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Harmony

Mastery of harmony

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 27, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote (responding to Uri):
<< By the same token ,performers definitely do need to know theirt basic harmony. Some of them might have such a good intuitive grasp that they need not study it formally; but most do need at least basic coaching. >>
< Learning harmony formally is like taking classes to learn a second language. No matter how good the tuition, the formally learnt language remains a poor substitute for the naturally acquired mother tongue. >
Agreed. That's why Bach and Couperin both taught their pupils thoroughbass before age twelve, as part of the unified craft of composition, improvisation, and performance; and that's why those pupils knew thoroughbass better than you do. Classical musicians aren't taught to think like composers and improvisers anymore, from childhood up (i.e. to think actively inside that language, as opposed to merely analyzing it), and it shows when they try to play Bach's music without that background.

<< What kind of performance would anyone produce if they don't know their tonic from their dominant? >>
< Any music lover is familiar with tonic, dominant and a wealth of other harmonic relationships (even if they can't name them). Children acquire their grammar naturally by listening to adults, enjoying books etc., before ever encountering linguistics. Likewise, great musicians will master the musical language before any harmony lessons. >
You're confusing "practical skill" with "mastery." Go up to some great pianist, even one with a doctorate in piano, and ask for an explanation why chromatic semitones are smaller than diatonic semitones. You probably won't get an answer, because pianists don't tune their own instruments, and because few are interested in (or acquainted with) the keyboard music before Bach's. Pianists know how harmonic motion behaves, just from familiarity with plenty of tonal music; but they are less likely to know (historically) what the differences were among all those temperaments where sharps are lower than the enharmonically "equivalent" flats.

Do you (Charles) know why F minor was thought of as a special key by musicians who grew up on 17th-century temperaments and their derivatives? (Big Hint: describe what is unique about F minor's interval structure, in 1/4 comma meantone; and then trace that character forward into the typical modifications, and on into well temperaments.) Do you think those unique properties of F minor influenced young Bach in his B-flat Capriccio, or Kuhnau anywhere in the Biblical Sonatas, or young
Beethoven in his first piano sonata?

A person who has mastered 18th century harmony, with direct working knowledge of all those keyboard skills (including tuning), knows why F minor stands out. A person who knows only equal-tempered keyboard instruments does not understand in the sound why it is unique, but can only observe historical usage as a curiosity.

=====

Charles, have you ever read CPE Bach's book about harmony (thoroughbass), and the extremely complex nuances of it that he learned from his father? Did you understand it? As I mentioned earlier, you said on 10/26: "Acquaintance with the inane music of Bach's sons convinces me that having JS as a teacher counts for little." Do you know of a better 18th century book about harmony than that one? (That is, do you side with the Bachs and Kirnberger, or with Rameau and Marpurg? You do know what CPE said about JS' opinion of Rameau's theories, don't you?)

=====

And some professional writers, editors, and publishers of English still haven't mastered the distinctions of the words "laid, lain, and lay" in their own mother tongue. Case in point: the mistaken usage in the second Harry Potter book. One isn't automatically an expert in a language by growing up in it; formal study of the language is still worth something.

Charles Francis wrote (October 29, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Agreed. That's why Bach and Couperin both taught their pupils thoroughbass before age twelve, as part of the unified craft of composition, improvisation, and performance; and that's why those pupils knew thoroughbass better than you do. >
It's perfectly possible to improvise counterpoint at that age without any lessons, Brad.

< Classical musicians aren't taught to think like composers and improvisers anymore, from childhood up (i.e. to think actively inside that language, as opposed to merely analyzing it), and it shows when they try to play Bach's music without that background. >
Gould, for example, was not just a performer, but also a composer.

< You're confusing "practical skill" with "mastery." Go up to some great pianist, even one with a doctorate in piano, and ask for an explanation why chromatic semitones are smaller than diatonic semitones. You probably won't get an answer, because pianists don't tune their own instruments, and because few are interested in (or acquainted with) the keyboard music before Bach's. Pianists know how harmonic motion behaves, just from familiarity with plenty of tonal music; but they are less likely to know (historically) what the differences were among all those temperaments where sharps are lower than the enharmonically "equivalent" flats. >
Ever tuned a piano, Brad?

< Do you (Charles) know why F minor was thought of as a special key by musicians who grew up on 17th-century temperaments and their derivatives? (Big Hint: describe what is unique about F minor's interval structure, in 1/4 comma meantone; and then trace that character forward into the typical modifications, and on into well temperaments.) >
Yes, I read your article on the Gould list.

< Do you think those unique properties of F minor influenced young Bach in his B-flat Capriccio, or Kuhnau anywhere in the Biblical Sonatas, or young Beethoven in his first piano sonata? >
Perhaps.

< A person who has mastered 18th century harmony, with direct working knowledge of all those keyboard skills (including tuning), knows why F minor stands out. A person who knows only equal-tempered keyboard instruments does not understand in the sound why it is unique, but can only observe historical usage as a curiosity. >
Maybe.

< Charles, have you ever read CPE Bach's book about harmony (thoroughbass), and the extremely complex nuances of it that he learned from his father? Did you understand it? As I mentioned earlier, you said on 10/26: "Acquaintance with the inane music of Bach's sons convinces me that having JS as a teacher counts for little." Do you know of a better 18th century book about harmony than that one? (That is, do you side with the Bachs and Kirnberger, or with Rameau and Marpurg? You do know what CPE said about JS' opinion of Rameau's theories, don't you?) >
Have you ever read Alfred Mann's "The Study of Fugue", Brad?

< And some professional writers, editors, and publishers of English still haven't mastered the distinctions of the words "laid, lain, and lay" in their own mother tongue. Case in point: the mistaken usage in the second Harry Potter book. One isn't automatically an expert in a language by growing up in it; formal study of the language is still worth something. >
Yes, but don't bother studying linguistics before first mastering a language.

