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Opposition as a guiding principle for performance in J.S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge Florence, Dominic

Abstract

In standard fugal analysis, too much time is spent naming sections and simply describing events as they occur. The misleading labels (such as "episode") create problems by implying levels of importance where none exist. These analyses will only hinder performances by emphasizing form instead of process. Also, the variety that is possible between different fugues is not suggested by textbook analyses; in fact, they attempt to fit each fugue in to one specific mould. By studying Contrapuncti 1, 2, 3 and 5 from J. S. Bach’s Die Kunst der Fuge, this document will show that greater understanding of each fugue can be gained by a different method of analysis. This new analysis will focus on processes and rates of change in rhythmic density, modulatory sections, and other aspects that provide insight to levels and changes in intensity (for example, the harmonic reinterpretation of each statement of the subject). A more sensitive approach to distances between keys and the affects of contrast will also be discussed. To achieve insight to these disparate elements, the all-encompassing notion of opposition will be used. Opposition is a basic concept that can be applied in many ways and on many different levels simultaneously. All of the conclusions drawn will be directed toward establishing a perceptive performance of fugue.

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