Happy Sad Sad Happy

Book I











Bach does something special with perspective in the last movement of his transcription of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater BWV 1083: he first writes the notes of Pergolesi, then he writes the same notes again, but this time with a different key signature. The first half is in minor, the second in major. A simple intervention that completely changes the character of the music.

I wonder if Bach's trick of changing the perspective by changing the key signature can also be applied to his two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 minor and major keys, The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 & 2.

From sad to happy and vice versa. That is way beyond my imagination and understanding.

But it is not beyond my ability trying to figure it out. So I made double scores; the original above a version with an adapted key signature. BWV 846 C major prelude and fugue are metamorphosed to c minor, BWV 847 c minor is changed to C major, and so on.

Scores available on Patreon































































































































































































































































































































































































Intervention


Modulation




Bach does something special with perspective in the last movement of his transcription of Pergolesi’s Stabat Mater BWV 1083: he first writes the notes of Pergolesi, then he writes the same notes again, but this time with a different key signature. The first half is in minor, the second in major.

A simple intervention that completely changes the character of the music.

I wonder if Bach's trick of changing the perspective by changing the key signature can also be applied to his two sets of preludes and fugues in all 24 minor and major keys, The Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 & 2. From sad to happy and vice versa.
That is way beyond my imagination and understanding.

But it is not beyond my ability trying to figure it out. So I made double scores; the original above a version with an adapted key signature. BWV 846 C - major prelude and fugue are  metamorphosed to c -minor, BWV 847 c - minor is changed to C - major, and so on.

Just wandering a little beyond imagination and understanding, I hope you will join me along the ride.

Fugues share structure. They start with a subject in all voices, end with a confirmation of the key, and in the middle part they modulate.

In my adaption of the Well Tempered Clavier not only is the key signature changed from major to minor and vice versa, but also are all incidental accidentals removed.

For the middle part this means that modulations enter the domain of church modi, colouring the expressed emotions in unexpected visions.

My handbook on fugues says that modulations in fugues are necessary to avoid dullness.

That has always surprised me a bit: so many brilliant tricks are unleashed on lively subjects and contrapunti and yet it is necessary to avoid boringness in the relatively short pieces?

I suspect modulations have a positive foundation, grounded in the realm of possible expressions.












Bach to basics


Picardy Third




So what would Bach have thought about this reversal of keys?

Bach was a strong harmonizer and would nod approvingly when he heard a composer applying worthwhile tricks to a subject, potential he knew instantaneously. We can delete surprise.

This was familiar territory, it's a look behind the scenes, back (bach) to basics.

My guess would be that he would at once saw which incidental accidents would strengthen, deepen and transform the renewed character of subject and counterpoint. And there would be an element of surprise: the inspirational drive to explore and express propelling the composition to new facets.

My reversed adaptions lack this completion but offers harmonic transparency. And as listener or musician who knows the original music there is this constant contrast: this is wrong but sounds right - incorporating the element of surprise by inverting the affects.

Testifies this adaptation of the mind-set of a vandal who applies his graffiti on a millennia-old Greek temple? I feel more like a little boy taking a clock apart and putting it back together. And surprise: it's ticking!

Bach loved a happy ending. In his first book of the Well Tempered Clavier there are twenty tree final chords in the minor keys with a Picardy third: a happy major harmony.

He compiled a second book twenty years later. His tendency to close positively had changed, only eleven Piardian final chords can be found in it. There is also an avoidance to speak out clearly: seven closing chords are without a defining third. (None of this happens in the first book.)

The reason for this change can be experienced: the Picardy third is something of an anomaly, deviating from what is to be expected in terms of temper. To be suddenly happy after having been so sad can be unfulfilling and unmotivated. Not impossible, but it shouldn't come out of the blue.

The inversion of the major and minor scales in this project causes the disappearance of the Picardy closure. Retentive to the blues, sticking to theory and harmonious framework it brings clarity and satisfying, acknowledging comfort.
 
It is an emotional paradox: to become happy in a minor scale music has to end sad. With a happy end in a minor key you feel sad.