Zev Bechler wrote (October 29, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I for one missed your F-minor article. Please, lets have it again here, Thanks,

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
Charles asked:
< Ever tuned a piano, Brad? >
Of course. Have you ever tuned harpsichords, clavichords, and pipe organs? For money?

Have you ever tuned an autoharp in meantone?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 30, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote (responding to bits and pieces from me):
< Gould, for example, was not just a performer, but also a composer. >
So, for example, am I. What's your point?

<< Do you (C) know why F minor was thought of as a special key by musicians who grew up on 17th-century temperaments and their derivatives? (Big Hint: describe what is unique about F minor's interval structure, in 1/4 comma meantone; and then trace that character forward into the typical modifications, and on into well temperaments.) >>
< Yes, I read your article on the
Gould list. >
Did you know that F minor had any special properties at all, except by hearing it from me?

And, given that you heard it from me, I'm a little surprised you believed any of it. Do you?

<< Charles, have you ever read CPE Bach's book about harmony (thoroughbass), and the extremely complex nuances of it that he learned from his father? Did you understand it? As I mentioned earlier, you said on 10/26: "Acquaintance with the inane music of Bach's sons convinces me that having JS as a teacher counts for little." Do you know of a better 18th century book about harmony than that one? (That is, do you side with the Bachs and Kirnberger, or with Rameau and Marpurg? You do know what CPE said about JS' opinion of Rameau's theories, don't you?) >>
< Have you ever read Alfred Mann's "The Study of Fugue", Brad? >
Charles, would you care to explain to us, in AT LEAST 300 words, why that would be relevant? I'd like to see if you can formulate an explanation that goes beyond your usual one-liners where you dodge
questions.

<< And some professional writers, editors, and publishers of English still haven't mastered the distinctions of the words "laid, lain, and lay" in their own mother tongue. Case in point: the mistaken usage in the second Harry Potter book. One isn't automatically an expert in a language by growing up in it; formal study of the language is still worth something. >>
< Yes, but don't bother studying linguistics before first mastering a language. >
As I pointed out here yesterday, "You're confusing 'practical skill' with 'mastery.'" A person who has working knowledge of a field goes on to study it more scientifically; not necessarily starting with mastery of it, but achieving greater mastery of it through that formal study.

Drawing on my working knowledge of English, at this point I'll say:
"Duh."

And I'll add: two of my best friends in graduate school were doctoral students in linguistics. In their admissions and graduation requirements at:
http://www.lsa.umich.edu/ling/phd/admissions.htm
http://www.lsa.umich.edu/ling/phd/reqs.htm
I don't see anything about "mastery" of any language (not even the student's native language) as a prerequisite; do you? Only the "reading proficiency" of two foreign languages, as is a general requirement of doctoral programs (including music). Here's what the harpsichord program had/has in it:
http://www.music.umich.edu/departments/piano/degree.lasso

Charles, what field have you "mastered?"

Charles Francis wrote (October 31, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote:
<< Have you ever read Alfred Mann's "The Study of Fugue", Brad? >>
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Charles, would you care to explain to us, in AT LEAST 300 words, why that would be relevant? I'd like to see if you can formulate an explanation that goes beyond your usual one-liners where you dodge questions. >
That's a "no" then.

Incidently, I believe you once mentioned performing from Moroney's KdF (BWV 1080) "Urtext" (as used in his 1985 recording). I'm curious: do you use the ornaments Bach prescribed or those of his son CPE?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 31, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote:
< That's a "no" then. >
You haven't formulated your explanation about its relevance. Therefore, I'll take it as a "no" indicating that you cannot do so, and assume that you're simply being a jerk about this, from your typically glib remarks.

As for Alfred Mann's book? Yes, I read Mann's book in college (my college library's copy, 20 years ago) although I don't currently have a copy of it. I later took a graduate course in counterpoint, where we worked directly from Fux and Albrechtsberger (which is,presumably, the reason you think this is important). That is: we WROTE fugues daily as class assignments using those rules from Fux. (And incidentally I got an A in the course, but that's probably irrelevant.) I have most of the same theoretical material here in Goetschius' Applied Counterpoint and Knud Jeppesen's Counterpoint; and for a historical survey of contrapuntal theory I have the outstanding book by Paul Walker, Theories of Fugue from the Age of Josquin to the Age of Bach.

So, in my opinion, I don't NEED to rush out and grab a copy of Mann's 45-year-old book! Do you have some specific explanation why you feel I'm incomplete without one? What does Mann's book offer that I don't already have in those three other books? Be specific!

Perhaps were you recommending Mann's book because it's the only thing you've ever studied on this topic? Oh, I shouldn't speculate like that.... But what's a guy to do? It's impossible to have an intelligent conversation with someone who never puts a single card on the table, but who merely dodges questions and spews one-liners.

< Incidently, I believe you once mentioned performing from Moroney's KdF "Urtext" (as used in his 1985 recording). I'm curious: do you use the ornaments Bach prescribed or those of his son CPE? >
I prepared my own performing edition from Moroney's and other Urtext editions (the NBA, Peter Williams', both of Wolff's, and some others), cross-checking the text in both the autograph and print versions. I settled on the Moroney publication as a decent clean text to play from--in large part because it has the most convenient page-turns! --and then amended things in it. The ornamentation I choose to play has nothing to do with CPE, in this case; nor is it the same every time I approach the piece. Nor do I believe it must be!

Do you have some mysterious source that indicates the ornamentation CPE himself played in the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080)? If so, by all means, demonstrate it to us. There would probably be some historical interest in it.

Incidentally, Moroney himself in his 1985 recording did not play his own Urtext accurately! Any musician can take some license in performance, making musical decisions that aren't certifiable by text-critical scholarship...or simply being sloppy. It happens. Does that bother you?

For lack of any better clues, I'm taking your latest question here as one of your traps: you're trying to get me to say something that would indicate I play the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) in too galant a manner. That would be (in your mind, anyway) sufficient grounds to dismiss all my opinions (about everything) out of hand, and triumphantly claim primacy for dear old Scherchen.

