The second question in the 2016 Music Style and Composition exam. These questions would also be worthwhile setting for Music Performance exam students as revision.
Excerpt: Mia Makaroff ‘Butterfly’ (2 minutes 1 second)
Explain how the voices are used in this excerpt
In the introductory chord of this excerpt voices are used in the manner of a synthesiser. Long held chords on ‘ah’ vowel crescendo. Use of extended chord here.
Voices are used in this excerpt are often used in an instrumental way. As the work is a cappella both vocal and instrumental roles are sung. Legato lower line from the alto to a ‘dm’ sound provides harmonic foundation on each dotted crotchet value. This role is eventually taken over by the bass as the texture thickens and male voices are added to the texture. The middle voices take a harmonic role completing the arpeggiated figure begun by the lower voice and singing on each unaccented semiquavers.
Two counter melodies from the sopranos initially takes the foreground role. These melodies interplay contrasting longer notes with shorter notes. Roles change as the second soprano sings the main melody and the first lyrics are heard. These counter melodies continue but the main melody takes prominence through use of louder dynamics, a warmer tone colour and longer note values. The interplay of these counter melodies seem to be word painting on the text “we fly in circles, we play with the sun”
The use of voices changes at the end of the final verse lyric “Blue the sky”. The texture here is homophonic. The tone colour unified, rich and blended. Rhythmic unison emphasises these words as does the sudden, dramatic change in harmonic technique and texture. The voices are treated more as voice here rather than being used for their instrumental properties.
The chorus continues in this chorale style – harmonised melody with rhythmic unison. As the section progresses there are answering phrases in the lower parts and the texture becomes a little less clear in its homophony. Rhythmic unison, harmonised parts helps clarify the division between the two sections.
Describe the treatment of Rhythm/Time in this excerpt
Introduction – long held note cluster chord. Beat unclear until tenor comes in with two quaver anacrusis.
Time signature – 6/8. Tempo remains steady throughout. Tempo itself is not particularly fast but appears that way through the use of interplaying semiquavers/quavers.
Opening section rhythm – tikatika-ti ostinato but this is spread between parts. Alto on first pulse, lower soprano next two quavers, mid sop. the next two.
Counter melody high soprano – phrases have longer notes. Dotted crotchets/dotted minims. Use of semiquaver embellishment in change between notes.
Lower counter melody – shorter note values than upper counter melody. When longer notes occur near the end of phrases, the upper counter melody fills this in with a change in pitch or slightly shorter notes creating polyrhythmic interplay.
Bass in verse sing dotted crotchets. Gives clarity to harmonic rhythm. In chorus rhythmic unison with other parts.
Main melody slight syncopation and frequent use of duplets. Phrases often start with longer notes. Some rubato/greater freedom in pulse in opening voice which means rhythm at times is slightly out of sync with other parts.
Rhythmic unison used in second section. Rhythm here more reminiscent of opening main melody. Use of duplets ties into this theme. Rhythms slightly polyrhythmic especially near the ends of phrases which uses call and response.