Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Fugue State: Day 2

My second and third summer fugues (see previous post) feature the two best-known of the ten tunes I've taken on. Today's subject is New Britain, a tune much better known by association with the words of Amazing Grace. Although I'm not sure I could say exactly what makes for a perfect fugue subject, this melody strikes me as less than ideal for the job; but facing challenges is part of what this project is about. The opening of the tune has a simple rocking quality, with mostly intervals that are larger than a step. (Stepwise motion is very useful in creating counterpoint.) The pentatonicism is an important part of its folksy charm, but this certainly doesn't sound like a Bach fugue subject.

I took all of this as license to let my folk fly, so I was even less worried about illegal parallel intervals than in yesterday's fugue. There's a wide-open-spaces parallel fifths moment going from m.5 into m.6, and there are plenty more violations, so it's definitely not Bach. As happens in several of the fugues to come, there's a sentimental Copland flavor at times, but I'm still happy with the result, even though it's always a surprise to me when something I write turns out sentimental.

Perhaps you'll notice that the little rocking 3rd motif in the countersubject is borrowed from notes 3-5 ("...-zi-ing grace...") of the subject. As with the fugue on Aberystwyth, though the fugue subject is based only on the opening of the tune, the climactic phrase of the hymn sneaks in towards the end (1:24). I think I stayed away from this technique in the fugues to come, but we'll see. Fugue #3 arrives tomorrow...

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