Author Topic: Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (work in progress): Variations on a 12-tone scale  (Read 611 times)

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Hello, Everyone. I've been away, but plugging away at a new piece for keyboards called "Martyrdom of St. Lawrence (work in progress): Variations on a 12-tone scale" over the last year. I still have editing and this is only the first half (the rest is still in my notebook).

Any advice much appreciated.

I find myself exploring the relationship between conventional forms of rising/falling dramatic conflict and atonal ambiguity or reinvention of "what it's suppose to sound like," or expectations (of repetition, etc.).

Keyboard renderings: Pipe organ (

Score also here:
Harpsichord ( [I've been playing the works of Scarlatti on the piano each day for the last couple years.]


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Tell us more about your plans for this work.
I'd like to hear about your scale construction and any mechanics you've adopted.  It appears that you're loosely following the scale order; I noticed that B and F are not heard until measure 9. 

Subjective suggestions: consider using more dynamics, develop a rhythmic motif or a rhythmic row/order
Variations ideas:  a staccato variation, legato variation, a large intervallic variation (9ths and bigger), a cluster variation, Retrograde/Inversion variations.  Per variation you could favor a specific vertical voicing: 3rds/6ths, 7ths/2nds, or 4th/5ths--all without breaking the 12-tone order.


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Thanks for you advice and suggestions--a treasure trove for me--to explore. They are great and give me confidence to be more bold (and less repetitive).

I started it August 1, 2016. Bored with the Byzantine scale I found myself exploring, I was toying with possible combinations of intervals for a tone row and stumbled upon a symmetry in tritones (including the B-F interval you mention as missing). The rotation is meant to follow the PC (pitch class) series, but I also let my ear tweak notes (not trying to repeat serialism to the letter, but just use it as a constructive jumping-off point to avoid the monotony of conventional tonality, i.e., to be new--which I think is still possible!).
The original conception for the tone row (I use conventional scoring, not numbers) is:
Each pair (e.g. C-F#|D-G#|E-A#|C#-G|D#-A|F-B) is a tritone, playable as F#-C etc. or C-F# given the principle of pitch equivalent in serialism (which is essential to overcoming conventional tonality, it seems to me).

I use this website to generate a P-form Array using Letter Name Notation with C=0.

I explore the various matrices and the four-part array, playing combinations of notes in proximity, looking of interesting interval progressions and artificial (and coincidentally conventional) "chords" based on contiguous notes, usually in threes.

Then, as the patterns in each matrix maintain a common sound, more or less, I used the the rows in the P-form array called P0, P3, P5, and P7 for melody (treble) keyboard source notes, each in combination with various bass notes. For instance, when p0 is used as the melody line, P9 was used as the bass, simply because I sort of liked how they sound together. But this is a function of various "intervals" (in quotes since the principle of pitch class equivalence still maintains) produced by the difference in the rows.

I have read various texts on serial composition, and some (can't remember, so long ago now) suggest ditching the sequence in the tone row and simply playing them as chords (sorry if this all sounds so basic--I'm still shooting in the dark with all this).

Ambition with this piece...just to create a longish (over 60 or 80 measures, not including repeats) piano solo.

My process is to printout draft versions (done in Finale 2014), play it (and render it), making changes based on how it sounds, rearranging, copy/paste try a variation, delete weaker measures, etc. (I haven't started this stage yet--but I have edited the notebook version somewhat, without the benefit of digital editing.)

I've only input about one third of the handwritten measures (which will be expanded in variations from within them).

Thanks for any further suggestions.