Diabolical variations on a Wagnerian theme : for pipe organ
by Michael Hannan (2014)
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Library shelf no. 786.5/HAN 1 [Not for loan]
Diabolical Variations on a Wagnerian Theme is a comedic work that uses the idea of chords created exclusively from superimposed tritones. The title contains a reference to "diabolus in musica", a medieval sanction of the use of the dissonant (devil's) interval of the tritone (augment 4th or diminished fifth). The composition of my piece begins with a harmonisation of the theme from the Prelude to Act III of Wagner's Tristan und Isolde.
This idea was suggested by the so-called "Tristan chord" near the beginning of the Prelude which resolves momentarily to a chord of two superimposed tritones. The extreme chromaticism of Wagner's theme also lends itself to harmonisation using tritones.
In addition, Diabolical Variations has a section of tritone trills and tremoli which was inspired by Tartini's "Devil's Trill Sonata".
Although the work would have been banned in church in medieval times, it is suitable for use in the services of all contemporary denominations.
Instrumentation: Pipe organ.
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