A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet

Karol Berger

in Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow

Published by University of California Press

Published in print October 2007 | ISBN: 9780520250918
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9780520933699 | DOI:
A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet

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This chapter offers a close reading of an instrumental composition: the first fugue from the first volume of the Well-Tempered Keyboard. It shows that what is of interest in a piece of this sort is the invention of subjects capable of many interesting and varied contrapuntal treatments, rather than a specific temporal order in which such treatments occur. To be sure, a fugue combines the atemporal and the temporal, but it is the atemporal dimension that really matters. Given that music is a quintessentially temporal art, there is something peculiar in Bach's evident desire to neutralize time—to make it relatively unimportant or abolish it altogether. What matters to Bach in most of his music, whether vocal or instrumental, is not the linear flow of time from past to future, beginning to end. Rather, time is made to follow a circular route or neutralized altogether.

Keywords: Well-Tempered Keyboard; circular time; fugue; temporal art; Bach

Chapter.  5273 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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