Author Topic: The Basic Modes  (Read 2398 times)

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Ron

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The Basic Modes
« on: June 14, 2017, 08:04:10 AM »
I figure it is time that this section was reactivated. I was shy about it, because my proposed exercises fell flat. But, I will try again, organizing things into a loose lesson-plan approach.


First up: the basic modes. Beginning composers have to get over the idea that they must stick with major and minor scales. Basic to all modern music is the concept of modes, based on the old ecclesiastic modes. In a way it is a return from the tyranny of the 18th century approach to a more liberalizing attitude. Because we are stuck with 12-tone equal temperament for the most part, thanks to the construction of instruments if nothing else, we are limited in what basic materials are available. Our western-trained ears are also trained to expect certain relationships within music. The modes meet these criteria. But, remember, that they are only a starting point.


Here they are, arranged in order from "darkest" to "brightest."
 

Four of the scales are related to our common major and minor scales: aeolian, dorian, mixolydian, and ionian, but the others at the extreme ends are more exotic. You might notice that the "traditional" cadences of IV-I, V-I, V - IV, etc. do not always work out because of the presence of tritones. Both the locrian and lydian scales have a tritone at key positions: the 5th and 4th degrees of the scale. This is something that must always be borne in mind. Another point: when melody-writing and harmonizing, the key features of the modes must be featured. For example, that flattened 7th in mixolydian must be heard or listeners will not be able to identify it as mixolydian.

Your challenge for today: write a short piece (12-18 measures) for keyboard in one of the modes, except ionian, on any tonal centre. You may modulate to another tonal centre in the piece, but you must retain the same mode. It should be clear to the listener which mode you have selected.
« Last Edit: June 14, 2017, 09:14:14 PM by Ron »
Ron
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whitebark

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #1 on: June 14, 2017, 06:45:41 PM »
Thanks for reactivating this exercise section!  I may submit a worked-out exercise soon...

whitebark

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #2 on: June 15, 2017, 10:55:39 AM »
Here is my completed exercise, in phrygian mode (E and C). 

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cazhf32zzxds1hw/AABIb8ZyEBPTSFd6EbV9x0Hda?dl=0

Jay

Ron

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #3 on: June 15, 2017, 01:21:22 PM »
BTW, this is not "my" course. Everyone feel free to chip in and comment on any posted works.
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gogreen

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #4 on: June 15, 2017, 02:32:02 PM »
Very nice, Jay. I think this has great possibilities for fleshing out.

Ron

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #5 on: June 16, 2017, 06:42:19 AM »
I found it interesting how you stressed the 5th and octave intervals--giving it a somewhat medieval flavour. Phrygian happens to be one of my favorite modes because of the dark colouring that the minor 2nd and 3rd give it. Shostakovitch was rather fond of it as well, though he would sometimes flatten the 4th degree as well, making some of his works sound even more bleak and desolate.

In phrygian, I would make a lot of use of the triads on the tonic, 2nd degree, 3rd degree, and the 6th and 7th to bring out that colouring of the scale and avoid chords on the 4th and 5th.
Ron
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tbmartin

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #6 on: June 16, 2017, 08:16:10 AM »
I have trouble finding the time to do exercises like this because I'm still employed full-time. (Not to discount their value: They are VERY valuable and I'm glad we're trying to kick-start them again. It's a bit like the old story about taking time to sharpen your saw: It feels like wasted time, but it actually pays off.)

While I doubt I'll be able to submit a stand-alone exercise, this thread has reminded me that I should consider using a mode in my current piece. Maybe as I play with my sketches this weekend I'll end up submitting part of a sketch. 
Terence Martin

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tbmartin

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #7 on: June 16, 2017, 08:25:53 AM »
Jay:  I really like how you go between the two versions of the mode. It gives it some nice variety.
Terence Martin

Tools: Finale 2003 on Windows XP
Day job: Actuary
Composing/Arranging output: mostly sax quartets
http://bit.ly/TerenceMartinSaxArranger
Goal: Improve quantity and quality of concert band compositions.
Play: Saxophones (all, but tenor primary), Bass Clarinet, Piano (poorly)

Ron

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #8 on: June 16, 2017, 09:54:42 AM »
I have trouble finding the time to do exercises like this because I'm still employed full-time. (Not to discount their value: They are VERY valuable and I'm glad we're trying to kick-start them again. It's a bit like the old story about taking time to sharpen your saw: It feels like wasted time, but it actually pays off.)

