Friday, August 24, 2018

Fugue State: Day 11

Here at last is the final fugue from my summer project. Based on the widely-used German hymn tune Lobe den Herren, which is sung most often as "Praise to the Lord, the almighty," this is the finale of the set simply because it's the last I wrote before going on a two-week August vacation from the organ bench. You'll find in it a lot of the same features I've returned to again and again, though two are worth noting.

As with two other fugues (here and here), I've created a very short subject from the first part of the opening hymn phrase and then used the concluding part of that phrase as countersubject (heard against the next entries of the subject as answers, etc.). In this case, I also sped up the second half of the tune so that, while the pitches are the same, the character of the melody is changed significantly. One could argue that I've made it less interesting since the original is a rather unusual six bar phrase, and mine is four bars. It surprised me how easy it is to miss the connection altogether, especially because the 6-bar version puts strong emphasis on E (on "King"), a relatively unstable scale degree. (If you try to sing the words placed below my fugue subject, you'll find that they don't fit well because "King" falls in an unstressed metrical position.)

My version, which conflates bars 2-3, simply outlines the notes of a dominant harmony in what becomes the penultimate bar. It is simpler and more square than the hymn tune, but also provides more rhythmic variety as countersubject.

Also, I have again tweaked the normal expectations about where the "answer" (second entry of the subject motif) is pitched; in this case, it enters on the third scale degree, rather than the more normal fifth or fourth. This results in an almost immediate switch to a more minor-sounding mode, although that bit of shadow passes quickly.

I'll save for another day the opportunity to write more broadly about this whole project, now that all the fugues are out in the open.

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