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Music and Prose: Connections

And within those small spaces? As a piece of music develops and heads to its conclusion, what about the bits and pieces that fill them, the patterns that emerge and develop into other patterns that make the work interesting and coherent?

Brahms's Intermezzo Op. 117 No. 1 is built on very slim material: a four measure melody out of which two of the measures are identical. Within those four measures are the relationships between notes, or intervals—seconds, thirds, fifths—that act as building blocks for the piece.

I could discuss the way collections of these intervals appear as motifs throughout the piece, but I won't, because for our purposes, a piece of music's intervals, or parts,  are less important than its patterns.

I'm always amazed at how many of these patterns, for both composers and writers, occur automatically, or as by-products. We like to think we are aware of everything we put into our work, the way we connect one part to another, flesh out characters, create voice and point of view, and yet we are sometimes surprised by the observations teachers, editors, critics, or readers make about it. How many of us have gone back to our writing months or years later and seen connections we didn't realize we put in? An imagery pattern? A phrase? An idea?

I remember bringing my piano teacher a four-hand sonata I'd composed. As we played through it, he interrupted me to say there was an inner voice in my part I wasn't bringing out.  I peered at the score as though I'd never seen it before and said, "What inner voice?" Which gave him a good, hearty laugh before he pointed to the page and said, "That one."

Once he drew my attention to it, I saw the connection. What stuck out so clearly for him had been a by-product for me—the result of reversing or inverting patterns, a process that spawned a line which was related to the original material, yet a little bit different. The interesting part of this story was that I had repeated the line later on in the piece.

I think incidences like this are encouraging for both composers and writers, in fact, what we hope for,  They let us know we are close to achieving the perfect blend of craft and instinct. where the understanding of, and affinity for character and setting are so profound that putting them on the page is more like channeling than writing. And, the incidences let us know we have a strong sense of focus and context—how all the parts and patterns are going to fit....