Prelude and Canon (2009)

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A woodcut by Albrecht Dürer.

I composed Prelude and Canon for Tetrawind, a wind quartet active in the New York City area, in 2009. The canon is a “mensuration canon,” sometimes called a “tempo canon,” in which each voice of the canon progresses at a different tempo.

In this canon, the individual temporal proportions of the bassoon, clarinet, oboe, and flute are 2:3:4:5, respectively. This means that while the bassoon's fastest notes are eighth-notes, the clarinet's are eighth-note triplets, the oboe's are sixteenth-notes, and the flute's are sixteenth-note quintuplets. Also, each instrument plays its material at a different transposition level. The bassoon enters on F, the clarinet plays an octave and a fifth higher than the bassoon, entering on C, the oboe plays two octaves higher than the bassoon, entering on F, and the flute plays two octaves and a major third higher than the bassoon, entering on A. Each performer plays the canonic material exactly, with no alteration, save for the transposition and temporal differences. About two-thirds of the way through, the faster voices catch up to the slower ones, and while the bassoon led the canon before this point, the flute takes the lead afterward.

The prelude which precedes the canon is written in a highly contrapuntal style reminiscent of French music for small wind ensembles. It follows the harmonic progression of the canon, with repeats at the two-thirds point. The modulation from F-minor to A-major and back might be heard more explicitly in the prelude.