19 December 2023 / William Anderson / Compositions, composers

In a modern building, like a Frank Gehry building, the joinery is often custom joinery designed specifically for the needs of one building. The angles might not be 90 degrees.

So also in music. I am so accustomed to customized joinery that I find traditional joinery confusing. Is Ponce’s joinery contextual or traditional?

I had no idea how dazzling Ponce’s joinery was, and I now need to know how it compares to the work of his teacher Paul Dukas. And I’m very curious to know how Boulanger discussed these questions.

Ponce’s brilliance is in his customized, contextual takes on traditional sonata form exposition doings. He is delaying in wonderful ways a definitive arrival in B major, but that transpositional game is in counterpoint with *chord quality* (set class) issues.

Delaying the progress toward B major with “tritonal” moves – rehearsal number 1 – guitar figure in A minor answered by Eb minor figure in the harpsichord; guitar figure in B minor is answered by harpsichord figure in F minor.

The guitar starts in the “key” of 027, spun by the harpsichord on beat 4 of measure 4 into an A dominant 9 chord. The Dominant 9 chord is a theme that runs through the three movements.

5th bar of rehearsal number 2 is the key of B major and the set class (chord quality) is major 7th, of a different cloth than the Dominant 9, less whole tone heavy and less minor third heavy.

Maybe this is the best of two worlds, traditional expectations in conversation with contextual modernisms. And the joints are all at 90 degrees–the phrases are four-bar pharses. Are they joins or are they often abutting walls? The associations from one to the next are so clear that the imbrication seems unnecessary. Each segment has a clear purpose with regard to the expositon doings.

Maybe measure 4 to 5 is an abutment. The A Dominant 9 is such a definitive beat 4; Something new starts in measure 5. Into reherasal number 1 and 2 – joinery. Abutment supplanted by joinery is a firming up of the structure. The abutment is also about the stand alone aspect of the first 4 bars, which is a referential passage for the whole work, with the 027 business coming back in movement 3 in a very interesting way.

The bar before rehearsal #2 – the quickening of the harmonic rhythm joins into the last 4 bars of prolongaton before the 2nd theme begins, with the work of transitioning finally finished.

Beethoven complained about “cobbler’s patchwork”, describing Diabelli’s theme that way, but traditional joinery is a lovely, fine art. There is fine seamsmanship.

Isn’t Beethoven’s Diabelli Variations the pioneering tritonal work? The tritone transposition is merely another supertonic phenomenon; tritone transpositions are local, but with greater foregrounding power than other chromaticisms.

Babbitt/Machaut: “My endings are my beginnings” – that’s joinery.

Meyer Kupferman would join or unjoin his phrase endings, making an editorial squiggles with a pencil.