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Thread: An (Easy) Intro' to The Art of Fugue

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    Senior Member opus67's Avatar
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    Default An (Easy) Intro' to The Art of Fugue

    Well, I went to read about why MS Solitaire is one of the most widely played computer games, but ended up reading an article about The Art of Fugue, instead. The author starts off by wondering why "one of the most esoteric musical works ever written" was topping the classical billboards, referring to Pierre Laurent Aimard's recording of the work. He then goes on to explain in simple terms what a fugue is and takes us on a tour through the set of contrapuncti*, with sound clips from Aimard's version and also other arrangements, including a swinging 60's version of Contrapunctus 9.** I found this article quite enjoyable, and really makes want to get all the arrangements/recordings of the work. (The Emersons are already at the top of my wish-list.)

    Oh, and, if you're wondering about the Solitaire thing, here's the article: http://www.slate.com/id/2191295/



    *I hope that's correct plural form of contrapunctus. Correct me if I'm wrong, please.

    ** That's the only Contrapuntus that I am familiar with. Boy, was that version funny!
    Regards,
    Navneeth

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    another thing worth checking out (taken from here)

    Thanks for the article, was very interesting.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Contrapunctus666 View Post
    another thing worth checking out (taken from here)

    Thanks for the article, was very interesting.
    Spotted somewhere:

    Musically, this is a treatise on counterpoint, and it is admittedly very difficult music to perform and understand. (It's also uncannily modern-sounding in places, perhaps even sowing seeds that would later wind up in Wagner's Ring cycle). To follow well, you may want to try the following steps, in increasing order of difficulty:

    1) At first listen, observe the different note sequences Bach uses. Instead of trying to make sense out of melodies or elucidate their structure, focus your listening to a single melodic line and identify it, then try to focus on another line, and so on. Be as objective as possible.

    2) Listen to the track again to see how the different lines you have identified work in conjunction. This time, keep focusing on the phrases and how they increase in complexity over time. Do not stop to consider individual notes as this will disturb your train of thought, instead, consider melodies and allow their initial emotional impact to influence your listening. This said, Bach's music evolves with a very clear momentum, so it may also be a good idea to just immerse yourself in it and avoid over-analysis.

    3) Finally, after obtaining a good idea of how the music functions, try to relate different sequences from separate parts of the tracks to each other. Analyze form and structure, consider all of what you have just learned as a departure point. See how the different tracks relate to each other, as regards tone, speed, inflection, placement, etc.

    4) Observe how this relates to your feelings and what you deduce from listening subjectively to the piece. Revel in the sense of meditative illumination this gives.

    5) Realise how different this is from the dungpile of elemental, monumental moronity which surrounds modern art and its host society. Do cd-r copies of this and Burzum and distribute freely in churches and shopping malls, engaging with potential friends in interesting discussions about music, global warming, Paul Ledney's poetry, and the joys of eugenics.
    AoF review:

    http://www.anus.com/etc/classical/co..._der_fuge.html

    This fugal work of contrapuntal elegance was composed near the close of Bach's long and highly productive life. Although the work is incomplete, it remains a startling reminder of how even nearly 300 years ago something of such magnitude and mastery was well within the reach of this groundbreaking composer, and nothing of the like has been composed or even dreamt of before or since. It is well known for representing the synthesis of current baroque styles and the ultimate incarnation of the fugal form. The piece is of incredible complexity, and a complete and thorough review is omitted here, so that hopefully some idea of how the work operates can be communicated...

    Consisting of a number of fugues, all of the same key (D minor), most beginning with a deceptively simple melody whereupon the germ of the composition applies various transformations, shears, interpolations and rotations to the initial theme bringing it to its ultimate fruition. Gradually the fugue will increase in complexity and although what you are hearing at this point may seem muddled and confused, upon closer inspection the initial small group of notes will still be evident representing the internal nature or character of the fugue. I have always likened the work to the mathematical concept of fractal geometry, whereby patterns form a whole not dissimilar in structure from themselves, in the sense that close listening reveals patterns that have expressed themselves in different ways elsewhere, in either this fugue or another, mingling and wading betwixt each other in an ocean of contrapuntal wizardry.

    The 1751 printed edition contains a total of 15 fugues one of which is incomplete, and 4 canons, arranged in approximate order of sophistication, though (predictably) there has been much debate as to the "true" arrangement and coordination of the piece, and various different orders have been proposed, with varying acclaim. The CD itself (supposedly based on the 1751 edition) consists of 20 tracks including the unfinished 17th fugue and two fugues, Nos. 12 & 13 which are split two tracks each. One remarkable thing about this particular release is the ordering of the tracks, and the apparent science behind that ordering. Upon reading the helpful leaflet that comes with the CD a rather detailed explanation as to the contrapuntal order is present. André explains how they are based on the existence of 'five very distinct contrapuntal groups : four simple fugues, three streto fugues with mirror exposition, four double and triple fugues, two simple mirror fugues and four canonical fugues'. He then goes on to explain the ordering of each category of fugues. Also found in the booklet is musical notation corresponding to the aforementioned 'germ' which forms the basis for each fugue.

