Tuesday, March 31, 2020

Bach Day #11: Chaconne at a glance

[UPDATE (4/23/20): The page debuted below has been updated quite a bit, with many new navigation features. Check it out. The original version of the page referenced below is here.]

Well, it's been an exciting few days here at MMmusing, trying desperately to get this final project finished in time for Bach's "new" birthday. As I understand it, Bach's birthday was properly referred to as March 21 during his lifetime, but some sort of calendar adjustments mean that if we were to count back from now, we'd find he was born on our March 31 in 1685. And that gave me this lovely excuse to indulge in a lot of Bach blogging over these past eleven days during this odd time of quarantine. I won't deny that there's something particularly satisfying about spending time grounded in this music during times of uncertainty. (Of course, all times are uncertain.)

The project I'd most hoped to get off the ground has been bugging me since about three years ago, on Bach's old birthday, when I debuted a one-page version of the great Chaconne in D Minor. I've always found it appealing to be able to look at something monumental like this in one glance. Here's an absurdly bird's-eye view:

Absurd and wonderful. Such shape and character.

But since then, I've wanted to build a page around this image that would do something. Alas, all I have to offer is a prototype for now, but I'm pleased with where this stands since I basically had nothing as of yesterday.* I was able to build off the structure of my Musical Manipulatives (still kind of prototype stages as well), so I didn't have to reinvent the JavaScript wheel, which is good because my knowledge of JavaScript is pretty half-baked. I could tell many stories of the heartaches I experienced just in the last 24 hours getting this far, but somehow I have a workable thing. 

I don't know that it will be of much use on cellphones, and I certainly haven't yet been able to cross-test it across browsers, but on Windows Chrome, it does pretty much what I want for now. When you go to the page, you'll find a simple design (needs a little tweaking) with a play button in the upper right. Start it going and you'll see somewhat larger versions of the music in the upper frame. (Timings could also use tweaking - this was just a one-pass attempt to approximate.) Click on part of the music below and, hopefully, the outstanding performance by Ray Chen will magically jump to the correct part. That's pretty much it for now, but being able to "hold this music in virtual hands" this way is really fun.

The Lilypond-generated score(s) could use a lot of tweaking as well. Because Bach often writes up to four voices on one staff, decisions about how to show that are very tricky, and I've mostly just gone with defaults for now. So, I've got much work ahead.

But why spend more words on this now when the picture on the page linked below is worth so many more words?

Happy Birthday, Bach!


* 6 hours ago, I was pretty sure this blog post title would be "Bach Day #11: IOU," as there were some technical hurdles I didn't think I'd surmount. Also, 30 minutes ago, I was pretty sure this blog post title would be "Chaconne à Son Goût," until a quick Google search told me another Bach had made the same joke before.

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