The purpose of this exercise focuses on the finer elements involved in molding a melody. Specifically turning something unmusical into something musical. This technique is accomplished on 2 levels. First by physically changing the alphabet of literature into music notes & secondly by turning that result into something musical through a specifically limited set of compositional tools.
The text used in this example:
"Have mercy upon me, for I am weak.
Heal me for my bones are vexed.
My soul is also sore vexed.
Deliver my soul: Oh save me for thy mercies sake.
For in death there is no remembrance of thee."
Each letter of the alphabet is assigned to a specific number (1 through 12) and then each number is then assigned to both a chromatic pitch and a duration. Doing this relieves some of the burden that accompanies creating a melody from scratch. Creating a melody is not the focus here, the focus is to fashion it.
The result is a string of notes replacing the paragraph of words. Barlines are inserted so that each word occupies one measure: (fig.2)
This substitution method provides a boundary, a playground for students,
where creativity is focused on phrase marking,
employment of dynamics,
register choice as well as
utilization of tempo & rests.
There are no time signatures.
The meter is provided by the original text.
The tempo is maintained by counting 16th notes.
The goal is to reform what is provided without changing the order of the notes.
This style of abandoning the time signature was used extensively by composer Olivier Messiaen during the first half of the twentieth century. For the purpose of this exercise abandoning time signatures allows for greater aesthetic flexibility and it strengthening the bond to the original source material.
What may seem formulaic is actually a technique of encoding. Similar to how a doctor injects dye into a patient in order to highlight an area of interest before performing an X-ray. For this exercise, the dye that's injected into the text is pitch and duration & it highlites the need for dynamics, articulations & tempo. This is an exercise for very specific, invaluable aspect melody. The final step is to make it all musical by using only what has been mentioned.
The completed exercise may be useful to study from a linguistic perspective as well
through concepts of Transformational Grammar.
The composition as a whole resembles layers of passive transformations
that cycle together forming even larger layers
of more cycling passive transformations.
1. A Note and a Duration is analogous to a Phoneme (fig.3 & 5)
2. A Motive Particle is analogous to a Morpheme (fig.3 & 4)
3. A Phrase is analogous to a Word (or a group of motivic particles) (fig.5)
3a. A Phrase can also connect Words. (fig.4)
4. A musical Section can be analogous to a Clause: "For I am weak."
4a. A Section can also be analogous to a Word (fig.4 & 5)
5. A musical Statement is analogous to a Sentence: "Have mercy upon me for I am weak."
5a. A musical Statement can also be analogous a Clause (fig.3)
5b. As well as a Word (fig.3)
6. A complete Piece can be analogous to a Piece.
** All music & charts are under copyright protection. Permission required for use. **