Meanwhile, you haven't offered--and probably can't--a shred of evidence that would show Scherchen's interpretation as anything but a personal and eccentric approach. (He WAS an effective musician who did things with plenty of conviction, granted, but that doesn't make him a scholar.) Can you find something in Scherchen's own book to support his case for his tempos or phrasing? Did Scherchen himself ever play the Art of Fugue on keyboard (as hands-on contact with all the notes is vitally important in understanding this w, since Bach was so careful to keep it playable by two hands!), or did he merely arrange and conduct it? (No matter how brilliant a conductor or an arranger are, they are still only delivering the notes by proxy. Their bodies and minds aren't as inextricably involved as a solo player must be to master this work!) Those positive Scherchen angles would be interesting things to know, and make for intelligent conversation.

Charles, why don't you focus on doing positive musical work sometime, instead of sniping idly at people who know things?

Stephen Bensen wrote (October 31, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Charles, why don't you focus on doing positive musical work sometime, instead of sniping idly at people who know things? >
Forgive my intrusion once again, but I wholeheartedly second Brad's suggestion. I would suggest, as well, Charles, that you take into consideration the following quote from Johann Joachim Quantz's 1752 treatise, "On Playing the Transverse Flute": "Music, then, is an art that must be judged not by personal whims, but by certain rules, like the other fine arts, and by good taste acquired and refined through extensive experience and practice; for those who wish to judge others should understand as much as, if not more than those they judge....Moreover, the incompetent judge always risks betraying his ignorance to others who are not of his opinion and perhaps understand more than he, and therefore may expect little gain from his judgements."

That this issue did not die easily can be seen as well in the following quote from Stravinsky, delivered almost 200 years later in his 1939/1940 Norton Lectures at Harvard, subsequently published as "Poetics of Music": "To explain myself to you is also to explain myself to myself and to be obliged to clear up matters that are distorted or betrayed by the ignorance and malevolence that one always finds united by some mysterious bond in most of the judgments that are passed upon the arts. Ignorance and malevolence are united in a single root; the latter benefits surreptitiously from the advantages it draws from the former."

Unfortunately, the nature of man being what it is, 200 years from now yet another musician will probably be penning similar sentiments. In too many areas man makes too little progress.

(Compulsive as I am, I apologize for the two variants of "judgment" in a single post. In the interests of textual accuracy, I copied them as published.)

Neil Halliday wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] My thoughts on this matter.

The Art of Fugue was intended by Bach to demonstrate just as the title suggests - namely the art of fugue.

(My BG score is mostly on four staves, suggesting, or at least allowing, performance by instruments other than a keyboard instrument.I note the lack of a 'G' or treble clef.)

I would have thought this is the very last score where any concept of a 'correct' speed is possible.

Depending on the instrumentation chosen, an artist/musician surely is confronted with an almost limitless range of possible speeds for the purpose of convincingly demonstrating Bach's art of fugue ie, for showing the art of combining subject and countersubject in a contrapuntal setting, which is the purpose of this work.

Compare this with the situation that I noticed this afternoon while listening to Rilling's 1982 BWV 36 - "Swing (soar) joyfully aloft" - and his 2000 recording of the secular original BWV 36a (opening chorus).

Both recordings are excellent; but while I feel that the earlier recording is just a little slow to allow for a real 'take-off', I find that the recent recording is so fast that any sense of joyous exhilaration is quite inhibited.

But the important point to notice is that with the cantata Bach is concerned with the expression of joy, and lightness of spirit; and the structure of the music ensures that only a limited range of tempos is possible to fulfill this purpose - Rilling is at either extremes, or past it, in the 2000 example; whereas, in the Art of Fugue, he (Bach) has a more abstract purpose in mind, leaving it up to the performer(s) to create a 'mood' - the important thing is to demonstrate the "art of fugue", whether 'clothed' in grief or joy, or lightness or solidity or 'gallantness', or anything else in between, that the conductor chooses.

Regarding an earlier discussion we had about French overture speeds, I would concede the issue is complicated by matters of historical practice and would simply admit to preferring the slower speeds of the albeit anachronistic symphonic approach, but with BWV 1080, I think it is much more difficult to postulate, from theoretical/schorlarly or other considerations, a correct speed, for the reasons outlined above.

Charles Francis wrote (October 31, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< You haven't formulated your explanation about its relevance. Therefore, I'll take it as a "no" indicating that you cannot do so, and assume that you're simply being a jerk about this, from your typically glib remarks. >
Sniping noted, Brad! Did I mention, the ad hominem is a fallacy?

< As for Alfred Mann's book? Yes, I read Mann's book in college (my college library's copy, 20 years ago) although I don't currently have a copy of it. I later took a graduate course in counterpoint, where we worked directly from Fux and Albrechtsberger (which is, presumably, the reason you think this is important). That is: we WROTE fugues daily as class assignments using those rules from Fux. (And incidentally I got an A in the course, but that's probably irrelevant. >
No need to prove yourself, Brad. Did I mention, the argument from authority is a fallacy?

< I have most of the same theoretical material here in Goetschius' Applied Counterpoint and Knud Jeppesen's Counterpoint; and for a historical survey of contrapuntal theory I have the outstanding book by Paul Walker, Theories of Fugue from the Age of Josquin to the Age of Bach. >
Glad to hear that, Brad. I also have Jeppesen's book (and Fux).

< So, in my opinion, I don't NEED to rush out and grab a copy of Mann's 45-year-old book! Do you have some specific explanation why you feel I'm incomplete without one? What does Mann's book offer that I don't already have in those three other books? Be specific! >
I only asked if you had read the book, Brad. And do note that Jeppesen's book was published in 1931.

< Perhaps were you recommending Mann's book because it's the only thing you've ever studied on this topic? Oh, I shouldn't speculate like that.... But what's a guy to do? It's impossible to have an intelligent conversation with someone who never puts a single card on the table, but who merely dodges questions and spews one-liners. >
Did I mention, the ad hominem is a fallacy, Brad?

