This is Assignment 3 for module 1 of Composing Music in the Open College of the Arts correspondence course.
Here is the finished result in the form of a playable .wav file generated by Sibelius (with most but not all of the tempo changes as intended)
… followed by the score and three parts for transposing instruments, all as PDF files:
The task was to link three or at the most four chords to make a two-minute piece in free counterpoint for woodwind trio. My feeling was that this was going to be far too slow a harmonic rhythm. So first I wrote a chord sequence VI II V I with various passing notes and chord extensions. This needed to be in nine- or ten-part harmony to allow each part freedom within the written notes. At one point I was thinking of providing a repeating rhythmic pattern in the form of ‘minimalism’, but the eventual work only has one section, on the extended V chord, with such repeats to try and counter the static harmony.
This recording is much compressed in time relative to the two minutes as thirty seconds per chord on average is just boring.
As completed, the full expansion of each chord has its own mood, from quite jaunty in the VI II section (over four bars of 12/8), to frenzied in the V chord and then relaxing, slowing in the rate of melodic movement and finishing with a rather sparse section.
The added notes (e.g. minor 9th against major third on a rootless V7 chord) and ‘frozen’ passing notes allowed some quite jazzy melodies e.g. bar 19 where the ninth note G rather than the root F starts the tune, and D is a submediant, effectively an added sixth as the basic chord is already the tonic. The development of the initial motives (the ‘turn’ and ‘arpeggio’) does I trust come across quite clearly to the ear in the final version at the top.
Any harmonic change at intervals less than about two bars is therefore implied – and vitally necessary. This is not the introduction to Siegfried, and I do not have all the resources of an orchestra to vary tone colour against static harmony.
I felt that this exercise was poorly placed in the sequence of challenges in the course. It is in section 3 while section 4 actually teaches a limited set of counterpoint skills, and in section 4 assignment 4 the 3-minute piece for two instruments (with optional added fixed-pitch percussion) is less restrictive than a two minute work with such restricted harmonic change.