PACSOG is loosely modeled after the Baroque dance suite, particularly the layout used by J. S. Bach in his six suites for unaccompanied cello. The word is a mnemonic made up of the first letters of the movement types in order. Prelude, Allemande, etc. Generations of music majors have used this to remember the disposition of the movements.
Although written in very stressful times, this piece doesn’t take itself too seriously, but it does endeavor to respect its illustrious forebears.
A Prelude is optional, but when included took many forms. It is often not dance-like. Mine is a free fantasia.
The Allemande is a dance in moderate tempo, in duple or quadruple meter. The opening almost always features a single pickup note, or a group of three pickup notes before the first downbeat. Interior phrases often begin with pickup notes as well. I follow these conventions and have made mine a little jaunty.
The Courante is a lively dance in triple meter. Like the allemande, it frequently begins with a pickup note or notes.
The Sarabande is a slow, stately dance in triple meter, often very expressive. It frequently features a long note on the second beat of the measure. I have kept the serious nature and elongated second beat, but have made my Sarabande in 5/4 meter, a definite departure from Baroque norms. The opening motive is borrowed from the Suite no. 2 in D Minor, for solo cello, by Bach.
The “Other” movement (sometimes called “optional”) was freely chosen from many possibilities extant during the Baroque. I have used the very unBach-ish Habanera (not yet invented in Bach’s day). More typical choices would be a minuet and trio, a bourée, or gavotte, although there are many options.
The Gigue (the word relates to the English “jig.”) is a lively dance in compound meter, in which beats are divided into three equally spaced notes rather than the two found in simple meter. (The other dance movements in this piece are all in simple meter, but the Prelude is mostly in compound.) It shares pitch motives with the Courante, but with very different rhythms.
PACSOG was written for my colleague and friend at the University of Louisville School of Music, Adam McCord, a true champion of living composers.