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July 7, 2003
Vol. III, No. 20

"Giant Swirling Masses"
It doesn't matter whether I'm too hot or too tired or too distracted to feel like playing the organ, a Bach fugue never fails to win me over. Last Wednesday it was the Fantasy and Fugue in C Minor (BWV 537). At first, getting that fugue going reminded me of the plate spinners you used to see on the Ed Sullivan show. They'd set the first plate to spinning on a rod (the first entrance of the subject), then the next plate (second entrance), and so on. With a little luck and a lot of skill, they'd manage to get four or five plates spinning.

Well, it wasn't long before I had all of my plates spinning and was caught up in the moment. The 537 Fugue took on a life of its own and I couldn't help but marvel at the giant swirling mass that it had become. Having just watched Star Wars: Episode II, I suddenly knew just how Yoda felt, having levitated this heaving, roiling mass of sound into the air. And yet it wasn't chaotic. The swirling mass reflected the same natural organization you see in a swarm of bees, a flock of birds or a school of fish. It could have been the soupy cosmos that's often pictured giving birth to a solar system.

After all these years, I can't say the music of any other composer evokes these kinds of images in my mind. Bach's giant swirling masses are poetry in motion.
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Updated Pages
Composition Free Exchange:
Zoltán GÖNCZ offers a completion of the Fugue in C Minor (BWV 562:2).

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Have a great week!

Dan Long

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