Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast
Results 1 to 15 of 17

Thread: Bach and the Organ: the key to his harmonic genius

  1. #1
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default Bach and the Organ: the key to his harmonic genius

    I think that Bach's harmonic genius is attributable to his involvement with the organ. With an organ, he was able to sustain notes and get a good harmonic sense of music which he might not otherwise would have been able to develop so keenly.

  2. #2
    Banned
    Join Date
    May 2016
    Posts
    661
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Whilst that might be a slight benefit over a regular keyboard instrument of the time - such as Harpischord I think the real key to his genuis of all music knowledge and mastery of all forms - was himself. He was just such a extremely talented and rare person who just excels in absolutely everything - a person like that you only really ever see in history every atleast 200-1000 years, not just in harmony, but also counterpoint to a point that wasn't even human - hadn't even been done before and I dont think he will every get surpassed in that field of music / music theory ever again.

    Not to mention his personal life, his parents dieing very early in his life, his Mother and Dad within 2 months of each other, had 20 children of which 13 survived, having to deal with death and loss all his life but still persevered - that is what makes him exceptional not just as a musician, but as a human being.

    Anyway I am just ranting and getting off topic now :P
    Last edited by JamieHoldham; Sep-08-2016 at 08:34.

  3. Likes MoonlightSonata, James Mann liked this post
  4. #3
    Senior Member isorhythm's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2015
    Location
    NYC
    Posts
    2,656
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I think that Bach's harmonic genius is attributable to his involvement with the organ. With an organ, he was able to sustain notes and get a good harmonic sense of music which he might not otherwise would have been able to develop so keenly.
    I never thought of this before but I think I agree - the organ did probably encourage a certain kind of harmonic daring, for Bach and for the generation before him. Very interesting connection.

  5. Likes millionrainbows liked this post
  6. #4
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Jan 2014
    Posts
    1,129
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    I don't think the issue of organ vs. piano is as clear-cut as hearing harmony better on the organ, for example you can make the music more dissonant (not that Bach did) without making it unpleasant because certain notes can function as a sort of anchor to weather the storm. You hear music differently on those instruments, and as a result can/should compose differently. You can get away with a lot of things on the piano you can't on the organ, and the other way around. I probably shouldn't say "get away with", because what you hear and perceive is all there is, doesn't matter what it says on the sheet music.

  7. #5
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Wales
    Posts
    1,725
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    An interesting idea, but other composers played and/or wrote for the organ too, and had access to other instruments capable of sustaining notes (string/wind ensembles, choirs), yet very few - sorry, none - of them attained the greatness of Bach.
    Last edited by Reichstag aus LICHT; Sep-09-2016 at 16:40.

  8. #6
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Reichstag aus LICHT View Post
    An interesting idea, but other composers played and/or wrote for the organ too, and had access to other instruments capable of sustaining notes (string/wind ensembles, choirs), yet very few - sorry, none - of them attained the greatness of Bach.
    Yes, but strings and choirs have their own way of doing things; that's why Bach used different tempering for playing keyboards with choirs and fretted instruments.

    Violin players are known to tailor each different key with minute adjustments. In fact, there are fingering charts for violins which show separate fingerings for sharp and flat keys.

    I think the organ allowed Bach to hear intervals better and more consistently, with more control. He was moving towards an equal-tempered tuning, and had developed his own "well" tempered tuning which meant it sounded good in all 12 keys.

    It's probably fretted instruments which helped instigate the move towards equal temperament.

  9. #7
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    8,899
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Yes, but strings and choirs have their own way of doing things; that's why Bach used different tempering for playing keyboards with choirs and fretted instruments.

    Violin players are known to tailor each different key with minute adjustments. In fact, there are fingering charts for violins which show separate fingerings for sharp and flat keys.

    I think the organ allowed Bach to hear intervals better and more consistently, with more control. He was moving towards an equal-tempered tuning, and had developed his own "well" tempered tuning which meant it sounded good in all 12 keys.

    It's probably fretted instruments which helped instigate the move towards equal temperament.
    Do you prefer to hear Bach's music played on organs tuned equally? (I don't)

  10. #8
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    Do you prefer to hear Bach's music played on organs tuned equally? (I don't)
    I haven't heard much, and it was probably ET. I do prefer his harpsichord music to be in his own "well" tempered tuning, now known as the Lehman/Bach tuning. See larips.com

    This tuning is spreading rapidly, because it sounds good. It is an "ear" temperament which Bach developed by a certain procedure & sequence of tuning the keyboard, which is demonstrated in the larips website videos. Dr. Bradley Lehman, a young, unassuming PHD nerd, was clued-in to this by a couple of German guys on the internet, who were on the case of the "flourishes" but had not solved it. Lehman, being a practical keyboard tuner, figured it out from there and published his findings, which were immediately perceived as being accurate, logical, and credible. A further advantage of this Bach well-tempering is that once again, different keys can have "affekt," which gives each key a distinct "color" or sonority, due to having different thirds, sevenths, or fifths.

    I'd love to hear some organ in this tuning, and it's already been done.

    Last edited by millionrainbows; Sep-09-2016 at 17:42.

