Finding your own voice | Auke Jongbloed, Hymn 311 ("How come the burning bush")

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Yesterday I wrote about how I rediscovered several compositions of mine I had totally forgotten about (https://beta.peakd.com/hive-114105/@partitura/surprises-cleaning-out-my-music-room-or-auke-jongbloed-fugue-g-minor). I decided to share two of them with the world, because I think they are nice work and because I think they tell something of my development as a musician. Yesterday I posted a fugue, today it is the turn for a choral prelude. The fugue was the result of my education in counterpoint, the choral prelude is from a later date and was written for use in church service.

When writing music, there are two important aspects to consider: form and style. Without form a piece of music is like a story with no start and no end, it just meanders till it stops. Style is a descriptive term for how the music sounds, though it is very difficult to define. Hard Rock is a different style of music than Baroque music. And even though Bach and Vivaldi were both composers who wrote music in the Baroque era and thus in a Baroque style, they do so very differently and both composers have their individual, easily recognizable style.

The fugue I published yesterday was an attempt to give a clear form to a fugue. A fugue as such has no clearly defined form. There are structural elements that appear in a fugue, but not all elements appear in every fugue and certainly not in the same order. The only thing that all fugues have in common is the way they start: they all have an exposition in which the different voices each play/sing/state the main them succesively. The order in which they do it, is however not prescribed. Where one fugua start with the main theme in the soprano voive, another can start with the bass voice. After the exposition, there are ingredients a composer can use, there is however not a recipe. The composer has to invent the form of the fugue for each fugue he writes.

I tackled the problem of the form of my fugue in the most simple way possible. It has a tripartite form, or schematically: A - B - A. The first part has the exposition, a divertimento and several re-entries of the fugue theme. Then follows a part with a chromotically descending motif as main idea. And then (a large part of) the first section is repeated. Simple, yet effective.

The style of this fugue is largely a Baroqueish, Bachish sort of style. It is the style one is supposed to employ in counterpoint exercises. Bach is of course the main example of fugue writing, and therefore the education of writing fugues is based on how Bach wrote them and the style he wrote them in. My objective with writing it was creating a larger scale fugue with a clearly defined form. As such I succeeded, I think. It was however not written in what I would call my own, personal, style.

What would that be: my own, personal style? This is perhaps the most difficult task of any musician, performer, composer or improviser: finding your own personal style.

Even though I love Baroque music, it is not the style of music I like to use to write music. If music is like story telling, the Baroque style is not the what I would like to tell my story in. For my story, it is not the right sound. If I would use it to tell my story, it would sound strange, I would not be telling it in my voice.

Finding my voice to tell my musical story, finding the style I would like to write my music in, is a journey of exploration that will probably last the rest of my life. One of the first pieces I tried to find a way of writing that appealed to my, that sounded like my voice, is the choral prelude for Hymn 311 from the Dutch Protestant Hymn book from 1973. The melody goes like this:

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The melody itself is already a bit like music I'd like to create. The tonality is a sort of not really d minor. The minor seventh (the note c) features prominently in the melody. In accompsnying a melody like this on the organ, I would almost automatically use seventh chords more than classical triads. And that is a sound that instinctively appeals to me. In this choral prelude I write music that is based on seventh and even none chords. To my ears that creates a sort of mellow, warm sound that is very pleasing. It was the first pointer for me for the direction I should take to find my own voice as a musician and as a composer.

The musical form is basically again the same tripartite form of the fugue. The first section is in the tonal realm of d (notice the repeat notes d in the pedal). The second section follows the choral melody to the tonal realm of g and the main musical idea of the introduction is repeated 4 notes higher. The final section returns to the tonal realm of d, and as conclusion to the piece the introduction is repeated. Simple, yet effective.

Even though this hymn is used only in the Netherlands, I hope the music is nice enough to use it outside the Netherlands as well.

The recording was done with the Hauptwerk software and the sampleset, made by Sonus Paradisi, of the Schittger organ in the St. Martini-kerk, Groningen (http://www.sonusparadisi.cz/en/organs/netherlands/groningen-st-martini.html).

Score available here: Score available here: http://partitura.org/index.php/auke-jongbloed-hymn-311-of-the-dutch-protestant-hymn-book-1973

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