Tool #48: Stacking and Exploding Harmonies

Hi All,

My Masters thesis performance went well and I am now all caught up on the things that got left on the back burner while that ramped up.  This means I am back to posting here!

I would like to continue a topic of mine that I explored a long time ago: motivic development.  One technique that I find particularly useful and effective is to take motives and turn them into harmonies, and take harmonies and turn them into motives.  For example, consider this series of 4 bars:


Here, I am taking a melodic motive in the first bar and slowly but surely making it more harmonic, until I employ a tremolo to blur all of the notes.  I am using just the pitch classes B, A#, G, C#, and F and stacking them, reinforcing the notes that I want to reinforce (eg. by adding the C# an octave lower in the tremolo passage) and increasing the textural density.

This can be done in reverse, too, and it doesn’t have to be a process over time:


Here I wrote some “actual music” that jumps from a chord straight to arpeggiation, and then to a motive using dyads in sevenths.

The point is that one way of continuing and developing a motive is to take its horizontal form and make it vertical, or take vertical elements in it and make them horizontal.  Transform the melodic content by making it harmonic, or transform the harmonic content by making it melodic.  Or, for works with multiple voices/lines, borrow content from one line into another when a key motive comes up.  It still is the same music, just reinvented and borrowed from the other part in the texture.

The possibilities are limitless.

Questions?  Comments?  Try this out yourself and let me know what you think.

Happy composing,




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