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Talea and Color, am I doing it right?


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Oh hey everyone, I haven't been on this thing for ages. I am at uni now, studying composition among other things. For one of my assignments we have two different ways we can compose our piece.

1st - Using archetypal shapes or phrases that get repeated with variation, in the style of Syrinx by Debussy.

2nd - Talea and Color in the style of Messiaen. Chord patterns that phase in and out of the pulse of the beat.

Here is my idea, i'm going with option 2 btw.

I have a 12 tone row which is basically a set of four major and minor triads.

The idea is that the base holds the route, once the rest of the triad is played, the bass then moves to the route of the next chord, basically creating three chords per bar rather than two. Here's an example.

As you can see in the attached file, it appears as though the chords are:

(F+ maj) - (space) - (Cmaj)

When in reality because of the held on F+ there are three chords

(F+maj) - (F+, E, G) - (Cmaj).

The piece continues like this with the route in the bass and the response in the violin and viola being separated.

Eventually the viola's rhythm is augmented (x 0.5) and the violin's diminished (x0.5) which creates the middle and the top line phasing in and out with the bass line.

Sorry if that's a lot to take in, but is this an example of a talea and color? Is this technically an example of a modern passacaglia? I need to know i'm on the right track.


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Short answer yes it is in a modern sense as you are applying it to a serial/harmonic framework.

Liz - did you look at some of the ars nova stuff to get a better handle of this? I think it is easier asin that case you have a slower melody embellished freely by upper voices and then portions of the melody undergo diminuition and augmentation of note values.

I'd also look at Mozarts F major Sonata. It isn't a use per se of talea and color but the whole idea of using a prime material in its rhythmic augmentation and diminuition of values to enlarge a piece of music is common. In the F major sonata 1st mvmt opening bars of Mozart's, look at the triadic arpeggiatted accompaniment and the melody on top you will see that the F-A-C-A-C-A accompaniment supports a melody that is the accompaniment augmented rhythmically F-A-C-A. I recall last year you were studying th Hadyn E minor Sonata last movement and Hadyn does a more elaborate deployment of this technique found in the Mozart.

I think with Messaien the only difference between his method and the Mozart example is the tonal language and lack of need to follow common practice harmony - so in a way Messaien technique is more attuned to ars nova but informed by 20th century practices. What I find about Messaien more interesting is how he changes the rhythmic values - additive rhythmns with sixteenth notes, rhythmic palindromes, esoteric scales, etc.

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