Author Topic: Parallel Octaves  (Read 6709 times)

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mjf1947

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Parallel Octaves
« on: February 16, 2012, 07:32:09 AM »
Hi,

The Finale plug in grabs every parralell motion - even when there's a moving line .. or the parallelism is a few beats later.

What is a good rule to understand the parallelism?  I can undersand notes moving in unision "a big red flag" however, when there a moving line what should one be concerned?  I also understand the "hollowness" of such movement with its lack of "richness".

Mark
« Last Edit: February 16, 2012, 08:03:17 AM by Michel.R.E »

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #1 on: February 16, 2012, 08:02:46 AM »
well, octaves and unison are the same thing, basically. The rule against octaves derives from a proscription against unison in counterpoint.

The Finale plugin doesn't really work all that well. It can't differentiate between different voices in multi-part music. It works great on 2-voice species counterpoint, however  ::)

The only thing that you can really do, and the BEST thing for you to do, is to train your eye and ear to see and hear those octaves.

When you see motion in the same direction, start looking for those octaves between voices.

Also, look for direct octaves, which are just as egregious as parallel. That's two voices, from different intervals, in the same linear direction, where the top voice or both voices, are moving by leap, and landing on an octave.

For example, if Soprano was playing A - C (rising) and Bass was playing G - C (rising), this is direct octave.

However, if the movement of the top voice is conjunct (B - C for example), the effect is mitigated, and not considered  a "direct octave".
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

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sandalwood

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #2 on: May 13, 2012, 06:23:59 PM »
hi,

when, for instance, violins 1&2, violas and celli play held notes in a chordal section: i guess i may legitimately double the celli, occasionally, an 8ve lower by a bass trombone (for example), however what happens if i do the occasional doubling by contrabasses? now it is 4 and 5 voices (is it?) on an on&off fashion; and, are contrabasses as the lowest sounding strings where they appear considered the bassline, thus running me into countless voice-leading problems and meanwhile consecutive 8ves?

or, say, when violas double first violins for a number of measures, then would 3-part voice leading (duly spaced to accommodate the violas) prevail for that stretch of strings-writing?

suspenlute

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #3 on: May 13, 2012, 07:44:46 PM »
I'd argue that parts doubling another at the octave are generally exempt from rules prohibiting parallel motion, especially when it's done purely for accent and/or with alternating timbres. If, in an otherwise well-constructed multi-part line, you feel compelled to double certain voices at octave or unison for a quick emphasis or highlight, you are technically not adding new voices at all, nor are you obliged to treat them as such (i.e. if you add an accent to a 4-part line by doubling the bass part an octave lower, it's still a 4-part line. You're not adding a fifth part).

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #4 on: May 13, 2012, 07:49:08 PM »
remember: doubling is NOT parallel motion. it is, in essence, a single voice, played by multiple instruments.

if you have a unison of violins and violas and celli, you have one voice, played by the string section.

brief passages of unison motion are not "bad" per se either.

they have their function in orchestral music.

the parallel 8ves with which we are particularly concerned are those that are momentary. two voices suddenly subsumed into a  single voice for two notes, then back to two voices. THOSE are the ones that cause a "hole" in the sound.

Don't worry as much about parallel 8ves between inner and outer voices (for example, between alto and tenor). the most conspicuous and most "erroneous" are those that occur between the soprano and the bass, the two outer voices. obviously, if you can avoid having them in the internal voices as well, it's always better.
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

sandalwood

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #5 on: May 13, 2012, 09:06:14 PM »
many thanks for the replies.

when with violins, violas and celli (3 voices), i chordally accompany a solo violin (or flute), do i write 4 part voice-leading taking the solo flute as my soprano voice, or is it 3-part writing for strings, disregarding the solo part other than choosing appropriate chords to accompany it? (not concerning ourselves, for the moment, with the registral "gap" that should be reserved for the solo instrument).

and what happens if meanwhile the bassoons play a small melody in counterpoint; shouldn't they also be included in the voice-leading as if divisi celli were playing in their stead?

hope my questions make sense :)

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #6 on: May 14, 2012, 03:00:35 AM »
1) strings are not treated as a "trio". there are two violin parts, one viola, one cello and one contrabass. in effect, a quintet (in some languages, the string section is referred to as "the quintet"). the double bass part OFTEN, but not always, doubles the cello part.

2) there is absolutely no way of answering your hypothetical situation. it is so contextual.

3) in an orchestral part, there is almost NEVER any strict adherence to standard 4-part writing. For example, when one simplifies an orchestra excerpt (an excellent exercise, by the way) one can find that the whole texture is in essence 3-parts only, but that some instruments seems to skip back and forth between different parts.

To use your hypothetical:
-the flute might have its solo line, but that line might be doubled by an oboe, or two oboes, or an oboe and a clarinet, or by another flute at the octave, etc... endless possibilities.
-The two bassoons might share material with the viola and with the celli, or they might go from sharing material with strings to having their own independent lines, back to sharing string material, and back and forth.
-The strings might be divided in such a way so that the 1st and 2nd violins, and the violas are playing harmony-related accompaniment figures, while the celli and double bass are divided into two independent voices which share a bass figuration.

There are near-infinite potential ways of dividing and sub-dividing the material between a large group of instruments.

« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 03:03:08 AM by Michel.R.E »
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Ron

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #7 on: May 14, 2012, 09:01:33 AM »
Hi Sandlewood,

I can't recommend the following highly enough. It will answer some of your questions:
 https://www.webdepot.umontreal.ca/Usagers/belkina/MonDepotPublic/bk.O/index.html

Another recommendation: read scores to see how others did it.  :)
Ron
Rules? What rules?

sandalwood

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #8 on: May 14, 2012, 10:40:55 AM »
thank you very much for the reply.

i guess i'm in the process of mentally bridging the gap between 4-part voice-leading as a necessary and useful didactic abstraction and the infinitely diverse real-life world of part-writing and orchestration; and your reply deftly accentuates the distinction in a very revealing way. i understand i should keep studying scores.

the specific question on the "flute" thing could perhaps be reduced to this: should the accompanying strings seek to avoid voice-leading errors (parallel or hidden perfect intervals, which chord-note to double, resolution of tendency notes, voice spacing, etc) with the solo flute or violin as if it were the soprano (or whatever) voice of the strings, or whether the matter could be dealt with more loosely as regards voice-leading.

in the scores i see that amidst the continuous flux of entering/exiting instruments, doublings, forming/dissolving ensembles within the orchestra, the situation is hardly ever as neat and clear-cut as in a 4-voice part-writing exercise;  which takes me to where you indicate in your reply that it is all contextual .

thank you again for the teaching.

greetings

thanks ron,

you're certainly right, and i love belkin's books  :)
« Last Edit: May 14, 2012, 10:51:55 AM by sandalwood »

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #9 on: May 14, 2012, 12:02:41 PM »
when writing anything that is, in essence, "individual voices", it is rather important to avoid ALL parallel octaves. the prohibition against // 8ves is there to make sure that individual voices remain individual.

if you have a series of pulsing chords, on the other hand, you MIGHT be able to get away with a few //8ves between some inner voices, but it would still be a serious error to have //8ves between the uppermost voice and the lowest (bass).

"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

sandalwood

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #10 on: May 14, 2012, 12:48:34 PM »
when writing anything that is, in essence, "individual voices", it is rather important to avoid ALL parallel octaves. the prohibition against // 8ves is there to make sure that individual voices remain individual.

if you have a series of pulsing chords, on the other hand, you MIGHT be able to get away with a few //8ves between some inner voices, but it would still be a serious error to have //8ves between the uppermost voice and the lowest (bass).

yes, this makes it very clear. all individual parts, be they accompanying, soloing or counterpointing parts, should behave as individual parts, particularly the uppermost and the lowermost ones. doublers, on the other hand are not individuals but are subsumed under the part they happen to double. a very clear statement of principle.

so, i understand, 4-part voice-leading rules could not, of course, apply to all possible sets of individual parts that could appear in an orchestral work, as they would apply to a SATB choral, yet they should be creatively adapted in every specific combination with particular care to securing individuality of parts. hope i got it right :)

again, thank you very much, indeed.

greetings

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #11 on: May 14, 2012, 12:54:16 PM »
yup that's pretty much it.

here's some more hints:

some of the 4-part rules apply in all writing, like the //8ve one.
for example, dissonances and leading tones (in tonal or tonality-based music) should be treated the same way as they would in a 4-part choral.

intervals between different voices/materials should be treated in a proportionate manner. in a 4-part choral you are forbidden from having an interval greater than a 10th between any two voices. in orchestral music this isn't feasible, but the CONCEPT of not leaving a huge hole in a texture for one or two notes remains. if your overall texture IS one with a huge gap between two orchestral parts, then that should be the overall goal. but if the density is evenly distributed throughout the tapestry, then sudden holes should be avoided (again, unless it's for a very specific effect).

on the other hand, voice crossing, which is rarer in 4-part chorals (though not expressly forbidden) is MORE than welcome in orchestral writing.

remember that SOME of the limitations imposed as "rules" in 4-part choral writing are in effect there because of the nature of a 4-part choral: it is meant to be vocal writing.

"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

Michel.R.E

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #12 on: May 14, 2012, 12:57:04 PM »
I think, a lot of the time, it's best to start from a relatively traditional approach to material, and from there, break away.

The problems that come up are when you start with a radical departure from standard orchestral treatment, and then have nowhere to go from there.

Strawinski did a LOT of very unorthodox things with his orchestral writing, but it was very consistent and logical. he broke with traditions in some rather shocking ways, but did it throughout a piece, with the same elements. it wasn't an error here, another error there. It was consistent application of the same "broken rules".
"Writing music to be revolutionary is like cooking to be famous: Music’s main function is not revolution. – Alan Belkin "

"Saying something new about something old is still saying something new. – Jamie Kowalski"

sandalwood

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #13 on: May 14, 2012, 02:27:46 PM »
after some elementary familiarity with traditional 4-part choral writing i am trying to transition to writing for instruments/orchestration (again as rudimentary exercises). in terms of possibilities, not to mention the difficulties, it is sort of like moving from a pool to an ocean to swim. reading the posts in this forum teaches me a lot, and the replies in this thread have indeed been deluxe education :) for which i am grateful.

basically studying scores of familiar works, trying to figure out how the composers managed to produce certain sounds, effects, moods, etc, and achieved other things, and resorting to books, etc when i do not understand something, which admittedly happens very frequently :) . all in all, a great pastime, i should say!

after i, hopefully, learn to crawl and then walk, i may hope to delve into the idiosyncratic ways stravinsky revolutionized the conventions of the CPE. meanwhile, i have to suffice with enjoying his works with blissful ignorance , which is not bad at all :).

greetings.

RichardMc

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Re: Parallel Octaves
« Reply #14 on: May 14, 2012, 03:02:00 PM »
For whatever it is worth this has been an extremely helpful thread.