Monday, January 5, 2009

An Eye/Ear for Canons

If you don't know Bach's Fourteen Canons on the Goldberg Ground, treat yourself to a look at them. They are quite interesting, very short and deceptively masterful.

There are two good resources for them (both with scores and realizations):
The second one has a clever animation (click on the score) to show how the canons are derived.

Bach takes a given melody and, because of all of his contrapuntal experience, is able to see (that is, hear, internally -- as I keep telling my Ear Training classes) a number of options for canonic settings of that melody against itself at different pitches, in retrograde, inversion etc.

I won't belabor this now, nor will I dwell on the Fourteen Canons at this point -- though I reserve the right to return to them later.

For my humble offering today, I used a source of hymn tunes different than the Lutheran chorales that were the grist for Bach's mill. I turned to the quintessentially American hymnal, The Sacred Harp.

Because today has several other demands on my time, I needed to work quickly -- so, I decided to make it easy on myself and try to find a hymn tune that would work as a canon at the unison -- this being easier to see/hear at a glance.

Luck was with me because I only examined a handful of tunes before finding one that worked. This was Holy Manna (page 59 in the 1971 edition of the Original Sacred Harp), a wonderful, lively, pentatonic, folk-hymn that I found would work with only two rhythmic adjustments: the ties in measure 16-17 and 18-19 and the rests in measures 27 & 29. These two simple elongations were enough.

(click on image to enlarge)

Until tomorrow...

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