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Klarinet Archive - Posting 000381.txt from 2002/06

From: Neil Leupold <>
Subj: Re: [kl] Bill & Neil's Excellent Adventure
Date: Thu, 13 Jun 2002 07:25:00 -0400

> Our music began with the flamboyant juxtaposition of a D major chord and
> a solitary C.

Not so flamboyant, really. It's called a dominant 7th chord, in this case a
secondary dominant in the key of C (as I've written it in the piano part), and
is the most common harmonic device in Western music for defining the tonal
center for a given section of music. What's unusual is that we're starting
the piece with secondary dominant harmony, albeit leading within the space
of a single bar to dominant harmony and straight to the tonic. What's also
a little weird is the voice leading, because your C is the 7th, which tra-
ditionally resolves to the third degree of the target chord.

You wrote:

> Given what little I know about music theory, the concept of opening a
> composition with a I - II juxtaposition which includes an accidental
> seems wrong; but when I listen to it, it works.

It's only "wrong" if done without consideration, i.e., blindly, without
justification. One of the most common sayings in any discipline goes
something like "know and understand all of the rules -- *then* you can
go about breaking them." In the case of our nascent composition, it's
actually a little too early in the game (so to speak) to make pronounce-
ments along these lines. There isn't yet enough material to judge. And
something that might seem wrong or obtuse in a local context might turn
out to be very much right in the grand scheme of a piece's design, fully
justified on the basis of the larger vision that the composer had for
the shape of the music and its form. Within the first bar, we haven't
even come close to defining the *key* that we're in, and the authentic
cadence in bar two doesn't get us there either. With composers like
Strauss and Prokofiev, and their liberal use of chromaticism, who's
to say that we can't start our own little piece with some ambiguity,
perhaps to be clarified in hindsight. Maybe some of that opening mel-
ody will turn into a motif for later use, if we decide to think of it.

Don't get caught up in the minutiae. Enjoy the process of creation,
of stringing a melody together that you can imagine being played by
a clarinetist, and embrace the challenge of how that line's charac-
ter is changed as a result of what I decide to put beneath it. That's
the point of this game, isn't it? To see what happens and then go
with it, and watch what develops in continuation of this repeated
exchange? Enough thinking already! :-)

> I'll listen with interest to any comment about this from my co-composer
> or from the assembled audience.

Was that interesting?

You wrote:

> My measure 2 and my beginning of measure 3 are below, but........
> When I play either part alone, each of them sounds good to me. When I
> play them together, they don't mesh 'intimately', if I can use this
> word.

You're saying that when you play the clarinet part and piano part in isolation,
they sound okay, but they don't sound good when you put them together? I think
it's our respective jobs to take what the other person gives us and create some-
thing that *does* sound like it belongs with the other part (in whatever sense
you decide to define "belong"). Limited to using my inner ear, and further lim-
ited by my very much attenuated command of theory at the moment (I intend to use
this game as a springboard for ramping back up on that skill set), I'm still "lis-
tening" very carefully to what you're writing and then making decisions about what
I perceive to be the implied harmony of that melodic line, i.e.; if I want to fol-
low it or perhaps paint our sonic canvas using colors from a more diverse palette
in my role as arbiter of the harmonic landscape.

> It seems to me that each of us is drifting in a different direction, and I need
> to identify the cause.

Why? Even though the structure of our game is different from the one that Tony
described, the basic "rules of engagement" remain the same. Unpredictability is
a fundamental effect of those rules, if not *the* fundamental effect, and it is
what makes the process challenging and fun. The goal is not to figure out what
the other person has in mind and attempt to continue the exact nature of their
thought, partially because our "thoughts" aren't complete by themselves anyway
-- only in combination. You go in one direction, I respond. I slant our course
a little bit, you respond. We inspire each other's creativity. We can't possi-
bly be "drifting in different directions", because there is only one direction,
revealed only when our respective contributions are combined to create a whole.
If you write something that sounds "off" relative to the piano part that I've
written already, by all means revise it (your part, not mine). And when you're
the one leading off (i.e., contributing the next bar to which I will have to re-
spond), you're at liberty to use your imagination and produce something that you
think will sound good relative to what we've written already, understanding ahead
of time that it's likely I'll put something underneath it that colors your orig-
inal perception of your own new material. It's spontaneous collaboration in ser-

> I seem to hear a flatted drone in the background that's the best description
> that I can come up with right now.

I'm not sure what you mean by this. Anyway, I'll take a crack at adding my part
to your new material over the next couple of days. Stop thinking so much. Enjoy
the challenge of creation and the fact that we're generating something with our
combined efforts that has never existed before, relative merit notwithstanding.


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