Friday, February 10, 2012

Do forms exist to be transcenced?

Most emphatically NO.

A tree does not live by transcending treehood. A mammal does not usually become and angel, unless the mammal be a man. And after the fall that transcending is painful: even before the fall it was only meant to be partial. The huge sea does not become better for transcending its conventual form of waves - ask Tsunami survivors if you doubt it. Marriage is not made better by transcending limits on number or choice of sexes beyond two persons and one of each sex. And that was true for marriage as a natural contract even before it became for baptised Christians a Sacrament. School is not bettered by transcending the interest and ambition of each pupil going there: if a pupil wants to know Homer and Virgil, let him go to a master knowing Homer and Virgil and maybe the "Nibelungen Nôt" or "Beowulf" or "Táin Bó Cúailgne" and taking the time to teach them well; if a pupil wants to know Mathematics and Materials and Angles for Stability and Temperatures and Times for keeping stable things stable, let him go to a master knowing that and taking the time to teach that well. And if it is dividing logs and smoothening wooden surfaces and nailing or gluing or wedging and also gluing pieces of wood together until you have an object that you or someone else can use as table or cupboard or chair or wardrobe - that also can be learnt with a master who knows that well, and God made that choice for His only Begotten Son. And if someone has the taste to really know Galileo, Darwin, Newton, Laplace, or even Freud, Marx, and Frazer on top of that - well, this is not the right age to be practically able to forbid that. The real problem comes from schools making curricula transcending the intelligible individual choices of masters and of pupils.

So, no, in general forms do not exist to be transcended.

One man finding a form may be finding it by transcending another, related but simpler form. A fugue may be a transcended canon. A Viennese Classic exposition may be a transcended Scarlattian exposition. Corelli's three movement form may be a transcended one movement form.

But each form exists for the works it may do. If in transcending it you are not finding another form, you are not doing a work of art. And if you are finding another form, it had better be at least as good as the original one.

I wrote a March that I published on this blog. As a March it was meant to be enjoyable and encouraging to soldiers or resistants who are marching in time. I just heard an "arrangement" done by a man trying to do the style of Arvo Pärt!

It was the same piece of music only in the sense that each measure that could be identified was identic in one respect to its counterpart on my score. I did identify the third and fourth measures.

I felt about as Iluvatar must have felt about Melkor's variations (if you know the Silmarillion).

No, not quite, I am not God (and yes, the Ainulindale is a mythicised version or comment about the first half verse of Genesis: "In the beginning God created the Heavens ..." and it is continued only to the end as in "...and the earth.") I am just a composer.

But still. The Arvo Pärt arrangement was quite overwhelming to my theme. Or themes.

I am writing Classical Music. By Classical Music, I do not mean Arvo Pärt, I do not mean Pierre Boulez, I do not mean Stravinski. I do mean Tchaikowski, Mozart, Haydn. Add Verdi and Ravel and - limit cases - Wagner and Beethoven. I call that Classical Music. And that along with erlier things, such as Bach or such as "Sumer is icumen in" is basically what I try to write.

But you might have heard that Mozart transcended the Viennese Classical Sonata form.

The form with two and two only themes, as defined by Reicha and Czerny was not there for him to transcend.

The form as defined by Riepl - he did not call it "sonata form" but simply "sonata" - was there. It included an exposition in two tonalities. And where he went outside Riepl, it was in the direction of Koch. Riepl had written the last part of his work by 1763. Koch wrote in 1790's, resuming the changes made by Mozart.

The Grundabsatz with the phrase now referred to as the first theme could, in Mozart, have the form of a short Quintabsatz followed by a short Kadenz. I e the Rondo theme. Translations of termini technici follow:

Grundabsatz=Perfect Cadence with lessened finality.
Quintabsatz=Half Cadence.
Kadenz=Perfect Cadence with full or heightened finality.
Each word also stands for phrase leading up to such from previous of such or from beginning.


Mozart also changed - and Koch recorded the change - the order between the tonalities. Any work in C major, the tonality preference was, in Riepl:

C, G, Am, Em, F, Dm


But in Mozart and in the theoretican Koch following him:

C, G, Am, F, Dm, Em


Before Riepl, in the time of Bach and Händel, the first three had been C, G, Em in any major piece and Am, Em, C in any minor piece.

Riepl defined the preferences in minor as being rather Am, C, Em - and Mozart and Koch follow that series.

Riepl also defined the sequence of constituent tonalities in the development section ("first half of the second reprise"):

G, C, Am
or G, Am
or C, Am
or Am throughout.


Not all of the Viennese Classics follow that. There are people who involve Dm not just as a passing and sequential tonality - towards G or C - but as a constituent one. There are people who in A minor movements ended the development section in G.

Now, Wolfgang Budday (a Musicologist Professor at University of Hamburg, retired but alive last time I checked) analysed heaps and heaps of piano sonatas. Haydn and Mozart but also close contemporaries Neefe, Wagenseil, Galuppi, Steffan. Beethoven is already another style. But, looking at development sections, it was invariably the canonic tonality sequences as defined by Riepl that Mozart and Haydn used.

I am not saying this as backing Neefe, Wagenseil and Galuppi against Mozart and Haydn. I am not trying to be wiser than the millions who have never heard of Neefe, Wagenseil and Galuppi but who love Eine Kleine Nachtmusik (and yes, it follows Riepl!). I am saying that the ones who tried to transcend Riepl were not the great composers. At least not to most of us.

Hans-Georg Lundahl
Georges Pompidou Library
10-II-2012 - Blessed Arnaud

1 comment:

Hans-Georg Lundahl said...

Seems he misread the score and therefore misunderstood the style.

Has been cleared between us, looking forward to next mp3.