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Variations on Marche Funèbre d'une Marionette for Orchestra

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Just the beginning of a set of variations I started the other day. Compared to some of the other projects I'm working on now, this is relatively "conventional" (i.e. it uses a traditional form, is basically tonal, is for a standard ensemble); I just wanted to do something enjoyable that I'm not going to worry about too much as a reprieve from some other more "serious" pieces that have been taking up a lot of my energy. Hope you enjoy - of course, feedback is welcome and appreciated!

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Well, I added two more variations. I felt like the transition from variation II to variation III was too jarring; I inserted a variation in between to bridge the gap from II, which is a very slow, solemn funeral dirge, to variation IV (used to be var. III), which is a bright, rhythmic dance. To elaborate on each variation a bit:


The 3:2 polyrhythm is established. This will recur throughout the piece. Fragments of ideas for later variations interject the rhythmic ostinato.


Presents the melody with a few of my own touches as far as orchestration and harmonization are concerned.

Variation I:

Violins I and II play a running line that elaborates on the melody. Fl, Ob, Cl, Trp, accent the main notes of the melody (mostly), passing it from instrument to instrument. The Texture builds to an anticlimax and dissolves into a trumpet call over the polyrhythm from the introduction.

Variation II:

A brass chorale, interspersed with tam-tam (sorry for the terrible midi). The tuba line is mostly the original melody, sometimes ornamented, though the trumpet takes the melody when it enters. The "B" section of the melody (that part accented by three chords: Adim7 AmM7 and DM) returns as three strikes of the triangle and string pizz., colored by cl and fl. On the repeat of the B section, however, the full orchestra returns with the original chords.

Variation III:

A harmonic undercurrent for hrn and vla is established. The bassoon soloist comes in gently. The bassoon melody is actually the inversion of the original melody, though with different rhythms. This variation aids in the transition from II to IV.

Variation IV:

A dance-like variation in 7/8 (3+2+2). The clarinet takes the lead; it augments the original melody with ornaments and modal variation. The high strings, flute, ob, and bsn give support to the clarinetist in the form of a lively background texture.

Variation V:

This variation utilizes a tone row based on the order that each of the 12 notes appears in the original melody. The row is: D E C# B A F G C Bb F# Eb G#. The contrabassoon and tuba intone a deep bass line, accenting certain notes in the row in accordance with the rhythm of the initial melody (though significantly slower). Above that, the vla and cello form 4-bar ostinato based on the tone row. The ostinato is at the same polyrhythm from the introduction; the rhythm is also established by the timpani and percussion. Occasionally, the vibraphone colors the vla and cello. At the movement's end, the ostinato and bass line cease, and a high, dull pizzicato texture emerges in the violins. It fades into nothingness.

Not sure how many more variations I'll do... I think the piece will end with the introduction and theme again, or something similar. Hope you enjoy! Of course, feedback is appreciated.

Edited by pijanowski-kangas
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