< I prepared my own performing edition from Moroney's and other Urtext editions (the NBA, Peter Williams', both of Wolff's, and some others), cross-checking the text in both the autograph and print versions. I settled on the Moroney publication as a decent clean text to play from--in large part because it has the most convenient page-turns! --and then amended things in it. The ornamentation I choose to play has nothing to do with CPE, in this case; nor is it the same every time I approach the piece. Nor do I believe it must be! >
Interesting that you don't feel any compulsion to use Bach's own ornaments, though. Especially, given your compulsion to play Bach at the "correct" tempo.

< Do you have some mysterious source that indicates the ornamentation CPE himself played in the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080)? If so, by all means, demonstrate it to us. There would probably be some historical interest in it. >
Moroney's preface lists both J.S. and C.P.E.'s ornaments.

< Incidentally, Moroney himself in his 1985 recording did not play his own Urtext accurately! Any musician can take some license in performance, making musical decisions that aren't certifiable by text-critical scholarship...or simply being sloppy. It happens. Does that bother you? >
When dealing with musicians of Moroney's calibre, one can certainly make allowances, Brad.

< For lack of any better clues, I'm taking your latest question here as one of your traps: you're trying to get me to say something that would indicate I play the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) in too galant a manner. That would be (in your mind, anyway) sufficient grounds to dismiss all my opinions (about everything) out of hand, and triumphantly claim primacy for dear old Scherchen. >
Do you perhaps play chess?

< Meanwhile, you haven't offered--and probably can't--a shred of evidence that would show Scherchen's interpretation as anything but a personal and eccentric approach. (He WAS an effective musician who did things with plenty of conviction, granted, but that doesn't make him a scholar.) Can you find something in Scherchen's own book to support his case for his tempos or phrasing? Did Scherchen himself ever play the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) on keyboard (as hands-on contact with all the notes is vitally important in understanding this work, since Bach was so careful to keep it playable by two hands!), or did he merely arrange and conduct it? (No matter how brilliant a conductor or an arranger are, they are still only delivering the notes by proxy. Their bodies and minds aren't as inextricably involved as a solo player must be to master this work!) Those positive Scherchen angles would be interesting things to know, and make for intelligent conversation. >
When theory conflicts with practice, its of little value, Brad. Let's not forget, CPEs remark that his father was no lover of dry theoretical stuff.

< Charles, why don't you focus on doing positive musical work sometime, instead of sniping idly at people who know things? >
Where is the alleged sniping, Brad? And how ironic coming from one who snipes so often!

John Pike wrote (October 31, 2003):
[To Chales Francis] This is becoming very tiresome.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 31, 2003):
Charles Francis wrote:
< Did I mention, the argument from authority is a fallacy? >
That didn't stop you from starting this thread, where you asserted that my interpretation of Contrapunctus 4 is (supposedly) wrong because of the (allegedly greater) authority of Scherchen's 1949 recording.

< Did I mention, the ad hominem is a fallacy, Brad? >
Did I mention that musicology is an empirical science, Charles? Instead of whining about the occasional lapses in my methods of presenting an argument against you, why don't you grapple with the substance of the material I presented? You have been asserting repeatedly that harmonic analysis has no place in the determination of tempo, and in response I presented an array of techniques and counter-examples showing that your assertion is wrong.

But you haven't dealt with that, in substance; all you've done is complain that my occasional exasperation with you has pushed me into "argument from authority" and "ad hominem" methods of expressing my displeasure, as if pointing out my slip wins the argument for you.

You've also overreacted to my point about harmonic rhythm, turning it into a "straw man" to be knocked down. But I have never said that harmonic analysis yields any specific mathematical tempo; only that it is a valid and major clue (along with other factors) to recognizing what the basic beat level of a piece is, and that it correlates with the meter signature.

Deal with the *@#*#%@ point, and try to show how Scherchen's projection of the crotchet as the basic beat of Contrapunctus 4 is more correct (by musicological evidence!) than my derivation of the minim as its beat. Use positive evidence. Address the issue instead of dodging it.

As for the authority issue, your strategy has been to (try to) knock down the insights of Bach's own sons and pupils, and even directly to impugn Bach's ability to teach. (Quoting you: "Acquaintance with the inane music of Bach's sons convinces me that having JS as a teacher counts for little." And, even though Kirnberger was one of the most vehement Bach-supporters of all time, arguing for Bach's supremacy long after fashions had changed, you dismiss Kirnberger's opinions about meter as merely "A remark indicative of Rococo performance practice, no doubt.") Whenever authoritative evidence is inconvenient to you, you dodge it or try to discredit the authority part of it instead of grappling with its substance. That's anti-science and anti-intellectualism. If you're so eager to have an opponent follow the rules of scientific discourse, why don't you follow them yourself?

< Interesting that you don't feel any compulsion to use Bach's own ornaments, though. Especially, given your compulsion to play Bach at the "correct" tempo. >
Interesting that your "authority" figure, Scherchen, didn't feel any compulsion to present the whole piece on a keyboard instrument, or listen to the interpretive clues that such an enterprise offers.

<< Do you have some mysterious source that indicates the ornamentation CPE himself played in the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080)? If so, by all means, demonstrate it to us. There would probably be some historical interest in it. >>
<
Moroney's preface lists both J.S. and C.P.E.'s ornaments. >
Read my question again. Did CPEB prescribe those ornaments specifically for a performance of the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080)? No. Did JSB? No. Do we know how CPEB himself played the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080)? No, unless you have something you haven't told us.

If you've looked at Moroney's two tables there, you'd know that the only substantial difference between the JSB column and the CPE column is the labels; and in performance it does not matter at all what an ornament is called (e.g. "Doppelt-Cadence" vs "Triller von unten", or "Cadence" vs "Doppelschlag"). Ornament tables are not prescriptions of an exact number of notes to be played in some fixed meter, for any given piece of music, but rather to teach a student the basic shapes of them: which auxiliary notes to use, where the turn-arounds are, where they start, and approximately how many wiggles they have in them.

