«A Monograph Submitted to the Graduate Faculty of the Louisiana State University and Agricultural and Mechanical College in partial fulfillment of the ...»
Marítimo” (Maritime allegro). He not only communicates the tempo, but also the character and even a visual atmosphere by indicating that the explorers are now traveling through water. The flowing nature of the music also comes from its time signature 6/8, like Rimsky-Korsakov indicated Sinbad in his ship in Scheherazade, Debussy did in La Mer, or Smetana Moldau. The time signature 6/8 and the rhythmic initial pattern of the cellos strongly suggests the fast “Sevillana” rhythm, probably pointing to the fact that the trip started in Spain. This very rhythmic cello drone on a D lasts all the way to square 1. It is important to note that Oscher uses many octaves and perfect fourths throughout this movement. On measure 10, instruments begin to interject in perfect fourths, one ascending and one descending, beginning with the basses and bassoon and followed by the horn. The fourths that are always followed by octave jumps (on the first movement) are used as transitions between the statements of the melodic material (Figure 4). These fourths are present throughout the piece and are the three-note motive that Oscher referred to in chapter one as the motive stated every time Humboldt travels through water, which can also be found in the movements Orinoco and Angostura.
Figure 4. Perfect fourths followed by descending octave jumps.
On measure 13, there is a dissonant e on the second violins that creates a bit of tension, but quickly disappears. This dissonance gives the passage more color and it occurs again on
interjections serve also as introductory. On measure 22, the first glimpse of the main melody becomes fragmented on the strings, serving as a foreshadowing of what is to come. The following image (Figure 5) compares the violins and violas statements on measures 22 and 23 against measures 29 and 30 (which can also be found in 40 and 41 by the flute, 49 and 50 by the bassoon and cellos, 62 and 63 by the violins, and 79 and 80 by the first violins). Figure 6 expands on Figure 5 by showing a full statement of what I will subsequently call B.
quotations) contains an emphasis on beats 3 and 6. This accent on weak beats gives it a Venezuelan folkloric flavor. The statement of B (Figure 6) is usually used as an answer to A (Figure 8), although in some occasions it is stated on its own. Oscher, however, only gives complete statements of Figure 5 twice, the first two times on measures 29 and 40; the rest are varied slightly (Figures 9, 10, 11, and 12). Furthermore, the first time that Figure 6 is stated, it is preceded by a melodic introduction that only occurs one time through the movement (Figure 7).
three measures (see measure 22 against measure 93). Figure 12 displays the last statement of B and it is juxtaposed with the first statement. The last statement is transposed a minor 6th above the first statement and instead of being played by three string instruments, it is only played by the first violins.
Figure 12. First and last statements of the B theme.
Fragmented, reduced, and transposed.
The middle section from square 3 to square 4 uses various time signature modulations between 6/8 and 9/8. Oscher begins this sections by using the 4ths and 8ves from the beginning. Halfway through the middle section (m. 61), Oscher states the B fragmented in the middle of all the commotion of the other instruments, a nod to classical development sections. These fragmentations occur on measure 62 by the violins, 64 by the violas and horns, 67 by the horns violas and cellos. The entire movement grows toward the middle section and the statement of B in measure 61 and recedes after square 4 near the end. There is a last statement of the main theme with cellos and violins between measures 77 and 84. The next graph shows the overall structure of the first movement.
“Cumaná Bajo las Estrellas” (Cumaná under the stars) focuses on the starry nights of Cumaná and is attacca from the first movement. As Humboldt was fascinated with the night sky of Cumaná, Oscher assures that this important characteristic is present in the composition.
Oscher uses some clever devices throughout the movement to depict the meteor shower that Humboldt witnessed. The movement starts in ¾ and the tempo marking is stated as “andante estrellado ♩ = 78,” which translates to “starry andante ♩ = 78.” Once again, Oscher’s tempo marking does more than to set the beat pattern- it paints an image of stars. The triplet figure present throughout the first movement stops after the first measure, and gives the feeling that the sea travel is over and Humboldt has arrived on firm land. This movement uses one main melodic idea, which circles through different instruments and every statement is texturally different. The first part of the movement lasts fourteen measures and sets the mood of the movement. The main theme of the movement is played by the piccolo and oboe (Figure 13), and it is then restated by the flute and bassoon in measure 106. It is important to note that this theme has agogic accents on the upbeats and the first time it is heard, with all the held notes on the other instruments, feels as though the upbeats are the downbeats. After the first part is over, when there is more rhythmic stability, the listener retroactively understands that the theme was on the upbeats and not the downbeats. Between the first two statements of the theme in the introduction, Oscher adds acciaccaturas on the piccolo and oboe (Figure 14), which give the movement a mood reminiscent of the introduction to Ravel Daphnis et Chloe. This melody is underlined by aleatoric glissandi/harmonics on the strings. Oscher clarifies how to play them, but gives the players freedom to make these glissandi their own (Figure 16). Oscher’s indication reads, “descending
glissandi represent the shooting starts. Moreover, some harmonic stability is established by the clarinets and bassoons who play two major chords (G major and A major) repeatedly (Figure 15). Oscher use of these devices creates a mood of mystery and wonder.
Figure 14. Representing shooting stars by the piccolo and oboe reminiscent of Ravel.
23 Oscher, Erain. Los Viajes de Humboldt. Pg. 10.
pattern and are juxtaposed against sixteenth-note quintuplets (Figure 17), which underline the main theme and recall Daphnis et Chloe. This interplay between sixteenths and sixteenthquintuplets has deep roots in Venezuelan folkloric music and can be found throughout the folk literature.
Figure 17. Juxtaposition of sixteenth note against sixteenth-note quintuplets.
