Thursday, March 26, 2020

Bach Day #6: Pass the Popcorn

To continue with some of the levity from Day #5 (there is more "serious" Bach ahead), I'll just do a quick re-share today. I mentioned the C-sharp Major fugue from Book II of The Well-tempered Clavier yesterday. It's a piece I "discovered" a few years back when I was looking for a church postlude in D-flat Major, and I turned from the Book I fugue I'd known well to this delightfully compact, intricate romp, which is full of surprises.

When I wrote about it several years back, I quoted my blogger pianist friend Erica Sipes' vivid description: "The fugue reminds me of popcorn popping...starting with a kernel or two as the oil heats up and then speeding up as they all start popping." This image ended up playing a big role in one of my most elaborate Scratch projects, a little program that plays and plays with this fugue. You can change the tempo, change "instrument," put in temporary ritards and accelarandi, invert the whole thing, make it play with all three voices in different keys, play microtonally, etc.

The whole time it plays, popcorn kernels are randomly popping, which is a nice analogue for how little outbursts of fast notes pop up all over the score. And speaking of the score, you can switch back and forth between score view and popcorn view and, yes, when the music inverts, the score inverts as well. Honestly, I'd forgotten how much this silly little program does, which is a nice analogue for how much Bach does in this silly little fugue.

Here's a straightforward "performance" of the fugue by my program:

...and you can go to this fancy page in which the program is embedded with lots of instructions to let you create mayhem.

P.S. Bach's wig in the Scratch program is one of my better creations, by the way.

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