I'm going to postpone the Dvorak American Quartet until next week when I can do a proper job. But fear not: We'll have some fun with whatever I can slap together quickly.
I've been composing. No, I'm not going to inflict it on you. I've never composed anything, so I'm just dicking around with the Sibelius app, seeing what I can do, for my own entertainment and education. I decided to go for it, though, and compose a fugue. Why set your sights too low? Really, how hard it can be? Just RTFM: Read the Fucking Manual, right?
In the process I've been going back and listening to Bach and reading some books on counterpoint, of which I knew absolutely zilch before this. And I've been listening to Domenico Scarlatti, a composer of which I wasn't very well acquainted. I have really enjoyed this.
Some Scarlatti to get us started:
Domenico Scarlatti Sonata in G major L28, Vladimir Horowitz
To save us some confusion -- there are two famous Scarlatti composers. Allesandro was Domenico's famous father. Everything today is Domenico, whom I find more interesting.
More Horowitz playing Scarlatti:
D. Scarlatti Sonata in A minor K 54, performed by Vladimir Horowitz
Why would I be listening to Scarlatti if I wanted to compose a fugue? As you might point out, Scarlatti didn't really do fugues, the way Bach did. But he was a master of counterpoint, the art of combining different musical streams of notes together so they don't collide all over the place and sound like gibberish.
D. Scarlatti's music falls into a category of music that slides edgewise between the baroque period (probably describes him best) and the early classical period. Thus his musical form doesn't follow the classical Sonata-Allegro pattern.
A brief explanation on the difference between Baroque and Classical:
The baroque style was very polyphonic. Lots of counterpoint, lots of stuff happening simultaneously, lots of complexity... Too complex for many people. The classical style that began to replace the baroque style at the end was simpler. There was less polyphony, more melody + chords. It was easier for the average Joe (or average Johann) to follow. Once the lines of the music became simpler and less entwined, it was easier for the composers to introduce new dynamics into the music -- episodes of loud and soft music, slow and fast music, all in the same piece.
Music of the very early classical period before things got sorted out tends to be pretty awful, actually. Well, that's my opinion. And Milos Forman's. When he made the film Valmont, he set out to get non-Mozarty early classical period music that would be contemporaneous with the story line... and was shocked (as he put it in an interview) to find it was a difficult task he had set for himself.
Another Scarlatti piece, the Sonata in B Minor K. 87, performed by Clara Haskil, this one where the counterpoint is more prominent.
I hear three "seams" in that piece, places where the music seems to come to a stable point before taking off again. One at 2:07, another at 3:16. This breaks it up into three parts, the middle part being the more complicated and tense.
Scarlatti wrote hundreds of keyboard sonatas, all of them one movement pieces in his own form. Wikipedia describes Scarlatti's methods in his keyboard sonatas this way:
Other distinctive attributes of Scarlatti's style are the following:The piece above obviously has two crux points, or cruces, if my understanding of how plurals work in English is right.
The influence of Iberian (Portuguese and Spanish) folk music. An example is Scarlatti's use of the Phrygian mode and other tonal inflections more or less alien to European art music. Many of Scarlatti's figurations and dissonances are suggestive of the guitar.
A formal device in which each half of a sonata leads to a pivotal point, which the Scarlatti scholar Ralph Kirkpatrick termed "the crux", and which is sometimes underlined by a pause or fermata. Before the crux, Scarlatti sonatas often contain their main thematic variety, and after the crux the music makes more use of repetitive figurations as it modulates away from the home key (in the first half) or back to the home key (in the second half).
Despite what it says above, I can't find any clear examples of a Phrygian Scarlatti sonata, elsewise I would post it, because I love Phrygian mode (think: Led Zeppelin's Kashmir).
Many of his works are somber and introspective, like the one above. Or like this one.
D. Scarlatti Sonata in F Minor, K. 466, performed by Youtube uploader Cubus
In the above, I like the little dissonances that he creates around the trills. This is very emotional performing. It has a sense of yearning to it as it progresses. I have no idea who cubus is, but this is damn good stuff. Click through and give him a like-click if you can.
Now let's try something a little faster. Margaret Argerich specialized in this piece.
Tocatta (or Sonata) in D minor by D. Scarlatti, K.141, performed by Martha Argerich.
LATE UPDATE: How could I have forgot this one? Sharhyar in comments reminded me of Wendy Carlos's old Moog synthesizer album, The Well-Tempered Synthesizer, which had some Scarlatti on it. And it's AWESOME. So here it is:
Scarlatti Sonata in G Major, Wendy Carlos on the Moog Synthesizer, from The Well-Tempered Synthesizer
Let's finish off with the same performer we started with, Horowitz.
D. Scarlatti Sonata L224, performed by Vladimir Horowitz
Next Week: My schedule has been a mess around here the last two weeks. I decided to save the Dvorak for next week so I can do a proper job of it.
And a BIG THANK YOU to Lone1c for posting his great diary on Brahms' German Requiem last week.