Some Fun: in which we discover Beethoven was a hipster



So You Want to Write a Fugue?: in which Glenn Gould seems cooler than he used to

My dad sent me this video a while ago, and now and then I go back and watch it. I’m particularly fond of two spots:

1) Around 1:20 there’s a nice reference to the circle of fifths, which always seems to be inserted in Bach’s fugues too. I find them warm and comforting.

2) Around 3:55 two themes get together that up to that point had been treated independently. One is the original subject of the fugue (in minor). The other is a secondary theme (I know your thinking, “Hey! That’s Sonata-Allegro form terminology! Shame on You!” I know—you’re right, but I’m using it generically. Since I haven’t done a proper analysis, I hesitate to call it the subject of a counter exposition because I’m pretty sure it’s not). Anyhoo, this secondary theme was originally presented in minor as well, but when it’s laid in counterpoint to the original subject, it’s in major (E-flat) whilst the prime subject remains in minor (c). They are relative keys, but the subject is clearly centered on C minor while the other, given the precedent set by its earlier occurrence, clearly begins in E-flat major.

Cool, no? But not like “jazz” cool. More like “Seventeenth-Century Parody” cool.

Caveat: As a music theoretician, which I hereby decide sounds much more awesome than music theorist (or theoretical musicist, as I had been trying to coin), I have to disagree with Glenn Gould, who states over the course of the piece that if you want to write a fugue, you should forget all the theory that you’ve read and just write one. Such an idea is patently absurd. Perhaps Glenn Gould can manage that kind of methodology (or lack thereof), but the majority of us cannot. Then again, the majority of us can manage things that Glenn Gould could not, like keeping our mouths shut during a performance, so maybe it all evens out.

[This recording of So You Want to Write a Fugue? is performed here by Elizabeth Benson-Guy, Anita Darian, Charles Bressler, Donald Gramm, and the Juilliard String Quartet, according to the YouTube description.]

[EDIT: I actually googled music theoretician and it is used a few places. I’m not alone in the universe!]