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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – Theme & Variations #42

This is a complete performance of Schuman’s Three-Score Set, with each set played straight, and followed by several variations. The variations transform the themes in a variety of ways. The tuning is all scales derived from otonal scales in the tonality diamond to the 31-limit. The specific scales change frequently. In the scores shown below, you can see in the middle the otonal scale for each measure segment.



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Machine7 – Three Score Set – with variations – #42

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 3 – #37

This the theme and a set of variations on set III from Schuman’s Three-Score Set. The theme is played straight. For the variations I take each segment of a measure and play it, then make many alterations to it quickly and comprehensively, then move on to the next measure segment. For example, I might play the first half of measure 2, then make changes to the tempo, rhythm, notes, and other characteristics, until moving to the second half of measure 2. And so on. So it keeps coming back to the theme, but intersperses variations as it goes on.

In the graphic of the score below, I’ve added the otonal scales for each segment. In measure 0, you can see the C#. That’s an otonality based on 16:15 above C. Then, the third part of measure 2 I switch to the 1:1 otonality. Measure 4 uses notes from the G# otonality, with G# meaning 8:5 above C, followed by D+, which is 8:7 above C.

There are many slides, usually from one note to the next in a sequence. Other slides are within a chord, as at the end of measure 2, repeated at measures 19 & 20.

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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 3 – #37

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #33

This is another version of the set II from Schuman’s Three-Score Set, with variations. Each of the variations messes a bit more with the note order, duration, envelopes, octaves, dynamics, glissandi, and rhythms to create something progressively less like the original, until it’s almost completely unrecognizable. But the chords are the same throughout. It’s like a machine that destroys the material as it progresses. For this version, I shortened some of the variations, and included a repeating bridge between variations.

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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #33

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #26

This is a more or less final version of the set II from Schuman’s Three-Score Set, with variations. Each of the variations messes a bit more with the note order, duration, envelopes, octaves, dynamics, glissandi, and rhythms to create something progressively less like the original, until it’s almost completely unrecognizable. But the chords are the same throughout. It’s like a machine that destroys the material as it progresses.

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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #26

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #22

Today’s post is a very short trial run on variations on set 2. For now, it only includes the first two measures. They consist of four bitonal chords:

  • B major on top of C major, realized as overtones of C
  • A major on top of D major, realized as overtones of D+
  • G major on top of D# major, realized as overtones of D#
  • F# major on top of E- major, realized as overtones of E-

Each of the variations messes a bit more with the note order, duration, envelopes, octaves, dynamics, glissandi, and rhythms to create something progressively less like the original, until it’s completely unrecognizable. But the chords are the same throughout. My plan is to add more measures over time.

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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – variations on set 2 – #22

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – 3 variations on set 1 – #20

Today’s post is three variations on set 1. The first has minimal alterations, just tempo and glides. The second uses the Drunkard’s walk to wander around the set. The third is much more wide open, with notes taken from one measure and durations from another.

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Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – 3 variations on set 1 – #20

Machine 7: William Schuman – Three-Score Set – #5

This is an arrangement of William Schuman’s Three-Score Set for solo piano. It was written in 1943, a banner year for the composer. He won the Pulitzer Prize for Music, the first ever awarded; he had the first performance by Serge Koussevitzky of his Symphony for Strings (aka No. 5); and he composed this little ditty, Three-Score Set.

He is a fascinating character. He first studied business, while working for an advertising agency. A performance at Carnegie Hall in 1930 convinced him to become a composer. He studied privately with Roy Harris, who brought him to the attention of Koussevitzky. Pretty heavy stuff for a man in his 30’s.

I had never paid much attention to him. At Bennington, we were taught to ignore the establishment, and Schuman was as establishment as they get. He first taught at Sarah Lawrence College from 1935 to 1945, then became president of Julliard School. He founded the Julliard String Quartet. He left there to be president of Lincoln Center in 1961 through 1969. He won a second Pulitzer Prize on 1985, and a National Medal of Arts in 1987. He had a long and successful career as a performer, composer, and administrator.

This piece fascinates me. It’s very dense and short, but contains elements that Schuman used throughout his composing career. Each of the three movements is just 20 measures long, hence three 20 measure sets, or Three-Score Set. The first is all fourth chords, the second is all bitonal hexads, and the third something else.

I was attracted first to the second movement. Each chord is made up of two contrasting major chords. To start, he piles a B major on top of a C major chord, two triads to make a hexad. I’ve composed with hexads for a long time. The first six overtones of an otonality is a hexad: 4:5:6:7:9:11, C:E:G:A+:D:F+, which can be interpreted as a C major together with an D major of sorts. Schuman has the same opening chords start the Symphony of Strings second movement. It’s not stealing if it was your idea in the first place.

To realize this piece, I scanned through all the otonal scales in the tonality diamond to the 31 limit to find scales that could match the bitonal chords in the Schuman piece. For example, the first chord in set 2 is B major and C major. C major is found in a 1:1 otonality, but there’s also a sort of B- major in it as well. The C major is 4:5:6 and the B- major is 15:19:22, not really a major chord, but when heard with the C major, it reinforces the sense of C. I did this for all the chords in the set, and this is the result.

It lasts all of two minutes and forty seconds, so I plan to look for ways to stretch it out a bit.

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Machine7 – William Schuman – Three-Score Set – #5