Music Phenomenon/Design/Newsletter/Bach Rhythm


Was Bach
Unduly Binary?

Unduly Binary?

It may seem so considering Bach's majestic Fugue in Ebm (Volume 1, No. 8) which has several unusual characteristics:

  • First, the Fugue's subject starts right on the first beat rather than shortly after it, as Bach's fugues usually do.
  • Moreover, it is clear, listening to the subject, that it is composed of two similar phrases, each of a three 1/2-note length. However, the Fugue was written in 4/4 time and each phrase is therefore a bar and a half long, which seems to indicate that the bars should also be of a three 1/2-note length, thus in 3/2 time.
  • Also, in order to end on a first beat, these phrases should all start on the second beat. In other words, instead of starting shortly after the first beat, say an 1/8 note after the first beat, as in the Fugue in G minor, Vol. 1, No. 16 (and the Fugue in D major, Vol 2, No. 5), as Bach usually does, it would start a little later (a complete 1/2 note after the first beat).

In such a large level ternary grouping, might it not have been convenient for Bach to place it in the catch-all, convenient bars of 4/4, as he did for his Aria in the Suite in D (commonly known as the "Air For The G-string") which also starts with a three-1/2-note phrase?

What would the fugue look (and sound) like if it were written in the 3/2 time of its subject?

Check it out. Have a look, listen, compare, and tell us what you think.

More On This
You can find more information on this through's "Footsies'Jukebox" animated clips, by following other links on this page, by browsing the Newsletter pages, as well as by discovering the encyclopedic MusicNovatory web site, as well as its volume on Rhythm.

Questions, Comments, and Suggestions
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