  11. Likes Blancrocher liked this post
  12. #9
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Oct 2010
    Location
    Wales
    Posts
    1,725
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    Yes, but strings and choirs have their own way of doing things.
    Of course, but they can still sustain a pedal note, and were used in that capacity by composers (Bach included) to enrich their harmonies and underpin their melodies. A composer didn't particularly need to be an organist in order to realise this. Of course, many composers other than Bach were virtuoso organists - Buxtehude being, I think, a most apposite example. His music is very fine indeed, if not as great as Bach's in the final analysis. Buxtehude had as much exposure to the organ as Bach (if not more), but that didn't particularly elevate his harmonic/melodic genius to the level of his famous footsore fan.

  13. #10
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Feb 2013
    Posts
    8,899
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    2

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by millionrainbows View Post
    I haven't heard much, and it was probably ET. I do prefer his harpsichord music to be in his own "well" tempered tuning, now known as the Lehman/Bach tuning. See larips.com

    This tuning is spreading rapidly, because it sounds good. It is an "ear" temperament which Bach developed by a certain procedure & sequence of tuning the keyboard, which is demonstrated in the larips website videos. Dr. Bradley Lehman, a young, unassuming PHD nerd, was clued-in to this by a couple of German guys on the internet, who were on the case of the "flourishes" but had not solved it. Lehman, being a practical keyboard tuner, figured it out from there and published his findings, which were immediately perceived as being accurate, logical, and credible. A further advantage of this Bach well-tempering is that once again, different keys can have "affekt," which gives each key a distinct "color" or sonority, due to having different thirds, sevenths, or fifths.

    I'd love to hear some organ in this tuning, and it's already been done.

    I don't know of any organ tuned with Lehman's tuning, but obviously there are many tuned to some sort of meantone. I think it makes a huge difference, for the better, in Buxtehude even more than in Bach.

    This is just a guess, but part of the reason why ET became so popular may be linked to the growth of galant style. You know, simple consonance.
    Last edited by Mandryka; Sep-09-2016 at 18:09.

  14. #11
    Banned
    Join Date
    Jun 2012
    Location
    USA
    Posts
    15,970
    Post Thanks / Like
    Blog Entries
    139

    Default

    Here is a clip of Lehman playing the organ in the Bach "well" tempered tuning, now known as the Bach/Lehman tuning.

    https://youtu.be/b0wd0EN2rBA

  15. #12
    Junior Member Amadeus Tentacles's Avatar
    Join Date
    Nov 2016
    Posts
    16
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Just out of curiosity when did Bach first start playing the Organ? I know he lived with his brother for sometime and copied music for him and then went to another city to study. But does anyone know exactly when he started to learn the Organ? Maybe I could just google it but the community is highly intelligent so I would rather hear an answer from you guys.

  16. #13
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    May 2015
    Posts
    2,132
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Mandryka View Post
    This is just a guess, but part of the reason why ET became so popular may be linked to the growth of galant style. You know, simple consonance.
    ET did not become really popular until the romantic period. And it is not about simple consonance, but rather about complex dissonance.

    The reason for its popularity seems to be that it made modulating to all modes possible, and that it became possible to standardize the tuning of most musical instruments.

  17. Likes hpowders liked this post
  18. #14
    Senior Member
    Join Date
    Dec 2013
    Posts
    19,166
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by Amadeus Tentacles View Post
    Just out of curiosity when did Bach first start playing the Organ? I know he lived with his brother for sometime and copied music for him and then went to another city to study. But does anyone know exactly when he started to learn the Organ? Maybe I could just google it but the community is highly intelligent so I would rather hear an answer from you guys.
    Probably at the age of 10 from his brother Johann Christoph, after J.S, Bach's parents both died.
    Last edited by hpowders; Dec-13-2016 at 20:41.
    Facts don't care about your feelings.

  19. #15
    Senior Member tdc's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jan 2011
    Posts
    8,325
    Post Thanks / Like

    Default

    Quote Originally Posted by hpowders View Post
    Probably at the age of 10 from his brother Johann Christoph, after J.S, Bach's parents both died.
    You could be right, it is possible he didn't start playing the organ until that time, but since his father was also a musician, he almost certainly started keyboard earlier than this. Statistically virtually all the best musicians in the classical music world start at a very young age (before the age of 10). I think music much like learning a language, when it is learned very young it is processed in a different part of the brain.

    So because his father was a musician and because he went onto become the best organist in the known world during his life, it is very probable that he started music at a very young age. (I would guess probably 5-ish).

Page 1 of 2 12 LastLast

Similar Threads

  1. Bach on the Organ
    By Geo Dude in forum Solo & Chamber Music
    Replies: 46
    Last Post: Jul-19-2021, 13:28
  2. The Greatest Medium of Bach's Genius?
    By Klassic in forum Classical Music Discussion
    Replies: 33
    Last Post: Feb-03-2016, 00:04
  3. Bach Cello Suites Harmonic Analysis
    By Gregory Tippett in forum Music Theory
    Replies: 1
    Last Post: Mar-14-2015, 22:07
  4. Bach's works for organ
    By science in forum Classical Music Discussion
    Replies: 16
    Last Post: Jan-01-2014, 20:17
  5. CPE Bach organ concerto.
    By Morganist in forum Classical Music Discussion
    Replies: 0
    Last Post: Aug-10-2012, 19:27

Posting Permissions

  • You may not post new threads
  • You may not post replies
  • You may not post attachments
  • You may not edit your posts
  •