While Figure 17 is in progress at square 6, the main theme is played as a violin solo and is then played right after in the entire violin section. Here, the listener should retroactively think about the theme as being on the upbeats.
Subsequently, there is a seven bar transitional passage (m. 119-125) that is written with a diminuendo and the last five bars are in 2/4. The first two bars of this transition are rhythmically complex. The figure 17 rhythmic pattern continues while other instruments play eighth-note, eighth-note triplets, and the harp plays dotted eighth-note/sixteenth-note pattern (Figure 20). The last five bars of the transition give the impression that the movement might end with the woodwind trills and the half-note answer on the string harmonics (Figure 18). Interestingly, these harmonics are derived from the first notes heard on the piece (Figure 1) but the only difference is the d instead of b (Figure 19).
the random descending-glissandos of the beginning, the first violins continue playing the descending sixteenth note pattern; the violin solo plays the theme one whole-step higher than previously stated (Figures 21 and 22). There is another short three-bar transition between 131 and 133. In square 8, the sixteenth note pattern is transformed into sextuplet undulations on the flute and solo violin while all other instruments disappear for two measures. In 136, the oboe, clarinets, viola, and cello are added, and the bassoon and horn play the melody a perfect fifth lower than in the beginning (Figure 23).
violins and cellos. The violins and cellos play in unison the same perfect fifth lower than the bassoon and horn just played, but the second violins and violas play harmonically under it (Figure 24). On the final bar, every instrument plays either G, D, or A, which are two perfect fifths stacked, and the solo violin plays a B in harmonics, which offers harmonic ambiguity.
Moreover, the flute keeps playing the undulating sextuplets and the rest of the winds play constant eight-notes and crescendo. The last three measures of the movement have a ritardando and offer a remnant of the rhythmic variety in the flute and oboe (Figure 25), while the rest of the orchestra plays a calmer diminuendo into a final pp. Here, for the first time since the piece commenced, there is a pause between movements.
Figure 25. Remnant of the rhythmic complexity at the end of the piece by the flute and oboe.
The next graph is a reduction of the second movement. The upper part delineates who plays the melody and the lower part delineates its accompaniment.
Movement 3: Mérida Mérida is a particular movement because it is a folkloric merengue in 5/8, which is very popular in Venezuela. There are two things to note here, though. The first one is that the
Dominican Republic and became very popular in all of the Americas after 1980 or so, together with the apparition of the “salsa” rhythms from Latin American musicians in New York. The second note is that the typical 5/8 rhythm of the “merengue” has two different “tempi” in Venezuela: a faster one popular in the Northern part of the country called “merengue” proper, and a slower one typical of the Andes (Southwestern) region of the country, where it is called “bambuco”. The city of Mérida is right in the middle of the Andes region. The composer titles the movement “merengue” but indicates a rather slow tempo, more adequate for the “bambuco,” and adds the indication “merengue montañoso,” or “mountainous merengue” (the only important mountains in Venezuela are in the Andes region, where Mérida is located.) The most particular aspect of this short movement (67 measures) is that it has two clear melodic ideas (A and B). Both of these melodies are similar in one special feature, which is the use of a downward leap followed by an ascending second. Oscher seems to be letting us taste the theme in small bites before giving us a full meal of it in the last statement. This is important because it is not until the piece is almost over that we retroactively understand that all those small bites are derived from the final statement of the theme. This is also important as Oscher used this technique in the second movement in the rhythmic stability and now he uses it for melodic stability. The rest of the thematic statements are derived from the main theme but are transformed and fragmented throughout. Moreover, every melody in this movement has the same characteristics: 1. Ascending into higher registers with the use of both step-wise and leap motion;
2. Descending into lower registers using the same devises; 3. Always ending the melody on a three note motive of a descending 3rd followed by an ascending 2nd (Figure 26), and in the first melodic material, a 4th followed by a 2nd which heralds that the melody is about to end (Figure
6th + 2nd (Figure 28).
Figure 26. Very last measure of the movement.
The violins play the ending motif.
Figure 27. The clarinet plays the first melodic material ending like so.
Figure 28. The flute plays the first melodic material ending like so.
The tempo marking at the beginning of the movement follows the same pattern that Oscher established in the previous movements, another descriptive marking apt for the region’s depiction. The tempo reads “merengue montañoso ♩. = 78” which translates to “mountainous merengue.” The movement begins with an introduction that follows the rules previously stated on Figure 28, this time on a tutti (Figure 29). This is followed by the first melodic theme that is stated three times, beginning with the first clarinet, then the solo violin, and then the first flute (Figures 30, 31, and 32).
Figure 30. Melody A played by the clarinet, which follows the ascending/descending/three-note pattern and the 4th + 2nd herald the end of the melody.
Figure 31. Melody A played by the solo violin.
This time the 4th + 2nd is followed by a 6th + 2nd. The last measure is also the first measure of Figure 32.
Figure 32. Melody A played by the flute but this time the 2nds are major instead of minor.
The second melody is stated three times also, a sort of development by the horn in between the 1st and 2nd statements. A most interesting point about this melody is that it follows the contour of a mountain on paper. It starts low and moves gradually up and down, almost like a musical word painting. The first statement is by the oboe with a bassoon counterpart and it has a two-measure extension before the last two measures (Figure 33). The horn plays a fourteenmeasure melody, which follows the ascending/descending/three-note pattern, but it is played with a three-measure fragmentation repeated three times before playing the three-note motif (Figure34). The violins play the second statement of the second melody and the violas harmonize
(Figure 35). After a three-measure transition, the final statement of the second melody is played by the woodwinds and strings in its entirety and Oscher adds a two-measure closing theme with the three-note motif played pizzicato on the strings (Figure 36).