Stick to Squid


Predecessor




The outstanding essay’s and videos of Timothy A. Smith have puzzled me for long: https://www.youtube.com/c/DigitalBach_NAU_Archive/videos
Timothy A. Smith

The imagery is very illustrative, and as such very clarifying structure and meaning.  As one of the possible ways of combining music and visuals I wrestled with the concepts manifested in it.

Freedom and inspiration came to me when I allowed myself to unleash the one on one illustration.

The tricks Bach uses in his music translate well into visual equivalents. Inversion, increase, decrease, stretti; the whole arsenal makes sense to depict.

Beethoven once remarked that Bach should not be called Brook (Bach) but Ocean. To explore the depth of the Ocean I choose to stick with squid. Besides from being one the most intelligent animals it manifests in so many intriguing ways.

Masters of disguise, transformers pre-eminently, with many brains, able to ink and change colour.

A part was propelled by being impressed by the dramatic series Squid Game. The combination of playful children's game and life being at stake touches somehow something elementary. It touches on what Bach's music means to me.

There is something arbitrary about Timothy A. Smith's profound and eloquent associations, but that argues for rather than against his interpretations. I think personal articulation and research are more interesting and meaningful than accounting inventories and analyses.

Of all the predecessors of Bach's Well Tempered Clavier one stands out because of its grand scale, thorough conceptual foundation and artistic craftsmanship: Vincenzo Galilei's First Book for Lute from 1584.

His music offers a rich variety of emotions, embedded in all major and minor scales.

Unlike Bach, Galilei wrote clearly about music. He promoted well temperament in his writings and in 1589 tempered a keyboard at a court in Bavaria, which was very sweet to hear.

An interesting aspect of the romanesca's in Vincenzo's compilation is that they are designed to accompany epic poetry.

Each stanza of four lines of an epic poem can verbal multiple moods. In binary reduction the succession could be for example: happy - sad - sad - happy.

The Baroque prescripts one mood in one piece of music. As a consequence a sad line can be set musically happy and vice versa.

This phenomenon can also be observed in Bach's cantatas.  Sad words set happy, happy words set sad. Death as joy, love as burden.

The contradiction at first sight does actually justice to the complexity with which we experience the world.

The effect is far from random. As a listener you can undergo puzzling meanings. Reversal of emotions is familiar territory in life. The feeling that there is (no) solid ground under your feet, that emotions have their opposite, it's all part of including art.












Fomo







Eleven chorales are traced in Bach’s famous chaconne for violin. They connect instrumental music with words and meanings.

While I enjoy reading and admiring such analyses or amazing facts about numbers in Bachs music, I also suffer from the fear of missing out on something essential as if I don't know and notice enough. My way of dealing with that is as follows.

Clever decipherment of numbers in the solo violin pieces might lead to the conclusion that Bach symbolically wrote his name and that of his family, the year of composition and loss of his wife.


I don’t feel like I miss something essential here, I already knew.
The personal data in these conclusions is not new.

Likewise in the Well Tempered Clavier Book 1 the numbers would show that Bach wrote the music and that he was a religious man.
Basic facts, to be found in many frontcovers in his own readable handwriting. 

The laborious symbolic encryption, unspectacular denouement and final caveats mean that I can ignore this.


His bookshelves housed six thousand chorales spanning centuries. Collage artist Johann Sebastian Bach quotes melodies and words of colleagues like a winking modernist.

I don't know six thousand chorales and overlook the references.

The ciaccona bears sacred vocals, which all testify in essence to death and resurrection. The main chorale framing the whole derived from Luther written in 1524. This chorale is also found in cantata BWV 4. I know that cantata.

The point I try to make here is: for learning what Bach wants to express in his instrumental music, without words, it is rewarding and fulfilling to know his vocal music.

The fear of missing out can be overcome by getting to know all of his music. Even if he cites a chorale in a part of the WTC that no one has traced yet, you might know the essence he refers to. It is not possible to know everything, you will miss many things - but it is possible to connect to Bach's essences.