Look at those two columns of examples, and you'll see that the notes in those ornaments are the same, melodically! Yes, several of CPE's examples have one more wiggle in them, but so what? Their substantial features are exactly the same, such that the musical sign gives the same musical result to both JSB and CPEB. I think it's more remarkable here that the two tables by these master musicians are so similar, than to count the wiggles pedantically or whine about the labels.

A real musician, confronted with an ornament sign, does not go to some ornament table (ranked according to pedigree) and pedantically copy exactly that number of notes, in exactly that rhythm, back into his score. Rather, he uses the ornament table and all other clues as context to figure out an appropriate shape and effect there, and then focuses on playing that gesture.

[Analogy: when I use the ornamental word "blinking" to enhance the phrase "stick to the blinkingsubstance of the argument!", the important thing is not the classification of that word as "gerund" or "present participle" or "interjection," or even the inflection of pronouncing it "blinking" vs "blinkin'". The important thing is _that_ an ornament is used to change the flow of the phrase, and to emphasize the word "substance." And I would use a stronger word than "blinking" there if we weren't in polite company. As another example above, I wrote: "Deal with the *@#*#%@ point." As the composer of that phrase, I'd accept any suitable ornament there as interpretation of *@#*#%@" and I don't care much how it's pronounced. I'm not going to supply an ornament table.]

<< For lack of any better clues, I'm taking your latest question here as one of your traps: you're trying to get me to say something that would indicate I play the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080) in too galant a manner. That would be (in your mind, anyway) sufficient grounds to dismiss all my opinions (about everything) out of hand, and triumphantly claim primacy for dear old Scherchen. >>
< Do you perhaps play chess? >
Why would that be relevant?

Charles, which musical instrument(s)--if any--do you play? Where did you study, when, and for how long? What practical experience do you have performing any of Bach's music, either solo or along with competent colleagues?

These are straightforward questions. If we're going to have intelligent conversation here, it would be nice to know what if anything is behind your facade, your "Knights of Ni" costume.

If you're at all equipped to deal with the #@%#@%& substance of the music, and the @#%*@%&@#%&@#^%@#% substance of musicological argument, having some practical mastery beyond citing theoretical stuff from books ("argument from authority!"), by all means let's see it. All your laconic comments short of that are merely insubstantial sniping. If I snipe back at you occasionally, from exasperation, it's just giving back what you've dished out, and descending to your level of discourse. (And for that, I apologize to the other members here.)

If you're not going to present a substantial defense of Scherchen's interpretation, or a substantial response about the appropriateness of harmonic analysis in Bach's music, or a substantial argument about Bach being an incompetent teacher, or a substantial method of determining tempo in Bach's music, why are we discussing any of this? I agree with John Pike: "This is becoming very tiresome." Why should I present any points about the musical craft or musicological knowledge, if an anti-intellectual sniper is just waiting to shoot at them with insubstantial ammunition?

Charles Francis wrote (November 1, 2003):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< That didn't stop you from starting this thread, where you asserted that my interpretation of Contrapunctus 4 is (supposedly) wrong because of the (allegedly greater) authority of Scherchen's 1949 recording. >
Another falsehood, Brad. Did I mention that the straw-man argument is a fallacy? I actually wrote:

"Then, IMO, you are corrupting the affectation of #4. Have you heard the Scherchen '49 recording?"

See: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/10966

"IMO" is explained at: http://www.rc3.org/archive/imo/

Apparently, it angers you that I have a different opinion from your good self. But, I'm afraid, this is a feature of the Western world (and discussion groups) that you must live with.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 1, 2003):
[To Charles Francis] Charles, your point comes across as this:
- Scherchen's "affectation" of the music is correct (in your opinion);
- Lehman's interpretation is a "corruption".

Q.E.D.

Now, why don't you address the substantive issue of the minim beat vs the crotchet beat in Contrapunctus 4, to show why you believe Scherchen was correct and why Lehman is supposedly "corrupted"?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] Have you tried the one in the Henle Verlag?

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] He might not have played it, but he certainly published, edited, and printed it.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 2, 2003):
In reference to: http://groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/11138
David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote:
< Have you tried the one in the Henle Verlag? >
David, the Henle-Verlag is Moroney's edition of the Art of Fugue (BWV 1080), the printed edition that we've been talking about.

Stephen Benson wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut] It would be considerate to list members were you to be more specific by selecting and including only the exact section of the message to which you are responding. The following is an example.

You refer to "he" and "it". There are lots of "he's" and "it's" in the loooooong message to which you are responding. Searching out the appropriate antecedents and what issue you are addressing requires unnecessary time and effort, and often becomes maddeningly challenging. ( I must apologize. I only have a B.A. in history and an M.A. in intellectual and cultural history.) Rather than copy an entire message, you could simplify things immeasurably by being more selective in what you include.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (November 2, 2003):
[To Bradley Lehman] I didn't know. The copy I have seen makes no mention of Moroney at all.

Bradley Lehman wrote (November 3, 2003):
[To David Glenn Lebut Jr.] Well, that explains a lot. It "makes no mention" of him (the editor who was responsible for all that work), or you just didn't notice that detail? David, be honest.

From the way you miss details everywhere else, and then claim they don't exist, I'll assume the latter. Details are important, I hope you understand...especially if one is going to offer vast sweeps and explanations of music history, as you do. Your enterprise is admirable, as is your enthusiasm, but your command of facts is...well...um, deficient. In your mind you've conflated historical information in some VERY strange ways, leaping over material and logical connections that you really should take a look at, instead of assuming you know. (And that's a nice way of putting it.)

I'm very weary of offering corrections, and probably more to the point, everybody else here is probably even more weary of reading or deleting them. This certainly isn't worth my time and energy.......

