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Aysem (I did not know you) – OCA composition assignment 3 descant treated as makam microtonal study

The following was set as Exercise 39D requesting a descant.  After studying Anatolian folk music I decided this should be monodic, accompanied only by a drone and small two-sided hand-drum.

However in the course of this, I was exploring the different ‘makam’ or modes in Arabic and Ottoman music and have used the quarter-tone addin in Sibelius to supply appropriate pitches from the ‘Rast’ tetrachord and pentachord.

In the score file here there are more detailed notes on instrumentation options and performance:

Aysem Turkish song with microtones

Below is the .wav file where you can hear microtones on two different notes of the scale  Sibelius does not play all the short trills indicated as + on the upper (melody) wind instrument e.g. bey.  Also some of the written trills on the percussion have a strange rattley sound in Sibelius.  I notated one as demisemiquavers but consider this confusing and too limiting on the performer to notate all of them this way.

I found it interesting that after exposing the listening ear to a pitch for the minor submediant that is half way between the dominant and minor seventh note of the scale, the ‘western’ fully flattened minor submediant is the note (in the penultimate bar) that sounds out of tune: too flat.

There are many sources of detail on makam and microtones e.g. Wikipedia.  This may not be totally reliable so I have ordered a couple of textbooks on this and may post more detail later.  The following empirical study casts much light on how these folk songs are pitched in Eastern Cyprus, drawing on both the Eastern Orthodox (classical greek) modes and Turkish modes:

Neither of these is exactly in agreement with the westernised ‘church’ modes and they require somewhere between 24 and 53 – possibly 31 – microtones to the octave to match the consistently sung pitches.  I have experimented using a cornetto to find fingerings for both the half-sharp notes and can provide more details on request.

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OCA project work: exercise39B descant requested; this is a full arrangement for primary school children

Hark to the cuckoo

Finding the words meant getting a second-hand copy of Maud Karpeles’ “European Folk Songs”.  She partnered and long survived Cecil Sharpe in the collection of folk songs from around the world.

I think this could be quite popular in primary schools.  There are two percussion parts and an optional third voice part to be sung by older children, parents or a teacher (partly hummed).  In this line there is also the opportunity for less tuneful members of the class to make squeaking noises.

Whether the woodsmen came by cart or boat isn’t entirely clear.  The original second verse rather implies a river.  However I can take some poetic licence as only the descant alludes to some of that verse.


Hark to the cuckoo – Full Score

Audio (no words, but including the percussion parts) generated by Sibelius:

Please enquire for permission to use this commercially or reproduce it.




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Descant: exercise 39A treated as adding a chorale

I feel the supplied (crotchet =108) tempo marking is too slow for this carol, which is joyful with harmonic movement once in a bar.  So I have treated the tune as if an embellishment of an original chorale melody and supplied this, transposing down a tone to make the range convenient for chorister’s voices.

It would be interesting to try this cantus firmus in the men’s voice so avoiding one or two bare fourths.


Ex 39A descant chorale

Audio (without words since from Sibelius):

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Canonic Lamentation Round3 of OCA module 1 part 3

Fully expanded score for five voices.  I am still not quite sure where to use slurs and where stemming to fit the words in something of this nature, but after some edits think this is at least now consistent – slurs just to group notes sung on a single syllable.

Canonic lamentation for five male voices

An English translation of the Latin text, from Lamentations of Jeremiah Chapter 5, runs:

Chapter 5

5:1  Remember, O Lord, what has befallen us; behold, and see our disgrace!

5:2  Our inheritance has been turned over to strangers, our homes to aliens.

5:3  We have become orphans, fatherless; our mothers are like widows.

5:4  We must pay for the water we drink, the wood we get must be bought.

5:5  With a yoke on our necks we are hard driven; we are weary, we are given no rest

This seems quite topical for Syria and other countries still.



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Canonic prayer (Exercise 36 part 2)

A serious canon possibly suitable for church use.  The word arrangement is mine drawing clearly on very old sources.    I varied the words in the final statement.

If I understand this correctly, the counterpoint for a canon has to be ‘invertible’ in that two of the sections will have to act as a temporary bass until the lowest part enters.  This version seems to work despite a momentary second inversion of the tonic chord at bar 9.

The short doubling at bars 12-13 though breaking classical rules doesn’t seem to matter to my ear.

Score (expanded):

Canonic prayer

Audio version (no words unfortunately as generated by Sibelius.  It would be good to hear this sung for real!)

This audio is of the slightly revised version here putting more interest in the initial entry.  To avoid a high G for the bass voice I leave their entry in the original form.

Revised score below:

Canonic prayer

This makes slurring consistent also.






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Lightweight catch 1: Boney cuckoo

This is a lightweight contrast as non-assessed course work – a catch, set to example 36 part 1 broadly an imperfect cadence in F major.  However I have elaborated the harmony a little and make three French references in plot, words and false relations (thinking of Machaut).  Another catch will perhaps use the tune but not the words of ‘L’homme armee’.

Score showing start end and full flow

Boney cuckoo round 1

Audio (no words since on Sibelius)