Dr. Justin Henry Rubin: Thematic Metamorphosis and Perception in the Symphony [No. 1] for Organ of Kaikhosru Sorabji (3/7)

Charting the Metamorphoses

Since it is in the third movement that the majority of metamorphoses representative of his experimental style can be found, it will be analyzed with the greatest scrutiny. In order to illustrate the manner in which this organic unfolding takes place, the accompanying charts provide a delineation of the thematic configurations and reconfigurations as they occur chronologically throughout the course of the work. The primary themes examined include the passacaglia from the first movement, and the two fugue subjects from the second. The gradual process by which they are consumed into the prevailing sound surface is a particular focal point of the analysis.

Measure numbers are not indicated by Sorabji, therefore, examples drawn from the printed edition will be identified by movement, page number, and system.

Ex.1. Passacalgia theme [PT] – mov. I, page 4, system 1

Ex.1. Passacalgia theme [PT] – mov. I, page 4, system 1

Ex.2. Fugue Subject 1 Rectus [FS1/R] – mov. II, page 42, system 1

Ex.2. Fugue Subject 1 Rectus [FS1/R] – mov. II, page 42, system 1

Ex.3. Fugue Subject 1 Inversus [FS1/I] – mov. II, page 47, system 3

Ex.3. Fugue Subject 1 Inversus [FS1/I] – mov. II, page 47, system 3

Ex.4. Fugue Subject 2 Rectus [FS2/R] – mov. II, page 51, system 3

Ex.4. Fugue Subject 2 Rectus [FS2/R] – mov. II, page 51, system 3

Ex.5. Fugue Subject 2 Inversus [FS2/I] – mov. II, page 55, system 3

Ex.5. Fugue Subject 2 Inversus [FS2/I] – mov. II, page 55, system 3

Examples 1–5. As references, reproduced here are the expository statements of the Passacaglia theme [PT], Fugue Subject 1 Rectus [FS1/R] and Inversus [FS1/I], and Fugue Subject 2 Rectus [FS1/R] and Inversus [FS1/I], as they appear in the score. It is important to note the musical ideas common to both the PT and FS1, in particular the scalar portions that are followed by a compensated of a large leap. As well, the chromatic, three note terminal descent in FS2 is a characteristic shared by the end of the central section of the PT. Another integrative element is the diminished triad, a component of all three theme groups, which is used extensively in the third movement.

Ex.6. a/b. Fugue subjects 1 and 2 – Real inversions

Ex.6. a/b. Fugue subjects 1 and 2 – Real inversions

Ex.6. a/b. These fragments are not found in the score, as they delineate the actual inversions of the fugue subjects. When compared to these same materials as they are implemented within the composition, the manner in which the composer transfigures the inversus forms of the fugue subjects is made apparent. It is intriguing to note that although the rhythmic values are unaltered, and the general contour of the melodic inversion is kept intact, the degree to which the internal interval structure is modified is more varied. Sorabji aids the performer’s interpretative discernment by leaving the beaming virtually untouched, regardless of the changing rhythmic contexts in which the theme groups are placed. Instead, the alterations are generally confined to the relationship between the motives from which the themes are constructed. In the transformation of the FS1/I, one can discover that he does so that the incipit of the PT becomes implied internally, therefore creating a connection that would otherwise not be present. Also, in the inversion of the FS2, Sorabji interpolates a descending diminished triad which otherwise would not be found in the subject. What can be deduced is that Sorabji uses rhythmic identity and contour as primary factors for explicit perception of thematic material. In the Organ Symphony, particularly, portions of the PT become the predominant thread interwoven throughout the entire composition. In the Introductio of the second movement alone, there are three allusions to it (Ex. 7, 8, and 9). In the body of the Fuga further use of the PT incipit can be observed (Ex. 10 and 11), as well as a larger portion in an interior voice (Ex. 12). However it is in the Coda that the PT finds its most extensive integration within other material (Ex. 14, 15, 16, and 17).