That little automated line on each posting, "To unsubscribe from this group, send an email..." is looking more and more tempting to me every day. I already followed through with it from the BachCantatas list a few months ago, weary of the viciously anti-intellectual climate and the pontification by people "teaching" the group things they don't understand themselves. I really do have better things to work on, and can't justify the energy and time I've been putting in (i.e. "wasting") here.

Anyway, my baby has just awakened and it's time for her dinner. And I have some projects for pay that need my attention, as well. If I don't post anything for the next week (at least), don't be surprised.

Santu de Silva wrote (November 3, 2003):
Steve Benson writes:
>> Brad Lehman wrote: < Charles, why don't you focus on doing positive musical work sometime, instead of sniping idly at people who know things? >
Forgive my intrusion once again, but I wholeheartedly second Brad's suggestion. I would suggest, as well, Charles, that you take into consideration the following quote from
Johann Joachim Quantz's 1752 treatise, "On Playing the Transverse Flute": "Music, then, is an art that must be judged not by personal whims, but by certain rules, like the other fine arts, and by good taste acquired and refined through extensive experience and practice; for those who wish to judge others should understand as much as, if not mthan those they judge....Moreover, the incompetent judge always risks betraying his ignorance to others who are not of his opinion and perhaps understand more than he, and therefore may expect little gain from his judgements." That this issue did not die easily can be seen as well in the following

quote from Stravinsky, delivered almost 200 years later in his 1939/1940 Norton Lectures at Harvard, subsequently published as "Poetics of Music": "To explain myself to you is also to explain myself to myself and to be obliged to clear up matters that are distorted or betrayed by the ignorance and malevolence that one always finds united by some mysterious bond in most of the judgments that are passed upon the arts. Ignorance and malevolence are united in a single root; the latter benefits surreptitiously from the advantages it draws from the former." Unfortunately, the nature of man being what it is, 200 years from now yet another musician will probably be penning similar sentiments. In too many areas man makes too little progress. <<<
A wonderful message, interesting in many ways.

Once again I cringe at the raised hackles on the list. I know this is not a valid issue, but many people on mailing lists have little connection to the world than those lists. this means that we must not only be careful when expressing strong emotions, we must also be understanding when we see it.

Stravinsky's opinions are very common among educated musicians, and echoes of it are found among practitioners of every art and in every discipline. (I detest mathematical amateurs who are obsessed with the golden ratio, for instance.)

So, exhorting everyone to more tolerance, let's keep writing!

 

Bach's "weird" harmonizations

Continue of discussiuon from: Cantata BWV 16 - Discussions

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 7, 2007):
< I take daily inspiration from the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle (dare I say HUP?), as well as from listening to Bach.
Are those inspirations incompatible? Perhaps Bach's weirdest, most 'inharmonious' harmonies, were pointing toward uncertainty. Or as Doug suggests, they were ongoing modal accommodations, in transition for a long time.
I can join in support for 'harmony of nature and nurture'. A question of balance. >
I'm fascinated by the way Bach's "weird" or "inharmonious" harmonizations turn out to have excellent melodic voice-leading among the parts. Each line has its own melodic integrity, and if they rub against another occasionally in transit, so be it. Things don't always have to be recognizable (or harmonically-analyzable) chords according to typical principles. The balance is between counterpoint and harmony.

Ed Myskowski wrote (September 8, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] I wish I had thought to say that.

Russell Telfer wrote (September 8, 2007):
Extracts cobbled, with thanks, from Ed Myskowsky ...

Brad Lehman wrote: (quoted by Ed)
<< Are those inspirations incompatible? Perhaps Bach's weirdest, most 'inharmonious' harmonies, were pointing toward uncertainty. >>
<< Or as Doug suggests, they were ongoing modal accommodations, in transition for a long time. >>
(Brad again)
<< I'm fascinated by the way Bach's "weird" or "inharmonious" harmonizations turn out to have excellent melodic voice-leading among the parts. Each line has its own melodic integrity, and if they rub against another occasionally in transit, so be it. Things don't always have to be recognizable (or harmonically-analyzable) chords according to typical principles. The balance is between counterpoint and harmony. >>
I've been studying some really weird harmonisation in the flute sonata, BWV 1034, the final Allegro.

Just before the 1st section repeat, and again in the last 4 bars, the accompaniment goes through a bizarre sequence of momentary modulations which encompass many remote keys including one from F major to the dominant of E minor, the home key. But meanwhile the flute carries a line that does not falter until it reaches its conclusion.

My intuitive feeling about this was that JSB was becoming restive and wanted to draw attention to himself at the keyboard. A kind of Look At Me moment. I just think those few bars are an absolute show stopper.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 8, 2007):
Russell Telfer wrote:
< Just before the 1st section repeat, and again in the last 4 bars, the accompaniment goes through a bizarre sequence of momentary modulations which encompass many remote keys including one from F major to the dominant of E minor, the home key. But meanwhile the flute carries a line that does not falter until it reaches its conclusion.
My intuitive feeling about this was that JSB was becoming restive and wanted >

Russell--I don't have the score immediately to hand and am going on memory--but do you actually mean the E minor sonata (which was, I think no 5 of the set of six) or the really weird one in B minor with a last movement of incredible rhythmic complexity?

Talking of weird I've just been looking at cantata BWV 102/3 coming up on list later this year quite breathtaking. The oboe notes picking out Db and E naturals (it's in F minor) later taken up by the alto, to be very strange for the period--although extremely effective as always. Can't help thinking that the congregations of the day might have been rather bemused by this particular movement. Wonder what list members think of it

Russell Telfer wrote (September 8, 2007):
Julian Mincham wrote:
re the E minor flute sonata BWV 1034
< Russell--I don't have the score immediately to hand and am going on memory--but do you actually mean the E minor sonata (which was, I think no 5 of the set of six) or the really weird one in B minor with a last movement of incredible rhythmic complexity? >
There are some problems with these flute sonatas. They may equally well have been used for violin. One or two of the sonatas are spurious, probably BWV 1033, but I like them all. Certainly I think there has been past doubts about the numbering and provenance of the sonatas. The E minor one, BWV 1034, I think is genuine. The B minor one you mention is probably BWV 1030, which is a showpiece. This is lengthy, elaborate, has many secondary themes and superb fugal counterpoint in the third movement. It has attracted admiration from many commentators and is difficult for the two soloists to play!