    An endless riddle of contradictions and puzzles, the piece is at once both seemingly confined to baroque formalism, yet roaming infinitely within these confines, it is hellishly chaotic, yet ordered in its etiquette, defining perfection, yet incomplete, at first appearing logical and overtly formal only then to transcend such terminology. Perhaps my only complaint with this performance is occasionally the piece sounds that bit too muddled, endangering the clarity of expression and all too often sounding as though one is simply drowning in the music, though in all probability for some this would be a plus. Some have even conjectured that Bach engineered the piece solely for analytical & technical indulgence, though I claim it to be as passionate and full of emotion as anything from the Romantic/Classical eras.

    Die Kunst Der Fuge has been performed in a variety of ways, the most common being a single organist or pianist although it has been recorded by harpsichordists, string quartets and even entire orchestras. Bach's preference with regards to instrumentation is debatable, though more than likely the organ would have been at the forefront of his mind when composing this piece (no doubt because he composed it on the organ!) and indeed the work sounds more natural on the organ, where the simultaneous contrapuntal melodies are able to communicate with each other more effectively than on the piano where generally a more stacatto, stilted approach is applied (definitely in Glenn Gould's rendition).

    Certainly among Bach's crowning achievements, and along with 'The Goldberg Variations' and 'The Well-Temperered Clavier' a gem in the realm of western european keyboard works. A fitting epitaph indeed.

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    Senior Member Herzeleide's Avatar
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    “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

    - J.S. Bach, lover of his Lord Jesus Christ.

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    Senior Member Herzeleide's Avatar
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    [sings]

    "Ich wünschte mir den Tod, den Tod,
    Wenn du, mein Jesu, mich nicht liebtest..."

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    Senior Member sam richards's Avatar
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    ^^
    Honestly, I really don't understand that the people who follow Christianity in this day and age. C'mon, in most of the Bible is complete idiocy. I see Christianity as fairy tale made and believed by people who are afraid to face the harsh reality. It's all imagination.
    “If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord.”
    - Johann Sebastian Bach

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    Senior Member Herzeleide's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sam richards View Post
    ^^
    Honestly, I really don't understand that the people who follow Christianity in this day and age. C'mon, in most of the Bible is complete idiocy. I see Christianity as fairy tale made and believed by people who are afraid to face the harsh reality. It's all imagination.
    I'm not a Christian.

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    Senior Member sam richards's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herzeleide View Post
    “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

    - J.S. Bach, lover of his Lord Jesus Christ.
    Hmm?
    “If I decide to be an idiot, then I'll be an idiot on my own accord.”
    - Johann Sebastian Bach

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    Senior Member Bach's Avatar
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    He was bullying you.
    Si vos agnosco is tunc vos es quoque erudio

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    Senior Member Herzeleide's Avatar
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    I was taking the mick out of the now thankfully banned troll.

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    Smile Fugue Question

    Do all fugues contain an exposition, middle section and final section, or can there be exceptions?

    Tom Patterson
    Round Rock

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    Here's a unique arrangement of the first piece in the Art of the Fugue:

    http://soundcloud.com/mike-leghorn/art-of-the-fugue

    If you like that, I've done a few other Bach pieces as well:

    http://soundcloud.com/mike-leghorn/s...in-technicolor

    Mike

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by sam richards View Post
    ^^
    Honestly, I really don't understand that the people who follow Christianity in this day and age. C'mon, in most of the Bible is complete idiocy. I see Christianity as fairy tale made and believed by people who are afraid to face the harsh reality. It's all imagination.
    The Bible is an allegory from which we can draw deeper truths without needing to accept the literal truth of the statements made in it.

    Until relatively recently, this was a widely understood concept. It is only with the recent arrival of literalists, who insist that every word of the Bible must be true (because it is, a priori, the Word Of God), that we have thrown the baby out with the bathwater.

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    Senior Member Jeremy Marchant's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Herzeleide View Post
    “The aim and final end of all music should be none other than the glory of God and the refreshment of the soul.”

    - J.S. Bach, lover of his Lord Jesus Christ.
    It's a point of view.
    Doesn't make it true, just because Bach said it.
    Nor is it false, if other people don't believe it. It's just his truth.
    JSB might be criticised for a certain hubris, for supposing that his beliefs should be applied to everyone on the planet.
    But that's great composers for you, I suppose.
    Last edited by Jeremy Marchant; Nov-18-2011 at 23:59.

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    Religion had a strong influence on music and all arts in general at that time. Darwin was still to come. I wonder what kind of music he would have composed if he hadn´t been tied and bound to those religious beliefs!

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