Wednesday, March 5, 2014

A Little about a Little Fugue

If we are going to spend the next 21 days talking about Bach, I feel there’s no better way to begin than to mention the fugue. What is a fugue? It’s a fascinating musical form commonly used during the Baroque period of music during which Bach lived and composed (c. 1600–1750). Bach was famous for using this form in his keyboard works.
 

How does the fugue work? A musical subject begins the piece. After stating its opening theme, a second line of music enters, answering the subject by imitating the same theme at a different pitch level. The fugue can contain any number of independent lines of music, imitating the main subject and all working together musically. Between entries of the subject in the composition, you may hear musical “episodes” that elaborate the main theme and add interest for the listener.

 
For a visual representation of the fugue, go here to check out Bach’s Little Fugue in G minor. This great video visually shows each individual line of music. The subject begins in the green line followed by an answer in orange. You can then watch as the pink and purple lines of music enter at different pitches and while independent, work together as a team to create a beautiful piece of music.


What is an example of a fugue within Bach’s musical output? The Well-Tempered Clavier is a famous work that consists of two books that each contain twenty-four fugues matched with a prelude that take the keyboardist through every major and minor key.
 

How did Bach’s fugal writing influence composers of later generations? Join me Friday as we talk about one famous composer who famously used fugues in his finales.

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