< Talking of weird I've just been looking at cantata BWV 102/3 coming up on list later this year quite breathtaking. The oboe notes picking out Db and E naturals (it's in F minor) later taken up by the alto, to be very strange for the period--although extremely effective as always. Can't help thinking that the congregations of the day might have been rather bemused by this particular movement. Wonder what list members think of it >
Following your post, I looked at BWV 102/3. You're right about the uncertain harmony. It reminded me of BWV 56 (I would willingly bear the Cross). It seems to be built harmonically on a diminished seventh, and to be constructed to allow uncertainty in what follows. Actually F minor variously allows C, Db, D natural, Eb and E natural as paid up members of the scale, but as you say, the whole tonal scheme is adventurous to say the least.

I felt though that in this movement, Bach had created his structure and used it consistently right through, whereas (I argue) in the last movement of the E minor flute sonata there are only 16 bars (4 batches of 4 bars repeated and varied) of really crazy harmony as the first section, and then the final section, come to an end.

- and yes, the congregations would be bemused by his display of brilliance. I can feel for him. He was too clever for them. Sometimes he's too clever for us!

Julian Mincham wrote (September 9, 2007):
Thanks Russell I'll try to get hold of the sonata you mention.

I thought I had played them all but this one seems to have fallen through the net.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2007):
<< Russell--I don't have the score immediately to hand and am going on memory--but do you actuallymean the E minor sonata (which was, I think no 5 of the set of six) or the really weird one in B minor with a last movement of incredible rhythmic complexity? >>
< There are some problems with these flute sonatas. They may equally well have been used for violin. One or two of the sonatas are spurious, probably BWV 1033, but I like them all. Certainly I think there has been past doubts about the numbering and provenance of the sonatas. The E minor one, BWV 1034, I think is genuine. The B minor one you mention is probably BWV 1030, which is a showpiece. This is lengthy, elaborate, has many secondary themes and superb fugal counterpoint in the third movement. It has attracted admiration from many commentators and is difficult for the two soloists to play! >
We played BWV 1030 last night in a concert, using Baroque violin and chamber organ, and from the earlier G minor version (where only the keyboard part survives). It worked marvelously that way. But there are spots on almost every page of the first movement where the harmonization (if one can call it that) is un-analyzable, except as the confluence of three extremely chromatic melodies all going at once. Third and fourth movements, more of the same. And the second movement makes a nice contrast, being simpler but still pretty much souped-up harmonically. We both improvised reduced versions on the first time through, and then played Bach's fully written-out ornamentation on the repeats. Wonderful music. We'll play it all again on Oct 14 with harpsichord.

Right before that sonata, last night, I played the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903). This was also on that little chamber organ, and with the Bach temperament on it. The modulations are stunning.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2007):
< We played BWV 1030 last night in a concert, using Baroque violin and chamber organ, and from the earlier G minor version (where only the keyboard part survives). It worked marvelously that way. >
I should mention also the citation for this; it wasn't us trying anything cavalier here. I got the idea from reading Joshua Rifkin's newest book-length article, published 2007: "The B Minor Flute Suite Deconstructed: New Light On Bach's Ouverture BWV 1067". From its pages 54 to 68 Rifkin discusses the other allegedly flute pieces, and the sonata BWV 1030 figures prominently in there: as being originally for violin and keyboard, not a woodwind and keyboard. Specifically for the background of 1030 as a violin piece, he cites an article by Klaus Hofmann that I haven't read yet, but plan to: "Auf der Suche nach der verlorenen Urfassung".

All of this is in the book Bach Perspectives 6, edited by Gregory Butler, 2007 University of Illinois.

We're not making an academic argument for organ as the keyboard instrument for this sonata, but it did work perfectly. (We used organ because that's what we rented for the gig, an all-round survey of 17th and 18th century violin sonatas; harpsichord on October 18th for another take on all the same pieces. I'll probably use just a single 8 on harpsichord for the whole thing.) We used 8+4 flutes for movement 1, 8 flute for movement 2, 8+2 for movement 3, and added the 4 for 8+4+2 in movement 4. The 8 and 4 were stopped flutes, and the 2 an open principal. Obviously I had to take a few notes of the left hand up an octave where they would go off the end of the keyboard!

Russell Telfer wrote (September 10, 2007):

Brad Lehman wrote:
<< We played BWV 1030 last night in a concert, using Baroque violin and chamber organ, and from the earlier G minor version (where only the keyboard part survives). It worked marvelously that way. >>
I would love to have been there. Personally I can't give an academic response to your analysis, but when you say,
< We're not making an academic argument for organ as the keyboard instrument for this sonata, but it did work perfectly. (We used organ because that's what we rented for the gig, an all-round survey of 17th and 18th century violin sonatas; harpsichord on October 18th for another take on all the same pieces.) >
I'd reply - take two (in this case) musicians of quality, give them instruments of choice and let them loose, and you could have a wonderful evening. Violin and flute can give their distinct voices to scores like BWV 1030, and as you say, the organ can do the job perfectly as well.

In your other post, you reminded us about the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903). I've lost my score, but I used to try and play it. Fascinating.

Joel Figen wrote (September 10, 2007):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
< Right before that sonata, last night, I played the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903). This was also on that little chamber organ, and with the Bach temperament on it. The modulations are stunning >
Yay. I've played it on synthesizers and organs too, and it work great on a yamaha DX7, in case you ever have the pleasure. I used patches that suggested (but didn't really sound very much like) various baroque keyboards.

