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  • Holly Mead

Composing Music by William Russo: Chapter 3 / Part 1



Chapter 3 is all about transformation! It details the different types of melodic transformation and rhythmic transformation - more tools to add to our composer tool box! Transformation is useful because it can stretch out ideas and give you more material to play with. Today we will focus on melodic transformation and create a theme and variations.


Melodic Transformation

​Inflection - the adding or subtracting of accidentals

Inexact Transposition occurs when you inflect notes from an exact transposition.

Retrograde - all tones and rhythms are the same, but in reverse.

​Palindrome - a melodic phrase that reads the same backward and forward.

​Exact vs. Inexact Inversion - exact inversions mirror original lines (ex. a major 6th up becomes a major 6th down), and inexact inversions mirror the interval numbers, but sometimes a major interval becomes a minor interval and vice versa.


I'm concurrently working my way through The Study of Orchestration by Samuel Adler, so I decided to feature the woodwind section in today's musical example. Here is a breakdown of when/where I utilized the aforementioned types of melodic transformation. I took the liberty of changing a few time signatures and pitches here and there (marked with an asterisk) to make this exercise slightly more more musical/readable.


Exact Transposition: m.41-48

Inexact Transposition/Inflection: m.45-52

Retrograde: m.13-20

Palindrome: m.4-20

Exact Inversion: m. 31-40 (except bassoon)

Inexact Inversion: m.21-30 (again, I left the bassoon alone)



Disclaimer: I was in a bit of a rush to finish this before work, so I apologize for the misspellings (Gb instead of F#, etc). Cheers, all! -H