Electric Counterpoint

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  • Created by: Qiao-Chu
  • Created on: 23-04-13 20:00


Minimalism: Challenges ever increasing complexity characterising 20th Century art and music movements such as Expressionism and Serialism. Suggests greater simplicity, repetition of short motifs, sense of key, but does not adhere with tonal customs of Western Classical.

Steve Reich: Composed in 1987, three movements, third movement. Originally released with one of Reich's most famous works 'Different Trains'. Terry Riley, John Adams.

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Motif: Short melodic idea, one bar motif introduced in bar 1 in live guitar, prominent throughout.

Ostinato: Repeated pattern, motifs appear as ostinati.

Note addition: Minimalist technique, motif gradually revealed, a few notes at a time through repetition.

Resultant melody: Bar 20 live guitar, melody moves in continuous quavers formed by selecting and combining individual notes from four part guitar canon played simultaneously by guitars 1-4.

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Strummed guitar chord sequence: Sequences in guitars 5, 6 and 7, consonant, formed from simple triads.

Tonal ambiguity: Use of E5 chord in bar 39. A5 chords means no 3rds which is important traditional Western theory as the third tells us if chord is major or minor.

Non-functional harmony: Chord progressions do not move in traditional order to establish key, e.g. tonic to dominant.

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E minor: Key signature and last chord, key never clearly established, work is tonally ambiguous. E is only important centre once bass guitars introduced motif at bar 32.

Modulation to unrelated key: Second half, sudden modulation to C minor, strange to Classical and Romantic composers, not closely related key. Second half characterised by alteration of key centre contrasting with original E minor.

Modality: Modal better than E minor, no D#, essential traditionally to establish E minor, dominant triad and function as leading note.

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Polyphonic/Counterpoint: Layering of melodic material, contrapuntal.

Four part guitar canon: Bar 16, guitars 1-4 playing same one bar melodic motif as ostinato, each motif starts at different point in bar (rhythmic displacement), four part canon. Traditionally two or more independent parts presenting same melody, each part entering at fixed distance.

Build up: Texture layered during first half, built up slowly, then fades out near end.

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Work has two main sections, first characterised by gradual layering of melodic material and strummed chord sequence, the second by regular modulations between two tonal centres.

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Rhythm and Metre

Rhythmic displacement: Original motif frequently subjected to displacement, positioned to sound at different point in bar e.g. positioning of motif in guitars 2, 3, 4.

Metre: Noted in simple triple 3/2. second half some parts in compound quadruple 12/8. Both time signatures have 12 quavers in bar, use of two time signatures result in cross rhythms.

Cross rhythms: Two or more simultaneous melodic parts whose rhythmic stresses fall at different times in bar. Second half, two time signatures means impression of both three and four beats in bar implied by performer across different parts.

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Instrumentation and Technology

Pre-recorded tape loops: Each part performed by same musician, work built up layer by layer.

Guitar ensemble: Work written to sound like it is being performed by guitar ensemble, all parts played by same performer.

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