Composer’s Log: Oct. 16, 2017

I was happy to get back to Marie’s rage aria this week.  I had started sketching out the vocal line a couple weeks ago, but had to put it on the back-burner when I was cleaning up the excerpts for Hartford Opera Theater’s New in November performance.  Since I sent that music off last week, I have gotten most of the aria drafted, including the accompaniment.

Because of the intense emotions this aria contains—focusing on the prejudice and jealousy she faced as a scientist—the vocal line is more angular and openly dissonant than the rest of the opera.  The chromatic motions found in other sections become jarring leaps of sevenths and ninths.  The minor thirds that feature prominently in hexatonic and modal contexts in other sections instead function as subsets of diminished triads and seventh chords here.  Similarly, tritones, which aren’t a main melodic interval in other places, are prominent here.

The vocal line is fairly free in its construction, but the accompaniment features a modern take on a fugue.  The subject is included below:

Rather than following a tradition fugue model where entrance of the subject occur on the original notes and also a perfect fifth or fourth away, the entrances are separated by minor thirds, spelling out fully-diminished seventh chords.  The build up of counterpoint mirrors the waves of aggression that threaten Marie after Pierre’s death, yet the first few attempts of the fugue to take over are unsuccessful.  The vocal line perseveres despite the onslaught, just as Marie does.

I am still refining the subject and working on the exact realization of the fugue, tweaking counterpoint to improve interplay with the voice and prevent the music from feeling too rigid and rhythmically square.  More soon!

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