'Electric Counterpoint' - All you need to know

  • Created by: esumner
  • Created on: 29-03-15 14:33


- Minimalism

- Written in 1987

- Composed in America

- Commissioned to perform at the Brooklyn Academy

- Last in a series of 3 pieces, other 2 are Vermont Counterpoint and New York Counterpoint

- Features of Minimalism: Layered textures, diatonic harmony, slow harmonic rhythm, little variety in instrumentation, note addition, repetition of short simple ideas

- Written for Pat Metheny


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Forces and Instrumentation:

- Written for 7 pre-recorded guitars, 2 pre-recorded bass guitars, and a live guitar

- Live guitar is amplified to blend well with backing

- Some parts are strummed

- Guitar 1 starts with a repeated cell, other parts gradually join in

- Bass guitars are panned to the left and right speakers to create a balanced sound

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- Movement is built up in 3 layers:

1. Syncopated quaver motif introduced to the live guitar and top 4 recorded parts, introduced 1 at a time

2. Different syncopated motif is added into the bass guitars

3. More sustained motif is added, built around 3 chords. First introduced into live guitar, then passed to other parts

- After 3 layers are built up, 2nd and 3rd layers fade out, leaving 1st to play on until it stops on a held chord

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- Made up of a one bars motif, constantly repeated, creating an ostinato

- Motif is introduced by live guitar and top 4 pre-recorded guitars, creating a canon

- Sometimes, the melody is built up using note addition or additive melody - the notes are gradually added to one part untill off the notes of the melody can be heard in that part

- At one point, live guita plays a melody made up of selected notes from other parts, creating a resultant melody

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Rhythm, Metre, and Tempo:

- 3/2 metre

- Fast tempo

- Lots of syncopation

- Little rhythmic variety

- Metrical Displacement is used, guitars 1-4 play the same motif, but start at different points in the bar, so they sound out of time

- At some points, some guitars play 12/8 and the rest play 3/2 - Polymetre

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Harmony and Tonality:

- Mainly in G major

- Changes to E flat major in the end

- Entirely diatonic - only notes in the key are used

- Hexatonic scales - scale made of 6 notes 

- No conventional harmonic progressions like a cadence

- Final chord is B and E, because there's no cadence and the chord is incomplete, the key at the end is ambiguous 

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- Contapuntal/ Polyphonic

- Polyphony is more interesting and complex because 2 canons play at the same time

- Along with canonic motif, another canon is built up between live guitar and 3 pre-recorded guitars, where they play a repeated strummed chord sequence

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Dynamics and Expression:

- Overall dynamics remain constant

- Some parts gradually fade in and out

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