While I doubt I'll be able to submit a stand-alone exercise, this thread has reminded me that I should consider using a mode in my current piece. Maybe as I play with my sketches this weekend I'll end up submitting part of a sketch. 

Not to worry about submitting material. As long as this stuff is inspiring you, that's all that matters. :)
Ron
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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #9 on: June 16, 2017, 11:06:33 AM »
For some reason I have trouble with Phrygian so I tried my hand at it, too.  I have trouble staying within any mode so I suspect I failed that dictate.  But it was interesting exercise.
Audio https://app.box.com/s/i2gmoazbe17kq5eon3ln13ristern5qz
Score https://app.box.com/s/9ebzl0yl82hczfblu701e0hy9149dyzp

My typical technique is to avoid the characteristic note for a while and keep the mode ambiguous, but make it clear there is no leading tone. 

gogreen

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #10 on: June 16, 2017, 11:53:44 AM »
Patrick: I'm not sure how phrygian it is, but I think if you add a bit more movement to the piece's rhythmic motif, it has great possibilities. That is, instead of eighth-quarter-eighth-quarter-quarter-quarter, I'm suggesting six eighths and a quarter.

tbmartin

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #11 on: June 16, 2017, 04:38:36 PM »
This is NOT a keyboard piece as the exercise was originally assigned. This is a simple melody sketch for a section of a piece I'm working on. All I've done is given the melody and the chord structure that will support it. For the sake of listening to it here, the melody is assigned to a trumpet sound and the chords are with a clarinet sound. Actual instrument assignments and rhythm for the accompaniment are yet to be determined. And I may end up punting the whole thing back into major, but you never know...

Lydian Mode. I actually wrote the melody in Ionian (i.e. major) and simply transposed it modally into Lydian. I chose Lydian as the mode listed as "brightest" because this section is suppose to be lighter. There will be darkness elsewhere in the piece.

The 10/8 is really just 5/4 right here, but I'm thinking it will actually act like 10/8 later. If it doesn't, then I'll just rename it as 5/4.

Because this is just a sketch, I'll take all sorts of suggestions on melody or chord changes you might have.

Audio: https://www.dropbox.com/s/cxjyvneywrul0bj/Lydian%20Modal%20Melody.mp3?dl=0
Score: https://www.dropbox.com/s/sym99j08ilmej6g/Lydian%20Modal%20Melody.pdf?dl=0
« Last Edit: June 16, 2017, 04:47:54 PM by tbmartin »
Terence Martin

Tools: Finale 2003 on Windows XP
Day job: Actuary
Composing/Arranging output: mostly sax quartets
http://bit.ly/TerenceMartinSaxArranger
Goal: Improve quantity and quality of concert band compositions.
Play: Saxophones (all, but tenor primary), Bass Clarinet, Piano (poorly)

RJB54

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #12 on: June 16, 2017, 06:20:27 PM »
I'm glad that this section has been reactivated; however, I won't be contributing to this exercise as a new composition has starting coming which is intensely serial, so wrapping my head around a modal thing like this exercise is just not going to happen right now.
Information is not knowledge. Knowledge is not wisdom. Wisdom is not truth. Truth is not beauty. Beauty is not love. Love is not music. Music is THE BEST.
Frank Zappa

whitebark

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #13 on: June 16, 2017, 06:21:40 PM »
Thanks, Arthur, Ron, and Terrance for the feedback on my little phrygian piece. I composed it as a simple, single-voice melody first, then added the other voices later.

Patrick: I enjoyed listening to your phrygian contribution. The contrast between between the light-hearted dance-like quality of your piece and the slightly gloomy nature of the phrygian mode was interesting.

-Jay


whitebark

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Re: The Basic Modes
« Reply #14 on: June 17, 2017, 10:37:42 AM »
So many modes, so little time!  I decided to create another little piece, this time in lydian mode, which gains an intriguing bright and flighty quality from the sharp 4th degree.  This piece alternates between F, A, and C Lydian.

https://www.dropbox.com/sh/cazhf32zzxds1hw/AABIb8ZyEBPTSFd6EbV9x0Hda?dl=0