Mentoring Program

Brass Fugue in C Minor

Composer Name: Jaron Thomas Rochon
This Brass Fugue is a work in progress composition. My inspiration for this piece came from Bach and his Prelude and Fugue in F Minor BWV 857.
Grade Level: 10
Intended For: Live Instrument Performance
Software Used: Noteflight
Instrumentation: Two Trumpets, French Horn, Tenor Trombone, and Tuba
Key: C Minor
Meter Signature: Common Time
Tempo: 52 bpm
Status: Work in Progress
Noteflight URL: Website Title


#1 Erik Nielsen 2018-02-05 13:19
Dear Jaron,
Thanks for posting the first version of your fugue for brass quintet, and welcome to Music-COMP and the world of online composing. I will be your mentor on this work. You have a very interesting fugue subject. It's certainly reminiscent of Bach except that instead of being in straight minor, it's in a mode sometimes called either "Hungarian" or "Bulgarian", in that it's like minor, but has a raised fourth step of the scale (in this case F#). That gives the sound a decidedly exotic feel that I find really interesting (I have to confess that I'm a fan of this mode anyway).

You've taken on a real challenge in that fugal writing takes a lot of discipline and skill to pull off. There's a lot of juggling involved. All the voices need to sound independent, and yet they need to make sense harmonically. There are five voices and they all have to be distinct, and yet we need to be able to clearly distinguish every entrance of the fugue subject. And these exposition sections need to alternate with episodes in which material from the subject are developed. So yes, it's a lot to keep straight.

One thing you can do to help yourself is to write out the subject fully first. Is it four bars long? Eight? Something else? Since you already have a model in Bach's F Minor Fugue I won't give you another one, but in almost all Bach's fugues we hear the subject in full in only one voice before another voice enters, at which point the first voice does something else, the countersubject. It's not as strong as the subject and blends with it without competing. In your case, with five voices, we'd need all five instruments making their entrance before moving on to an episode.

All this is by way of saying that the instruments enter too quickly in your piece to let us hear the subject clearly, unless it's only one bar long. If that's the case, I'd ask you to rethink the subject, as it won't give you enough material for a three minute piece in all likelihood. Notice how in bars 1-2 the trumpets and horn duplicate a lot of the same material? This is not helpful for the independence of each part nor for the overall feel of the piece. And why have the two trumpets play in unison so much? If you really want that, just give us one trumpet.

I've written a lot, Jaron, so let me summarize this by urging you to think hard about whether you really want to work in such a very rigorous and demanding form as a fugue. You could write a contrapuntal piece that still sounds Baroque and contrapuntal, but it could be more like a prelude or toccata in which the material is used more freely. If you do decide to stick with a fugue, really consider what I've written above about the subject and what it needs in order to be clear to us listeners. That clarity is going to be necessary even if you write a prelude or toccata instead of a fugue. So work to develop your main thematic idea first, then figure out how and when to add other parts. And please let me know if anything I've written is unclear. The last thing I want to do is frustrate or confuse you! Otherwise, I look forward to seeing your first revision. Just add your comment to this thread and tell me what you've done. That is, don't post your revision as a new work. Noteflight will automatically update with the latest version.

Best wishes,
Erik Nielsen
Senior Mentor

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