now, hopefully I'll come up with something more in the holiday spirit before 2013 departs...


H. T. Monroe said...

Michael, I think Mr Pachelbel was right in only having three parts plus continuo, at least for my ears. If you start adding more parts, it soon becomes a jumble and all I can hear is the bass part.


True, but that's kind of the point - the whole thing becomes more of a static, quasi-Minimalist experience. In a way, it extends to the listener the experience of the poor cellists, for whom it already feels like an interminably circular experience. The 12-tone version just ratchets up the pain!