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Should I expand my fugue subject?

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This is concerning the fugal variation of Beethoven's fifth that I am working on. I have been told by others that my current fugue subject is just too short to make it work and that I should add the next 4 measures of Beethoven's fifth to my subject. That means that I'm going from having this as my subject:

Subject1.png.ebb73ac97d94fc517389d565713312bf.png

To having this as my subject:

Subject2.png.a84aa1cd6954cffa664d02d538b73625.png

Does my subject really need extended though? I mean, 10 measures sounds more like the length of a sonata theme than that of a fugue subject. And Bach has made do with much shorter subjects. Some of his fugue subjects are less than a measure long.

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Well, it's 10 measures in 2/4, remember, so I definitely don't think that's too long.  You can easily find fugue subjects of that length in Handel.  The opening motif by itself, as brutally direct and simple as it is, seems like not enough for a fugue subject.  And with the longer theme, that gives you a chance to employ stretto later in the fugue.

I do wonder why you omit the downbeats from measures 7 and 8, though?

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Probably best to take it down to bar 21 where there's a cadence. If you don't mind modulating to the dominant for the next entry it's done it for you.

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1 hour ago, Aiwendil said:

Well, it's 10 measures in 2/4, remember, so I definitely don't think that's too long.  You can easily find fugue subjects of that length in Handel.  The opening motif by itself, as brutally direct and simple as it is, seems like not enough for a fugue subject.  And with the longer theme, that gives you a chance to employ stretto later in the fugue.

I do wonder why you omit the downbeats from measures 7 and 8, though?

 

I omit the downbeats in those measures for 2 reasons. First off, the downbeat is a whole half note long, so it would overlap with the eighth note motif. This would be no issue if I was writing the fugue for piano, but writing for piano in this case would have more disadvantages than it is worth. First off, the transcription alone is hard, can you imagine a pianist trying to play say a syncopated variant of the first theme of Beethoven's Fifth? I would imagine this reaction coming out of a pianist:

Quote

What you just wrote down there is totally impossible for me to play. It is enough that you expect me to be able to play the Beethoven-Liszt transcription, and now you wrote a Theme and Variations based on it. I'm out of here. I'm no 21st century Rachmaninoff which is what you would require for this to even be possible on solo piano. Write it for a piano duet and I will reconsider it. But solo, nope, can't do it.

So, instead of trying to write it for piano, even a piano duet, I thought of perhaps going the orchestra route. More ways to vary the theme including a possible Concerto variation. But on the other hand, ending on the Bb chord sounds more wrong for an orchestra than it does writing for piano. This lead to my final decision of writing for a string quartet. It gives the essence of the orchestra across, while still having plenty of room for more soloistic variations. Can't really get soloistic variations in an orchestra unless, like I said, I went with a concerto structure. But with a string quartet, I can get soloistic variations while still having it feel like a quartet. The quartet also makes it a lot easier for each player than had I gone with even a piano duet.

But this leads to another challenge, how to repeatedly articulate the eighth notes while sustaining the downbeat. Typically when a violinist does a double stop and then suddenly faster notes come in, regardless of the note value of the double stop, the violinist stops the double stop sustain. Also, articulating the eighth notes pizzicato while keeping the downbeats arco, while technically possible, diminishes the power those eighth notes have. That is, if the downbeats are on open strings. Eb and G in the first octave have to be fingered. In fact, even if I transposed it so that one of the downbeat notes was an open string note, because violins are tuned in fifths, not thirds, the other note would necessarily have to be fingered to avoid awkward octave changes. So this makes the pizzicato eighths + arco downbeats simply impossible for a single violinist.

But then again, while these downbeats could be filled in by say, the second violinist of the string quartet, it is atypical for a second melodic line to already be present in the exposition before the subject is finished. So that means either going unorthodox with my fugue or abandoning the downbeats. Abandoning the downbeats is much simpler and will lead to far less negativity than going unorthodox with the fugue.

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Posted (edited)
3 hours ago, caters said:

I omit the downbeats in those measures for 2 reasons. First off, the downbeat is a whole half note long, so it would overlap with the eighth note motif.