This is where I developed my theory that the last half (or so) of the Fantasy is intended as a grand and humorous parody of an operatic mad scene culminating in death -- a fairly slow death, perhaps by poison rather than trauma, long enough for a really plaintive arioso, after attracting and then losing love (the duet section), then running all over the stage (on a single breath) and indulging in delusions of grandeur. In a lot of places the modulations seem to follow the voice into a different key rather than giving the pitch to the singer as would happan in real life... (On the other hand there ARE singers like THAT, and for this reason I suggest equal temperament (tm) for all accompaniment work) Joel ps I wonder how well it matches Kuebler-Ross's 5 stages?

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 9, 2007):
About the Chromatic Fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903):
< This is where I developed my theory that the last half (or so) of the Fantasy is intended as a grand and humorous parody of an operatic mad scene culminating in death -- a fairly slow death, perhaps by poison rather than trauma, long enough for a really plaintive arioso, after attracting and then losing love (the duet section), then running all over the stage (on a single breath) and indulging in delusions of grandeur. >
That's one convincing interpretation, yes.

By contrast, Bach's similarly chromatic fantasia BWV 922 seems to be more straightforward: a vigorous session of rogering with Maria Barbara, perhaps. Those sudden and gasping Neapolitans near the end, accelerating!

Peter Smaill wrote (September 11, 2007):
[To Bradley Lehman] The mention of the Chromatic fantasy and Fugue reminds me, if my memory is correct , of a televised interview with Glenn Gould who confessed- to my surprise- that although he had often played and recorded the piece, he did not actually like it, preferring the WTC and virtually all of the rest of the keyboard canon. Does anyone else remember this extraordinary statement?

Trying to find this reference I picked up that Gould was related through his mother to Edvard Greig, who in turn descended from Scots immigrants. It is sometimes joked that Greig is both Norway and Scotland's greatest composer!

Another challenge for the geneticists here as if the Bach family were not enough.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< Trying to find this reference I picked up that Gould was related through his mother to Edvard Greig, who in turn descended from Scots immigrants. It is sometimes joked that Greig is both Norway and Scotland's greatest composer! >
And he had an affair with the wife of Lukas Foss.

Julian Mincham wrote (September 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The mention of the Chromatic fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) reminds me, if my memory is correct , of a televised interview with Glenn Gould who confessed- to my surprise- that although he had often played and recorded the piece, he did not actually like it, preferring the WTC and virtually all of the rest of the keyboard canon. Does anyone else remember this extraordinary statement? >
I had forgotten, but now you remind me it rings a bell. It may have been one of the 1960s interviews with Humphrey Burton.

I may well be wrong but at the back of my mind is a dim recollection of the fact that it was the fantasia he objected to rather than the fugue??? And that because he didn't feel that chromatic slidings of dim 7ths and similar chords amounted to the same level of invention to be found in other works, particularly the WTC??

But I am working from memory, a dangerous thing to do, and am ready to be corrected.

Bradley Lehman wrote (September 11, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The mention of the Chromatic fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) reminds me, if my memory is correct , of a televised interview with Glenn Gould who confessed- to my surprise- that although he had often played and recorded the piece, he did not actually like it, preferring the WTC and virtually all of the rest of the keyboard canon. Does anyone else remember this extraordinary statement? >
It's one of Gould's scripted (pseudo-spontaneous) pieces of film with Bruno Monsaingeon, c1979, total a smidge over 9 minutes. I just watched it again for old times' sake. Gould plays about half of the fantasia, perfunctorily and at top speed, then stops and talks about how much he hates it as a "monstrosity". Then he demonstrates to an adoring Monsaingeon how the middle improvisatory section sounds like old horror film music, evoking Peter Lorre et al, and explaining that he himself (Gould) has made up the figuration he played, talking over it constantly while he plays again. He also remarks, "When you've heard one diminished chord you've heard them all." Monsaingeon exhorts him to finish the piece from that point forward. Gould says (again) that this is his "first and last" performance of the fantasy. At the end he quips, "This is Bach for people who don't like Bach." And that's the end. He doesn't bother to play the fugue.

There's a Sony CD issue of only the fantasy, no fugue, recorded in studio October 11 1979. I've compared it with the film version, and it's not the same performance. So much for Gould's "first and last performance" assertion! His realization of the improvised section here is much more creative than the simple up-and-down stuff he did in the Monsaingeon film. Worth hearing, IMO, although I can't honestly say that I'm very fond of it overall.

A more charitable analysis of the piece is in Joseph Kerman's recent book The Art of Fugue.

Stephen Benson wrote (September 12, 2007):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The mention of the Chromatic fantasy and Fugue (BWV 903) reminds me, if my memory is correct , of a televised interview with Glenn Gould who confessed- to my surprise- that although he had often played and recorded the piece, he did not actually like it, preferring the WTC and virtually all of the rest of the keyboard canon. Does anyone else remember this extraordinary statement? >
I couldn't immediately find the original source, but the following passage appears in Otto Friedrich's Gould biography, in reference to one of the taped interviews Gould did with Bruno Monsaingeon:

"And sometimes Gould taught more than he realized. Monsaingeon happened to mention, in Gould's script, the beautiful Chromatic Fantasy, and Gould proceeded to denounce it in the most extreme terms.
Monsaingeon: You mean that you don't like it?
Gould: Oh, I quite cordially hate it.
Gould went on to call this masterpiece 'a monstrosity,' to declare that its harmony 'wanders all over the lot' (shouldn't fantasies wander?), and even to ridicule its emotional intensity. 'If Hitchcock had been working in the eighteenth century,' Gould jeered, 'Bach would have been working full-time on the Universal lot, writing backgrounds, for sure. I mean, can't you see Peter Lorre or Vincent Price sitting at the manual organ...as the clock strikes midnight?' Gould then proceeded to play this splendid piece ('My first and last performance of any part of the Chromatic Fantasia') in much the same way that he played the despised sonatas of Mozart, much too fast, with great contempt, and with virtually no sense of the beauties that he was racing through." (pp. 231-232)

 

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