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 Post subject: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 12 May 2013, 00:20 

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A few years ago I transcribed Michael Maier's alchemical fugues, "Atalanta Fugiens", into ABC.

http://www.campin.me.uk/Music/Atalanta.abc

Prompted by a thread on TON I noticed that all the parts are within the range of a 10-hole ocarina. There is constant shifting of range from one fugue to the next, so you'd need an assortment of differently pitched ocarinas and a bit of planning, but it will work. And there is nothing else in the ocarina repertoire remotely like it.

So. Do I leave it at that? My first thought is that anyone who might be really interested in playing this stuff will be able to read at pitch and in bass clef, and won't need me to tell them what instruments to use and how to organize the parts, but I could arrange it all into a form that ocarina players would find more familiar. Would more notational ocarina-friendliness make it more appealing to anyone?


http://www.campin.me.uk


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 12 May 2013, 12:30 

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Those are beautiful pieces, even though they contain plenty of counterpoint errors, like parallel fifths (e.g. Bb-F, C-G) and octaves (e.g. D-D, Eb-Eb) in the very first fugue. :D I think it is worth transcribing them for ocarinas specially. I'll look into it when I get some free time.


What worries me a bit is the bass part. Bass ocarinas are quite expensive and you can't really expect people to have bass ocarinas in D, Eb, F, A, etc... Also, bass ocarinas have only 8 holes, so the range is limited to a major ninth. Ideally, the melody in the bass should fit between G2 and A3 (which would be transposed up an octave for a Bass G ocarina, with range G3-A4), or between C2 and D3 (for contrabass C ocarina, with range C3-D4). Other solution is to transpose everything up by two octaves, but I don't think it would sound nearly as good. If absolutely necessary, I wouldn't have a problem with transposing the whole opus into another key, but only in such a way that keys between various fugues remain in correct relative relations (though I would rather stay true to the original, if possible).


Also, do you perhaps have an original source, so I can cross reference it with your transcription?


I'm very interested in doing this project.



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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 12 May 2013, 13:07 

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I used a copy of Godwin's edition in a library. I haven't managed to find a free facsimile on the web, and I don't think there's an original copy in Scotland (if anybody has one it'll be Adam Maclean, but I don't know him and he doesn't seem like an easy person to deal with).

Most of the bass parts do fit an 8-hole G ocarina, but you're right, it might help to identify exactly what the minimal hardware is.


http://www.campin.me.uk


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 12 May 2013, 13:50 

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I'm just glancing over it - for example, Fuga XXIII has a problematic bass line, it goes all the way up to high C. Ten hole bass G ocarinas exist but they are quite rare and usually of crappy quality.


The same fugue requires an alto D to play the first voice. While alto D ocarinas exist, they are also quite rare. A double alto C would be a simpler choice.


A rather cumbersome solution that comes to my mind is to arrange the whole cycle for an ocarina quintet, with G2, C3, G4, C5 and G6 ocarinas - i.e. have two players playing one voice and two players playing the bass, like they do in an ocarina septet when an individual ocarina is of insufficient range for a particular melody. A full ocarina septet can play almost any music, but it seems way too much for this particular work. A quintet would probably work (assuming low G is the deepest note in the whole cycle), but still, it's a bit silly to have only three people out of five playing at any given time.



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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 13 May 2013, 23:25 

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Krešimir wrote:
[p]Those are beautiful pieces, even though they contain plenty of counterpoint errors, like parallel fifths (e.g. Bb-F, C-G) and octaves (e.g. D-D, Eb-Eb) in the very first fugue. :D


Don't mean to nitpick, but parallel fifths are only a counterpoint error according to 17th-18th century voice leading rules. There are many composers who have broken the rules, Chopin being one of these.


One does not make music against another.


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 14 May 2013, 00:13 

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As Godwin says in his introduction to the book, it ain't Bach and isn't meant to be. "Rough" is the word he uses, I think.

Parallel fifths weren't regarded very highly in Maier's time, though; his life overlapped Zarlino's.

The whole structure is as overdetermined as a piece of 1950s serialism. If Maier had a choice between encoding his symbolic system correctly or keeping to the rules of counterpoint, the musical rules had to go.

I'd like to see these pieces played with ocarinas colour coded for the roles assigned to the parts. Silver (= mercury) for Atalanta, terracotta (= sulfur) for Hippomenes, gold for the Golden Apple.


http://www.campin.me.uk


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 14 May 2013, 01:36 

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^ Thank you for the historical perspective, Jack. I presumed that the rules were broken for a purpose.


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 16 May 2013, 00:52 

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fermatawing wrote:
Don't mean to nitpick, but parallel fifths are only a counterpoint error according to 17th-18th century voice leading rules. There are many composers who have broken the rules, Chopin being one of these.

Michael Maier (1568–1622) certainly lived at the time where parallel octaves and fifths in polyphonic music were considered a mistake. I think it is quite plausible that he didn't bother too much with that, since the main purpose of his work was symbolism.


It was never a strict rule, anyway. Even Bach intentionally used parallel octaves and fifths, but only for special effects (e.g. in Quodlibet, BWV 524, very obvious parallel octaves are used for a humorous effect: "Da hat geboren eine alte Frau eine junge Sau!"). In homophonic music, where voices are less independent, it is not as big of a mistake. When improvising basso continuo part on the harpsichord, musicians would often disregard that rule for convenience, since it is not very audible anyway. And in the music of Chopin's style, it is certainly permissible to disregard this rule as it makes no difference whatsoever.


But even as late as 19th century, parallel fifths (and other perfect consonances) were considered a mistake in polyphonic pieces. In pieces like fugues and canons, where independence of voices is important, parallel perfect consonances still sound as unpleasant today as they did back in the 17th century, because they break that independence and stick out like a sore thumb in the polyphonic texture. Arnold Schönberg certainly considered them a mistake (he is known to joke about the so-called "Mozart's fifths", a very specific type of parallel fifths, not being considered a mistake only because Mozart wrote them).


And I bet Chopin regrets writing that Fugue in A minor... :D



Back on topic:
Jack Campin wrote:
I'd like to see these pieces played with ocarinas colour coded for the roles assigned to the parts. Silver (= mercury) for Atalanta, terracotta (= sulfur) for Hippomenes, gold for the Golden Apple.

Well, if an ocarina maker builds ocarinas specifically for this piece, that could be possible. Also, it could be a solution to the problem of range in the bass.


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 Post subject: Re: alchemical accidental ocarina trio music
PostPosted: 17 May 2013, 05:48 

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^ Alright, you got me XD

I am aware that Bach himself did break the rules. Usually if the rules are broken in composition, there's a good reason for it (special effect, or otherwise).
Also, I am aware of why they're considered a mistake. They also (especially in terms of octaves) eliminate a voice, in most cases.

But of course, if Mozart wrote them it is always acceptable for him, haha. Anything from the mastermind who penned Leck Mich im Arsch (K. 231)... :)

We can't be sure about what Chopin really thought of his A Minor Fugue :)

Note: My dates in my statement were only general, and not strict in respect to time frame. History is a fluid thing.


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