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I love a Bach fugue.

I love working it out at the keyboard. I love how it begins with the delicacy of one voice, proclaiming in simplicity its subject, and is followed by a succession of entries of essentially the same idea, only sung in different registers or modalities, which can't help but change the character of the original voice.

I love how all this interplay creates a spectacular pattern for listening that exists both vertically and horizontally. I love how ingenious it is that the contrapuntal texture can create interest melodically, and as a byproduct, effortlessly create complex harmony. Every note has a purpose and a place. There is nothing lackadaisical about the entry of the voices, or how they are placed together, there to proclaim and to reinforce one another.

I love the episodic material which forms a sort of connecting material or bridge between the canonic entries of the subject, and in my opinion, adds a contrast of lightness. Nothing is proclaimed here. It is the fun part to play on the piano for me, when the exclamatory quality of the voices die down and unravel into a buffet of musical ideas, often derived from the subject--as if a musical imp has stolen its favorite elements and woven them together in a dervish whirl of short cascades and dances--as if he has hijacked the music for a moment. And yet, it works!

I love the playfulness of the episodic material. I love that it gives me pause from the serious voices.

I'd like to spend a while here, in pause, outside of the heavy thematic material, away from all of the weighty voices; find myself cascading downward, upward in playful sequence, not taking it all so seriously.

And although I respect the gravity of the voices, exclaiming their 'truth' with passion and fervor, I can't help but find that if I stay with them too long, they keep me missing the lighter, more playful moments; moments when I can sit down and be aware of only the notes resounding in the now, marking the now; all that isn't a memory of sound, or a projection of sound: the present moment. Here, I can hear the notes objectively, without seeing any story they belong to, no context in a rhythmic phrase or melodic scheme, no idea where they fall into harmonic progression.

I can set myself free from wondering what comes next, whether it will be dissonant, or pleasant sounding, whether it will leave me in suspense, or cadencing with it. There will be no judgement of whether what comes next is the logical choice, or has brazenly defied all the rules of form.

When I'm ready to listen to the entire composition again, to allow myself to hear all the voices come back together in the context of a bigger composition-- join the choir with the more playful parts, I'm sure it will all sound differently.

I imagine the voices will feel lifted up in love, even if a little serious sounding, even if expressing fear. I will see how alone and meaningless their proclamations are without the playful episodic moments to bridge them, to connect their ideas with their experience.

I'll have a renewed sense of awe, that each little note, although arrogant in thoughts of self-importance, was such a vitally important part of the whole. In this, I'll find an extraordinary display of music, and something that extends far beyond my auditory experience of it.


  1. While in the describing of the many complexities of a fugue, you have through the many voices of music placed an overlay about life...I got that!

    Beautifully brilliant!

    I want more!


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