The Sonnets

Shakespeare's sonnets are universally recognised as iconic pieces of writing. Each conforms to strict rules, whereby fourteen lines are end-rhymed a-b-a-b, c-d-c-d, e-f-e-f, g-g and written in iambic pentameter, each line consisting of ten syllables. The syllables are divided into five pairs called iambs where one unstressed syllable is followed by one stressed syllable daDUM / daDUM / daDUM / daDUM / daDUM.

This sound experiment consists of four short pieces inspired by the frequency that individual letters are used within each sonnet. This frequency is used to derive a musical note. A letter count of zero corresponds to C2 (two octaves below 'middle C'). A letter count of 1 corresponds to C2# and for each increase of 1 in the letter count we move up the musical scale by a semitone.

The length of each note is determined by the iambic pentameter with notes alternating in length and loudness. Odd notes are a quarter note and even notes are half-note. All the pieces are in 4/4 time. The start of each track may be offset by several measures or bars to add rhythmic variation and effect harmonies between the instruments.

Each piece utilises the letter counts from seven sonnets. The first uses the letter frequency data from sonnets 1 to 7, the second from sonnets 8 to 14, and so on. The arrangement of each piece is in four parts, for plucked strings and woodwind.

Track List

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