Author Topic: Parallel octaves vs doubling  (Read 833 times)

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Patrick O'Keefe

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Parallel octaves vs doubling
« on: October 14, 2018, 04:04:20 PM »
Every once in a while I decide to paint a target on my back and bring up a topic that should have been long settled, but that I still need convincing.

A short time ago Michel mentioned that parallel octaves are always inappropriate.   I immediately thought of Ron's "Rules?  What rules?".  And I immediately thought of a piece I'm working on.  In it, as the principal theme of a rondo, two voices start in octave doubling , stay in parallel for a few bars, but then move away from each other and harmonize for a few bars.  This pattern repeats a couple times with different lengths of the doubling/harmonizing scheme.

The two voices have distinctive timbre and range - vibraphone and bassoon - so they never loose their identities; the doubling never really blends into a single sound - no more than a soprano and bass singing in "unison" sound like one voice.  In other words, they are playing in parallel until they go their separate ways.

I am asking to be convinced I've done wrong, but I'm not anticipating success in the endeavor.

Ron

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Re: Parallel octaves vs doubling
« Reply #1 on: October 14, 2018, 05:30:04 PM »
The "parallel octave rule" applies when a parallel octave appears for two notes only. It sounds like a mistake, as one voice disappears into the other and then reappears. Extended doubled passages do not break this rule, as they sound deliberate. "Rules" like this are about acoustic reality. So, F/A -> B/B -> A/A -> C/E sounds like a mistake; whereas A/A -> E/E -> F/F -> G/G sounds like the composer meant to do that.
Ron
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Patrick O'Keefe

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Re: Parallel octaves vs doubling
« Reply #2 on: October 14, 2018, 07:33:36 PM »
Ah.  I had completely missed that "for two notes only" part.  (That probably can be blamed on my lack of formal music education.  Years with a private tutor, but I missed that bit.)   And counter examples I thought up were thwarted by that starting separate but moving into parallelism that you show.  And I admit that your example does indeed sound "wrong" even when the range and timbre differences prevent the actual disappearance of a voice.  It sounds less problematic when repeated over and over as a kind of ostinato - maybe because voice leading isn't an issue there, or maybe because the repetition indicates that a disappearing voice is the desired effect rather than a mistake.   

Jamie Kowalski

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Re: Parallel octaves vs doubling
« Reply #3 on: October 18, 2018, 07:09:47 AM »
Instead of thinking of whether a given rule is right or wrong, try to think of the principle intent of the rule. What specifically is the rule there to prevent?

The rule against parallel octaves and fifths is only important in the domain of voice independence. We learn the rule when we learn counterpoint because voice independence is the whole idea. When an otherwise well-written harmony suddenly inserts a parallel octave, the ear catches it because one of the voices seems to almost disappear, breaking its own melodic line. It becomes a perceived hole within the rich texture. A doubling doesn't cause this problem because the two voices were already acting as one.

Just be aware of what effect the doubling is having in your piece. By your description, it doesn't sound like it would be a problem at all. You are intentionally moving between voice independence and voice reinforcement.


Jerry Engelbach

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Re: Parallel octaves vs doubling
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2018, 03:55:36 PM »
The doubling of cello and bass in classical music is a good example, for reinforcement of the cellos.
 
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