The Art of the Fugue

 

One of the main elements of J. S. Bach’s music is polyphony. Polyphony is a musical texture in which harmony is created by several simultaneously developing melodic lines (voices). The ideal of polyphony is that each of the voices of the texture is equally developed as the other voices. This is in contrast to homophonic texture, in which there is one voice which is the main voice and other voices which accompany it (most of the songs we hear are homophonic).

One of the great masters of polyphonic writing was Bach and one of his last pieces “The Art of the Fugue” is a climax of such writing.
The aim of the project which is realized as a musical performance (concert) is to create a new and enhanced listening experience to “The Art of the Fugue”.

The concert has two parts and is combined with explanations and demonstrations on the piano. During the first part, several fugues from the “Art of the Fugue” are performed on the solo piano. In the second part, the same fugues are played in a special electronic quadraphonic (four channels) arrangement. The speakers are put in four corners of the acoustic space and each plays a different voice of the fugue using a different sound timbre (color). While listening to this arrangement, the listener’s ear can “choose” which voice to follow at any given moment. What is actually happening is that the listener’s mind is wandering between the different voices and so could be more aware of the inner processes that occur between them. The piano, whose sound color is more or less homogenous and comes from the same acoustical location, makes the unity and harmony of the music more apparent. In the electronic arrangement, the individual development of the voices is much more perceptible and thus the experience of the polyphony is enhanced.


Recently I have joined forces with the composer Noa Blass for another variation of the project.

During the first part of the performance the electronic arrangements of the  fugues are played combined with a lecture and demonstrations on the piano. At the beginning of the second part, Noa Blass performs live her piece “Counterpoint for Gongs and Bells”. This piece (which also uses the same loudspeaker setting) is an example of modern music influenced by Bach’s polyphonic thinking. After this “interlude”, another variation of the fugues is played.


This project which demonstrates the high philosophy found in Bach’s music - philosophy which is (in my opinion) not only musical but universal, is aimed not only at musically experienced audience but at a variety of audiences.  For example, it could be interesting for high-tech companies.


A video of a solo piano performance of Contrapunctus IV which took place in Cologne, Germany, is available at the Downloads section of the website. More information about a CD of the project is found in the section Recordings.

 

For more information about arranging a performance of this project please contact us through the Contact section of the website.