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hpr1784 :: Intro to the Fugue and the Open Well-Tempered Clavier

Inspired by the release of the Open Well Tempered-Clavier, I try to explain the Fugue.

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Hosted by Jon Kulp on 2015-06-04 is flagged as Explicit and is released under a CC-BY-SA license.
Fugue, J. S. Bach, Classical Music, Creative-Commons Music, Music, Counterpoint. 11.
The show is available on the Internet Archive at:

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Duration: 00:30:26


Intro to the Fugue

This episode of HPR is inspired by the recent release of a new recording by Kimiko Ishizaka of J.S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I. This is a very special recording because it is free and open, licensed to be shared freely forever. The recording was crowdfunded and immediately released with a public license after editing. This allows for legal remixing and sharing, and also makes it perfect for stuff like I do in this episode—cutting the recordings up for inserting as musical examples and then presenting the whole thing for your listening enjoyment.

Full Show Notes

Please see the full show notes for detailed descriptions of the parts of a fugue and a few musical examples as well.



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Comment #1 posted on 2015-06-04 11:44:00 by Kevin O'Brien

Great show!

I was really glad to see this in my feed today. I have backed all three of the projects Kimiko has done. As someone who performs music as well as listens, I think the open scores are just as important as the open recordings. Now I am waiting for the Chopin to be done.

Comment #2 posted on 2015-06-04 14:27:26 by Jon Kulp

Open Scores

Thanks Kevin. I agree about the scores, although you can get just about any public-domain scores for free in PDF format from the IMSLP website. The cool thing about these new scores is that you can get the source code and edit it. For example, near the end of the semester I grabbed the Musescore file for the fugue that I talked about in this episode and converted it to Lilypond code, then added a bunch of analytical markup in the code itself, things like text boxes, labels, and different colors for the noteheads to show where the fugue subject appeared, tell what key it had modulated to, etc. With the PDF the best that I could've done would be to scribble all over it. When you have access to the source code you can do this kind of analytical markup much more elegantly. I've also taken bits of these scores and use them to create the midi examples in my counterpoint book. Great projects all around by Kimiko Ishizaka!

Comment #3 posted on 2015-06-04 14:35:19 by Robert Douglass

Lady Gaga - fan of Bach and the Well-Tempered Clavier

It's no coincidence that "artofcounterpoint" chose the Lady Gaga song "Bad Romance" to write a fugue upon. The song itself directly quotes Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 1. Compare the theme of Fugue #24 in B-Minor to this:

(I've been told that the album release of the song doesn't have the same intro).

It's Bach! Lady Gaga starts her song off directly with Bach's theme.

Comment #4 posted on 2015-06-04 18:52:07 by Jon Kulp

Gaga Bach

Robert! I didn't realize HPR was on your radar. I had planned to give you a heads-up about this episode to make sure you guys knew the Open WTC was being featured. Thanks for listening.

It's funny I never noticed Lady Gaga's quotation before. That's such a weird subject that it hardly sounds like Bach, especially done electronically like that. I see a striking similarity between the subject of the D-sharp minor fugue featured in this episode and the Lady Gaga fugue subject, but it may just be b/c of the p5 leap at the beginning and the minor mode.

Comment #5 posted on 2015-06-06 16:14:30 by Ken Fallon

Now I'm "seeing" this everythere

Thanks Jon.

The only problem is now I'm seeing these techniques everywhere.

Comment #6 posted on 2015-06-06 19:46:56 by Jon Kulp

Feature, not a bug

This is not a problem, you simply know what to call it now when you hear it. Impress your friends...

Comment #7 posted on 2015-06-07 19:29:31 by Frank

Great listening for a Sunday afternoon.

It occurred to me that, in terms of rigidity of structure etc., the fugue might be the sonnet of music.

Comment #8 posted on 2015-06-08 13:52:03 by Daniel Worth


I really enjoyed the listening, examining and explanation about the theory. I hope you do much more of this.

Comment #9 posted on 2015-06-28 17:19:25 by Alison Chaiken

Heard "Fugue for Friday"?


Thanks for a fine show, Alison

Comment #10 posted on 2015-06-28 23:33:06 by Jon Kulp

Dragnet Fugue

Alison, It's so nice to hear from you! Thanks for listening, and also thanks for the tip on that fugue. It never would have occurred to me to write a fugue on that subject. This fugue is kind of unusual inasmuch as each middle entry seems to be almost like a complete new exposition, except for the fact that the texture does not drop down to a single voice again. Certainly unusual to see all four voices do the subject in succession in the middle entries like this. Cool piece, though!

Comment #11 posted on 2015-07-08 04:10:33 by FiftyOneFifty


This comment is belated, since I meant to be on the Community News for June. Jon, since you have pulled back the curtain, I will never be able to listen to music in quite the same way again. To think I nearly skipped over this ep, and only listened due to "politeness".

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