I’m working on my untitled chant piece.I’ve listened to Hildegard for ever by now and wrote a lot of chant myself. Only after writing my own chant did I realize that my understanding of Hildegard was pretty far off, both in pitches but also in rhythms.
I have been thinking of writing this in the mode of E phrygian. This is what you get when you play a scale from E to E with no black keys.Playing around a little I ended up with something more like a harmonic minor. F and F# are allowed; D# is allowed, even F# is allowed. So I’m able to modulate through modes, basing all of them in E.
Earlier I said I wanted to use the organ. This was failing until I started taking the mode out of the keyboard part and went with plaining major chords, 153 position, i.e. D natural, A natural, F#. And I don’t double the chant. Plaining (moving the exact same shape of a choir as you go up and down) the 153 chords almost always takes two hands – that is one reason I am not doubling the chant. It also gives the chant some freedom to push the tempo faster and slower just a tiny bit because it’s not doubled.
The plaining chords have their own harmonic inclination that is allowed to clash with the modes above. I can have an F natural in the chant right against a F# in the keyboard. Thinking on that word I think this might end up being for either piano or organ, meaning no notes that need to be on organ pedals. So it’s for keyboard – organ or piano, conductor chooses. This means I can’t really go below the C two octaves down from middle C.
This piece i starting to form a texture not particularly different from the failed Rumi piece which I was not doing so well on, but I think in this this new setup that won’t drag itself into trouble. This texture does sort of lock the piece into E and never escapes it. I can modulate through modes but I don’t think I can modulate through keys based on different root pitches. In al the chants I heard so far I don’t recall even one modulation between keys.
This might end up being an SA piece. I don’t know what that means to the marketing as opposed to an SATB piece. But there are plenty of SA pieces doing just fine so it must not mean death to the piece. I could also do something like say it is one option is to double the chant an octave lower with the men, so ST would be one locked together octave and AB would be another. That might result in mud though. I could also have the men do the plaining chords on something audible like oh or ah. That leads me back into a cappella again. I’ll figure out what the piece demands; I think there might be things that I’ll have to do which force this to be keyboard instead of voices. I don’t know that yet. I might make a weird option and make it piano or mens voices on the plaining chords – conductor chooses. That would make this both an SA piece and an SATB piece.
I also want many 8th notes notes to add some element of speed to it. It feels like the quarter not is going to be 120. I think I might throw in a few ornamental 16th notes as well, and though these can’t happen often because they are just too fast to do more than about 1 at a time. So I can occasionally dot an eight and hit a neighboring note on a 16th. Or I could make them grace notes. That might be easier to deal with and they will come out more or less as 16th notes.
With this text it is not surprising that I end up with another medium speed piece – this one will end up being conducted in half notes where the pulse is 60, which is where I always end up! But this will still be very different from anything else I have written. Maybe I can take a section and half time it – writing everything out where the half note is the most common rhythm. But that’s a rationalization – altering music for non musical reasons. I’d be doing it just to avoid a moderato feeling which I always tend to get. So it’ll likely fail. If it’s medium tempo so be it.