C.89 - "A Day in the Life of a Mode (Monday)"

Composed: 15th to 18th December 2015

     I devised a second motif to accompany the ‘rushing’ motif, this time constructed solely on the tonic and labelled as the ‘car engine’ motif (figure 2):

Figure 2:

      I also gave this particular motif a type-2 euclidean rhythm {2,2,3,3} suited for a 5/8 time signature, to disrupt the pulse and add to the overall chaos. This becomes far more apparent when I fuse this disruptive motif with another motif intended for a 4/4 time signature but snatched out of its comfort and placed in a 5/8 time signature (figure 3):

Figure 3:

     This new motif is the unnamed ‘character’ motif, intended to represent just one of the millions of people that commit to these early commutes. From the same figure you can see evidence of motivic expansion, as I added the chord tones that I felt best identify the locrian mode (as character notes are not entirely specific with locrian) (figure 4):

Figure 4:

      I later use these chord tones to decorate the ‘car engine’ motif even further (figure 5):

Figure 5:

      These motifs are constantly swapped between performers as if the melodies themselves are commuting (figure 6):

Figure 6:

     In the above example, you can also see that piano 1 is playing a rhythmically augmented adaptation of the ‘car engine’ motif. This augmentation occurs quite often, not only in this form (figure 7):

Figure 7:

      I went overboard with this and constructed a further brief motif (the ‘siren’) to exploit the dissonance of these chord tones in a familiar way, later descending down a whole-tone scale of locrians (figure 8):

Figure 8:

      Further experimentation with locrian brought me to bi-locriality, with the use of two different locrian scales simultaneously, seen here with both B-locrian and D-locrian and an added bonus of retrograde and inversion (figure 9):

Figure 9:

       And a final concept is that of parallelism, seen here with an implied polymeter (figure 10):

Figure 10:

     The next two compositions are closely linked, and so a lot of what I say here can be equally applied to "C.90 - A Day in the Life of a Mode (Sunday)".

 

     The second coursework for the composition 2A module, in which we had to engage with musical modes in some shape or form. I decided to do this by assigning the seven common modes each to a day of the week, and then attaching an activity that I personally associated with each week, and working from there.

     As I did not have much time, I only wrote Monday and Sunday for this coursework. I decided on writing it for a piano duet, as I could then later practice orchestrating them once I had learned more successfully how to orchestrate.

     Monday was given the ‘Locrian’ mode, as well as the subtitle of ‘Commuting Chaos’, while Sunday was given the ‘Ionian’ mode and the subtitle ‘Tolling of the Bells’. The former was completed on December 18th, and Sunday was finished by December 22nd. As with most of my coursework submissions, there was a commentary submitted alongside it, which I also attach here again (written by 4th January 2016):

 

Composition 2A – CW2 – Commentary

Context

     The fundamental idea for this piece arrived when my mind realized to great extent that there were seven common modes and also seven days of the week. Thus I began pairing each mode with a certain day depending on what activities I associated with each day of the week, and I started sketching some ideas to go along with them. Due to time constraints and a plethora of other work, the only two days that I completed were ‘Monday’ and ‘Sunday’, which I respectively associated with ‘starting work’ and ‘religious worship’. As my Monday’s began with a frantic and chaotic race to get to an early morning lecture through rush-hour traffic, I could find no better mode to describe this chaos than locrian. Similarly, my Sunday often involves the venture to and from church and the bells slowly becoming louder and quieter as I walk. To emulate the serenity of these bells I chose the mode of ionian.

 

     The only influence that came from another composer was from Holst’s ‘Mercury’ – a swift piece that always reminds me of someone rushing around – which influenced ‘Monday’. Otherwise, all other influences are from the natural sounds I experience during each day; the chaos of Monday mornings, and the calm bell-ringing every Sunday.

 

Analysis (‘Monday’)

     I aimed to use locrian throughout the entirety of this piece, most prominently with the tonic of B. With this, I constructed a ‘rushing’ motif built on the triad of B-locrian (figure 1):

Figure 1:

[..."Sunday" discussion...]

 

      That analysis more or less explains "C.89". But without further adieu, I will also talk about the sibling movement – "C.90 - A Day in the Life of a Mode (Sunday)".

Reminiscence written on 22nd July 2016

Last updated: 20th October 2018

© 2019 Jonathan Shaw