Fantastic Notes from Fred:
A Comprehensive Approach
Transposition is a confusing and mysterious
subject for many musicians. For those who play concert-pitch instruments, it
can seem like a black magic trick; for brass players and others who regularly transpose to a variety of keys, it is often
“just something that you do”. In almost all cases, the approach lacks
the conceptual clarity required to handle new and unfamiliar situations or to converse clearly about it. The approach outlined here will not only enable you to handle any transposition situation with clarity
and ease, but will provide a clear enough understanding to converse sensibly with other musicians and students about it.
What are the circumstances of transposition?
Any situation involving transposition can
be categorizes as one of the following four “circumstances of transposition”.
Narrowing how we think about transposition to four specific cases can help clarify our process and prevent confusion.
A: The key of the music simply needs to be changed.
Examples include working with a singer
who needs it in a different range, jazz players who learn a tune in all 12 keys.
B: Score Reading from a transposed orchestral or band score.
This means determining the concert pitch
from something that is written in a different key. Examples include figuring
out the harmonies in a score when instruments in F, B-flat, and A are all part of the chord, singing an E-flat saxophone part
in concert pitch, and creating a piano arrangement of a Mahler symphony.
C: Arranging for a Transposing Instrument.
This is the “symmetrical opposite”
of circumstance B, namely that you have the concert pitch score or part in front of you and you want to determine the written
notes which need to be fingered or read by a transposing instrument. Examples
include a clarinetist reading the oboe part, an arranger writing an English horn part to double the altos, or a conductor
talking to his players when he is reading from a condensed or piano-vocal score.
D: Double Transposition.
This is a circumstance when two of the
above conditions are combined. Examples include playing a piece in B-flat major
instead of C major and the F horn player needs to play the oboe part, the trumpet player has an E-flat clarinet part that
he wants to play on his B-flat trumpet, or arranging a piece written for alto flute for the F horn.
So in absolutely any situation involving
transposition, the first step is to determine the circumstance of transposition. It
may take a little bit of practice, but once you are comfortable, this makes the process much easier.
Clefs as a Reference System:
Fundamentally, the clef
system is a reference-based system, i.e. the placement of the clef on the staff defines where a specific reference note falls
on the staff. We can all recall the first time we had to learn another clef: for example bass clef for us treble instrumentalists.
The first week or two was spent counting lines and spaces from that F on the 2nd line from the top. Eventually, as we did
it more and more, we identified a few notes other than F that we could use as a reference (like the F an octave below that,
the first space below the staff). As we built more and more notes into "reference notes", eventually we had mastered identifying
each line and space in the staff, and even a few around the staff, and we call ourselves "fluent". We can make this process
a little bit easier by jumping ahead and not only learning the clef's reference note right away, but a few others, and using
Larry's elaboration concept to fill in the notes between them.
How many clefs are there?:
In the sense that a clef
defines where a reference pitch lies on the staff, there are only three clefs -- the C-clef, which defines where middle C
is, the G-clef, which defines where the G above middle C is, and the F-clef, which defines where the F below middle C is.
Each of these clefs is customarily placed on a line (not on spaces). If we placed every clef each of the five lines, we would
get 15 different clef-line combinations! For practicality's sake when transposing, we are not interested in register (i.e.
all octaves are the same), and therefore there are only seven clefs -- one clef to make a line or space on the staff "appear
to be" each of the 7 distinct scale-notes (do, re, mi, fa, sol, la, or si). Therefore, some of these 15 clefs are "equivalent"
to one another in our eyes: for example treble clef [G-clef on the 2nd line from the bottom] and sub-bass clef [F-clef on
the top line] name each line and space to be the same scale-step.
[Note: for the C and G clefs, I've used C and
G as reference tones; for the F clef, I use the Fs and Cs within the staff]
Can you go through an name which of the
seven clefs each of these fifteen clefs is equivalent to? (remember, the seven "core clefs" are soprano, mezzo-soprano, alto,
tenor, baritone, treble, and bass; here's a hint, as you move by 3rds, the clefs cycle in precisely that order!).
Question answered: Are there modulations in whole-tone music?"
Larry dived straight in: "Did anybody discover where is the modulation is in Etude #2? If so where?"
This prompts the question, how do we define modulation? What does modulation mean in music?
After some discussion,
we came to a broad definition that "modulation is a change of any central idea of creating relationships" -- to define modulation
only in terms of key would be to over-simplify in the 21st century. We can also talk about degree of modulation (some are
stronger modulations than others).
So with Whole-tone music, we can talk about two different kinds of modulation --
modulation of the scale (i.e. collection of 6 pitches) and modulation of key-center. In class we all sang "happy birthday" in whole-tone, and then transposed it up a whole step (much
like what happens in Etude No. 2) and we felt that the key-center had changed.... therefore whole-tone music could have key
centers by allusion to traditional tonality.
We did a lot of improvisation on the whole tone scale, both individually
and in group -- some ostinatios and such to accompany the Rueff etudes -- and worked on modulating these improvisations. We
applied all of this to Etudes No. 2, 6, and 9. We also looked briefly at the new Shostakovitch excerpt on Pg. 35 of the blue
"Advanced Solfege" book, which is an assignment to work on for next week.
So, assignments include -- continue reflecting
on this question of Modulation in whole-tone music, be familiar with etudes no. 2, 6, and 9, learn the new Shostakovitch,
and start preparing for portfolio conferences in two weeks.
Class Meeting #12
We started today's class off with journaling about what we've been working on. We all did double-entry journal entries
where the left side is"what you have been working on lately?" (at least two items, choose the most interesting ones) and the
right side is "objectives, goals, successes, etc...". I've posted my journal entires as a comment to this post and I hope
some of you will be willing to share what you've been working on.
Steven lead us off by asking "who are the composers
(besides Debussy) who use the whole tone scale?" and as a result we talked primarily about the idea of the Whole Tone scale
(or key) for the class.
If we're going to deal with the Whole Tone scale as a major component of our ability, than
we need to be able to apply everything we know to it -- namely we need whole-tone themes and warmups.
In addition to
the obvious choices of whole tone excerpts from the etudes we're working on, everyone needs to find other themes from their
repertoire or other music to bring in as whole-tone themes. They don't have to be completely whole-tone, but enough that it
establishes a sense of it.
I had a theme to offer: The entrance of "the band" from the middle-section of Fetes, one
of Debussy's Three (Tois) Nocturnes. It's not completely whole-tone because it is inside of a framework of A-flat minor and
it quickly shifts harmonies away from the C-flat whole-tone that it starts with. But there are two whole bars that are and
it's a good fragment of whole-tone music. It counts as a theme. Another example is the Shostakovitch 5th symphony excerpt
found on pg. 35.
Also adapt your warmups to the whole-tone scale. Like appoggiatura warmup in whole-tone. Invent your
own that get a sense of the whole-tone scale.