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Rename it to Art of Canon or stick with the original title?


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So I started on a project a while ago where I would basically be composing whatever canons I can think of and putting them all in a set. I have one that has some decent headway, which is also the first of the entire set, the Canon at the Unison a2(a2 just meaning that it's a 2 voice canon). The others are still only in conception as of now. When I showed someone the canons I planned on including since the start, they said "This seems kind of similar to Bach's Art of Fugue, except it's all canons instead of including fugues." I hadn't noticed that before, I'm not that familiar with Bach's Art of Fugue(I've heard Contrapunctus I and Contrapunctus II, that's about it).

I originally called it Well Tempered Canon, because Bach's Well Tempered Clavier was an inspiration behind the piece set back when I started on it. But now that someone pointed out the similarity in structure to Bach's Art of Fugue, I'm wondering if maybe I should rename it to Art of Canon. This is what I planned from the start of the project, although I will probably add to this as I go.

https://i.gyazo.com/a5ef122678ecb77f4679c5f359569811.png

This means that at minimum, I will have 21 canons in the set, although like I said, I'll probably have more than that. I might go ahead and do a 4 voice canon at every interval for instance. Or I might combine some of these canonic devices in some of the canons, like inversion and augmentation for instance. Anyway, after being told that my set of canons is similar to Bach's Art of Fugue, should I rename it to Art of Canon, or should I keep the original title of Well Tempered Canon? And here's the canon at the unison so far if you want to hear it:

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Well, you've only got one canon so far.  Did you know that Bach's Art of Fugue is also a set of variations?  The fugue subjects are clearly connected to each other.  So, if you plan on following in the footsteps of that piece there's that to consider.  Will your canon motifs be related to each other in the same way, being variations of each other?

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1 hour ago, PeterthePapercomPoser said:

Well, you've only got one canon so far.  Did you know that Bach's Art of Fugue is also a set of variations?  The fugue subjects are clearly connected to each other.  So, if you plan on following in the footsteps of that piece there's that to consider.  Will your canon motifs be related to each other in the same way, being variations of each other?

 

I don't know if my canons will be connected motivically like that or not yet. That said, it probably would be easy to connect them motivically, because the main motifs in my 2 voice Canon at the Unison are the ascending thirds and the scalar tetrachord.

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  • 2 months later...

Hello there!

An important question: what set of rules are guiding your canon? Is it supposed to be written in strict baroque counterpoint? Because if that's the case, you already have various details you have to fix. If not, maybe try defining some guidelines for yourself, so that the canon does note become a simple "copy-paste" of a melodic line.

Good luck!

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35 minutes ago, Jean Szulc said:

Hello there!

An important question: what set of rules are guiding your canon? Is it supposed to be written in strict baroque counterpoint? Because if that's the case, you already have various details you have to fix. If not, maybe try defining some guidelines for yourself, so that the canon does note become a simple "copy-paste" of a melodic line.

Good luck!

 

I do think I want to stick to baroque counterpoint if possible here given the Bach inspiration for this whole set. I know that means I'll need to correct those dissonances, but is there anything else I would need to fix?

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Well, yes, but I don't think the right approach here is "what do I need to fix".

If I were you (especially given that you are taking up a huge project - to write something at the image of one of music's greatest tour de force's) I would simply re-write this canon. There are quite a lot of parallel and direct octaves and fifhts, there are a lot of dissonances that aren't prepared nor left correctly, and a lot of the melodic material isn't very recognizable - that is, they are simply alternating thirds or a scale going up or down.

Moreover, the passages that do not include any problems do so usually by playing parallel thirds all the way, which is not wrong but is less musically-insteresting because it reduce the individuality of each voice.

If you are not convinced it's not exactly just a matter of fixing the problems, litterally the first note of the second voice is a dissonance that isn't handled correctly. It creates a perfect fourth right at the first beat, that is left by a skip a third up. So basically a double mistake.

All of this might seem like details, but in this type of music it is basically what separates a masterpiece from a student's exercise.

A canon is a lot harder to write than it seems. If you do decide to re-write it, do it very slowly. For every note you put on the page, you need to consider exactly what repercussions will happen down the line - which is especially true in a canon. That's just how counterpoint is. It rubs your flaws in your face.

I really, really don't mean to discourage you. I say all of this just to put into perspective the challenge you are going against, so that you can really evaluate where you are currently at. Pick up a book in conterpoint, and do the easiest exercises. You'll realise that even the easy ones will put up a fight!

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Keep in mind that canon is at the end of the day, a compositional technique. A vehicle of sorts, if you wish, to get your ideas across. You still need to decide on the form(s), and the core musical materials you wish to work with, in addition to having an idea of how you want to develop those. A text in counterpoint is indeed helpful, though keep in mind: working from the ground up in species counterpoint all the way to 18th-century instrumental counterpoint is a time-consuming task, the equivalent of two 1-semester courses. And then canon writing is another 1-semester course by itself. The former is worth the effort for composers in general, the latter I'd personally consider a "fun pastime".

Perhaps it is instructive to limit your scope and simplify things a bit. For one: crab, table canons, and the like, fall into my category of "be clever for the sake of being clever" (thank you Glenn Gould!) compositions. Whatever canon is engineered within these are completely inaudible, unless there is some extremely familiar theme being played (hence why it works well in Bach's Musical Offering). A free bass could also help tremendously in alleviating the issue of harmony.

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