Prelude and Fugue in E major
for Dr. Thomas Harmon
Among the themes of this work are the opening triadic
scale, from which the fugue subject is adapted, and an unusual
choice. For the counterpoint, an emphasis on seconds was chosen,
such that in the last beat of measure three, F sharp against E and E
against D sharp, function as do the parallel thirds also found in
the texture. The seconds become more insistent by measure 12, and
the counterpoint for the fugue subject functions in a similar
manner. Nonetheless, the thematic development is tuneful, and the
short diversion to G in the progress of the fugue is generated by
the implications of these seconds.
The fugue subject is simply the prelude's, absent the
scalar passing tones. At measure 54, the dissonance of the seconds
is seen, now displaced by an octave. After the normal tonic and
dominant domains are visited through following the fugue subject,
the additional region of G imposes itself for a moment and another
fugue entrance in the pedal.
[ 8 pages, circa 4' 20" ]
Professor Thomas Harmon at Royce Hall, UCLA
Dr. Thomas Harmon served for many years as professor
of organ and University Organist at the University of California,
Los Angeles, where over many years I studied music education and
aesthetics, and of course composition and theory with a fine
faculty, earning both my masters degree and PhD in music in the
composition department. I remain amused that the university music
department's occasional publicity has pointed to my career as an
opera and concert singer, though I studied neither voice nor opera
A fine performer, Tom Harmon served on my doctoral
committee, advising me on the large organ work,
The Jerusalem Windows.
An anecdote from my many meetings with Tom. As more
of my score for what became the seven movement of "The Jerusalem
Windows" was being written, I would bring him sketches, completed
portions of movements as well my technical questions about voicings,
registrations and virtuosic demands which might be placed upon the
performer. More often than not, Tom and I would see "eye to eye." A
very stimulating member of my doctoral committee, he once could not
come to understand a polytonal harmonic progression I had sketched
as "functional," though I argued it was. The discussion revolved
around seconds and their harmonic and voice leading implications,
and I won the day as he became convinced of this small musical and
aesthetic issue between us in a sketch towards the larger work.
Therefore, to pleasantly commemorate that sometimes spicy
discussion, I chose to set out another such pre-compositional hurdle
and build in seconds which would function tunefully within the
constraints and understandings of the common practice tradition.
Tom's challenge was simple. All too many modern
composers had become encouraged by their master teachers to write
dissonant "anythings," to use Tom's phrase. Meaning was not at
issue, and often the pieces lacked some logical storytelling sense
in which one could follow the story of a theme and its development.
The real question is to use dissonances in ways which allow the
semiotic functions of those themes and textures, aesthetic stances
and ideas, to communicate a musical moment in which sense and
logical communication might be experienced. Ergo, this little
prelude and fugue adds a small additional understanding of
functional linear writing within a contrapuntal texture, wherein
parallel seconds play a tuneful part of their own all the while
linked to our musical past. My thanks to Tom is herewith "noted."
For the entire MP3 file, click here:
The score is available as a free PDF download, though
any major commercial performance or recording of the work is
prohibited without prior arrangement with the composer. Click on the
graphic below for this organ score.
Prelude and Fugue in E major