Wednesday, February 14, 2018

Oh no no no . . . I'm a hocket man

I've been blogging for almost eleven years, but I've never posted on Valentine's Day. However, I stumbled on something absurd yesterday which just begged to be showcased today.

Our story begins last Friday when I tweeted out a story that I'd heard from a Facebook music teacher friend:
Friend asked his HS students to ID a musical technique where melodic notes are passed back & forth between two parts. 
He hinted: “starts with an h- and ends with -ocket.” 
The answer offered: Hot Pocket!
Great story! Then, a couple of days later, another friend, knowing my many weaknesses, tweeted back the following:
Waiting for your arrangement of the "Hot Pockets" jingle utilizing the hocket device.
I tried to ignore it, but I've also come to terms with who I on Monday, I put this bit of nonsense together:

Look, it's pretty bad (it's not like the jingle tune I was working with is Gershwin) and I've even left it as "Unlisted" on my Youtube account. But, I was intrigued by this idea of writing a melody which is formed by two alternating parts, particularly in which the individual parts make sense both as music AND as text. I couldn't tell you what a Waterpik® has to do with hockets or who's "goin' up to Pa (?)," but I figured if I started from scratch, I could come up with some sort of interlocking lyric puzzle pieces. It would be even better if merging the two pieces created an opposite sort of meaning.

A lover's quarrel that fuses into a love duet seemed like a fun way to go, and when I realized it was Valentine's Day Eve, the race was on. It took most of my lunch break to sketch out the lyrics, and after fiddling a lot with double negatives, verb agreements, and the like, I had a rickety libretto. I'm sure there are better solutions (the two individual parts seem to be missing some important context), but I was happy to find something that worked at all.

This led to the really interesting musical challenge of building two melodies (for female and male registers) which cohere into a satisfying single melody across the two registers. Mind you, none of this existed at all even 24 hours ago, so this is still very much in the "concept" stage, but I do have a "performance" to share featuring my beloved virtual singers. Somehow, their yearning-to-be-human robot voices seem well-suited to the strangeness of this mini-duet.

Although it's more of an exercise than a completed composition (the piano part is especially half-baked), I figure I'll present it as a Valentine's Day Special:

...and if you'd rather hear synth-y oboe and bassoon, I've got that too:

The structure is quite simple. The parts take turns, each singing twice, against minor-key harmonies. Then, they overlap twice, creating a new melody and text, and finally the soprano sings the same melody with the tenor adding harmony beneath. As dramatic progressions go, it's rather sudden, but I think it's a nice melody.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Friday, February 2, 2018

Fuguing up to Boston

After I'd posted the little fugue I wrote based on a theme from Scheherazade, a friend alerted me to the disturbing fact that an organist from Philadelphia has just written a fugue on "Fly, Eagles, Fly." That's the fight song for a football team that will be playing my team in a little game on Sunday. I actually first read the alert as a fugue on "Fly like an eagle," which I think would make a better fugue subject...if, that is, I wanted the Eagles to fly.

Anyway, here is my response:

It's based on the Dropkick Murphys' "Shipping up to Boston," which has become the go-to pulse-pounding anthem for the local teams. The song begins with a rousing Irish jig which makes a nice fugue subject in the gigue style. The rest took shape pretty quickly, in part I'm sure because I've been in a fugue state of mind for the last week or so. (See previous posts here and here.) It's a short fugue, but it incorporates lots of fun techniques including inversion, retrograde, and augmentation. And unlike your typical Bach fugue, it's got football highlights.* Go Pats!

Incidentally, the word fuguing is most closely associated, in my mind at least, with the fuguing tunes (or fuging tunes) of Boston composer William Billings - songs like this in which the choral parts occasionally go off into fugue-like passages [like at 0:58]. However, if I wanted rugged Boston sounds, I'd prefer the Murphys. (A friend reminded me of this memorable rendition of the national anthem at a game I attended.)

* The background videos were pretty hastily assembled last night, but just like a fugue usually has lots of little insider tricks, I like that the grainy background video features a series of great moments in Patriots history that any insider will immediately recognize.