Right, but I would say that's a side-effect of the way it's orchestrated; each of those three four-note statements is in a different orchestral voice, and the overall melody is formed by their overlap.  I would say that if you want to just abstract the melody to a single line, it would be what you wrote except with eighth notes, on E flat and G, on the downbeats of measures seven and eight, respectively.  Those notes are really crucial to the melody.  There's no need to sustain them as half notes, as you seem to be assuming you'd have to do; the melodic outline is:

beethoven-symphony-no5.png.72d6a7cfd611aae402b63893f4497452.png

Edited by Aiwendil

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2 hours ago, Aiwendil said:

Right, but I would say that's a side-effect of the way it's orchestrated; each of those three four-note statements is in a different orchestral voice, and the overall melody is formed by their overlap.  I would say that if you want to just abstract the melody to a single line, it would be what you wrote except with eighth notes, on E flat and G, on the downbeats of measures seven and eight, respectively.  Those notes are really crucial to the melody.  There's no need to sustain them as half notes, as you seem to be assuming you'd have to do; the melodic outline is:

beethoven-symphony-no5.png.72d6a7cfd611aae402b63893f4497452.png

 

So I don't have to either go unorthodox with my fugue and introduce the second melodic line early or abandon those downbeats, I can just have them be eighth notes instead of the full half notes.

15 hours ago, Luis Hernández said:

I think there is little motif variation in the subject. It's a challenge.

 

Yeah, there isn't much variation in the subject as far as motifs, but I think I can make it work, especially if I use a contrasting phrase as my countersubject instead of trying to incorporate another part of the symphony into the fugue. Somebody else mentioned similarities between the Fate Motif in Beethoven's fifth and Bach's Fugue in D major from the Well Tempered Klavier and linked me to this video:

That person suggested that since Bach goes stretto heavy with his Fugue in D major, I should do the same for my fugal variation on Beethoven's fifth.

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I reckon you should show us how you intend to proceed with the second entry/answer and countersubject. How would you prepare for the new entry? What key (or relationship to the tonic) would it be in?

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13 hours ago, Quinn said:

I reckon you should show us how you intend to proceed with the second entry/answer and countersubject. How would you prepare for the new entry? What key (or relationship to the tonic) would it be in?

 

I'm not sure that I would need a preparation, since my expanded subject ends on the tonic note. I tend to stick to having the answer be in the dominant, but this might be a case where the subdominant would be a better choice, so I will show both possibilities.

Here is the dominant version:

AnswerDominant.png.75b04e47c65114ce8506be26ebce8039.png

Well, at least that is what I would get if I stuck with natural minor. Here is the slightly altered version that is in harmonic minor:

AnswerDominantHarmonic.png.4af95011d8ea1989923cd65967c69d46.png

 

And here it is in the subdominant:

AnswerSubdominant.png.7d2b7c64131a439ff4e5348b413f725b.png

Same melodic shape, but different key relation. I'm thinking of going with the dominant because it is more typical, and it won't sound like I borrowed from later on in the symphony(because I know that Beethoven goes into the subdominant in the first movement).

As for what exactly I am going to do for the countersubject, I'm not sure, but I have nailed down a strategy for making a countersubject, that one being:

  1. Look at the subject and see what harmony is implied
  2. Write down all in quarter notes, notes consonant with the harmony, this will become the backbone of the countersubject
  3. Do a melodic elaboration to turn a harmony line into a melody
  4. Check for immediately noticeable dissonances. If it is a second or seventh, resolve it. If it is an augmented interval related to the leading tone, don't do anything about it if the fugue is in a minor key, otherwise resolve it. If it is the dreaded tritone, unless it resolves to a third right away, get rid of it completely and replace that tritone with a different note that still fits the harmony, that is, unless octave spacing makes the tritone not very dissonant at all.
  5. Check for parallel intervals. If they are thirds or sixths and there are more than 3 in a row, introduce contrary or oblique motion there. If they are fourths, fifths, or octaves, elaborate the melody of the countersubject further to get rid of the parallels.

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18 hours ago, Aiwendil said:

Wouldn't the dominant version start on D and the subdominant on C?

 

But the version that starts on C actually outlines dominant harmony. Same for the one that starts on Bb, except it outlines subdominant harmony. If I started on D, I would get this:

 

AnswerDominantHarmonic.png.f1cc0fe9d7dda8bb9c6e2ae21da11a34.png

Doesn't look or sound like the dominant, does it?

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In a traditional fugue, the subject is answered at the fifth; the answer doesn't have to outline a dominant harmony.  What you call the dominant version is an answer at the fourth, which can also sometimes be used (typically in cases where an answer at the fifth would undermine the tonality).  What you call the subdominant version is an answer at the third, which you could do, but it would be very non-traditional.  I don't see any reason not to go with the answer at the fifth, though, starting on D.

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