Questions on Fugue No. 5
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book I
by Johann Sebastian Bach
©2014 Timothy A. Smith

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  1. Nearly everything in this fugue exists in the embryonic figure of its first eight notes. This thirty-second note “flourish” can be divided into two groups of four pitches each, with motif “z” being a rising tetrachord and motif “n" being a neighbor-tone to consonant skip. The flourish comprises the subject’s head motive, with its tail motive being derived, by melodic inversion and dotted rhythmic augmentation, from which of the following?

    motif z
    motif n

  2. How many of the following are true of the fugue’s two sequential episodes (mm. 9-10 and 17-19)?

    • They exclude the subject’s tail motive.
    • They develop the whole subject.
    • They feature motif “z” in melodic inversion.
    • They feature motif “n” in rhythmic augmentation.

    Three are true.
    Two are true.
    One is true.
    None are true.

  3. How does the 2nd sequential episode (mm. 17-19) contrapuntally transform the 1st (mm. 9-10)?

    by contrapuntal inversion
    by melodic inversion
    by rhythmic augmentation
    by modal mutation

  4. What is the contrapuntal significance of m. 3?

    It is a bridge passage that connects the 3rd subject to the 2nd.
    Its modulation is essential, returning the fugue to D major.
    It contains a 2-3 suspension in the bass on beat 3.
    It contains a rhythmic augmentation of motif 'n'.

  5. Measures 20 and 24 develop the flourish:

    first in series, then in parallel motion.
    first in repetitions each a fifth lower, then in stretto.
    first in stretto, then in repetitions each a fourth higher.
    all of the above.
    two of the above.

  6. The downward scale in the bass of mm. 25-26 is development of:

    motif z by melodic inversion
    motif n by rhythmic augmentation
    the subject’s head motive
    the subject’s tail motive
    two of the above
    none of the above

  7. As represented on the timeline, the modulations of this fugue follow which pattern?

    tonic, dominant, mediant, supertonic, tonic
    tonic, subdominant, submediant, leading tone, tonic
    tonic, dominant, submediant, supertonic, tonic
    tonic, dominant, superdominant, submediant, tonic

  8. In the last paragraph the author wrote of music that has “withstood the test of time.” Of the following reasons why Bach’s music has survived this test, all valid, which one did the author NOT list?

    his inventiveness
    his ability to synthesize competing styles
    his solid mastery of counterpoint
    his craftsmanship

  9. John Eliot Gardiner believes that it reasonable to assume that for Bach, “the invention of ideas was a matter of daily experience” [1]. But by “invention” Bach didn’t mean what we do – Gardiner continues: “For him invention was an uncovering of possibilities that are already there, rather than something truly original – hence his view that anyone could do as well, provided they were industrious. God is still the only true creator.” Assume for the purpose of answering this question that you agree with Gardiner’s take on Bach’s daily life. Which of the following would Bach then have considered to exist independently of human fabrication and through which, by uncovering music that works accordingly, would he have seen himself as giving glory to the only true creator?

    rhythmic augmentation
    melodic inversion
    contrapuntal inversion
    all of the above
    none of the above

  10. If Bach indeed awoke each morning brimming with musical ideas awaiting birth, then his life was all about making choices. Should this melody go up or down, this modulation to D or A, major or minor? But once more, his conception of choice was quite the opposite of that espoused by our modern age (though few of us really live that way). To Bach it is only the skilled, motivated, experienced, disciplined, knowledgeable and creative composer who is free to make good and wise choices. But for modernity, wisdom and goodness have little or nothing to do with our valuation of choice. David Bentley Hart observes that:
    We live in an age whose chief value has been determined, by overwhelming consensus, to be the inviolable liberty of personal volition, the right to decide for ourselves what we shall believe, want, need, own, or serve. The will, we habitually assume, is sovereign to the degree that it is obedient to nothing else and is free to the degree that it is truly spontaneous and constrained by nothing greater than itself. This, for many of us, is the highest good imaginable. And a society guided by such beliefs must, at least implicitly, embrace and subtly advocate a very particular ‘moral metaphysics’: that is, the nonexistence of any transcendent standard of the good that has the power (or the right) to order our desires toward a higher end. We are, first and foremost, heroic and insatiable consumers, and we must not allow the specters of transcendent law or personal guilt to render us indecisive. For us, it is choice itself, not what we choose, that is the first good [2].

    Assume for the purpose of answering this question that Bentley Hart’s assessment of modernity is accurate and that you are now applying it to your own music making. How many of the following must also be true?

    • I am completely justified in disputing my private lesson or ensemble teacher’s musical judgments and directives, since his or her authority can’t exist on a higher plane than my own personal tastes, inclinations, autonomy, freedom of choice, and desires.

    • I'm OK with ignoring the composer's score and am at perfect liberty to play only those pitches, rhythms, tempi, and expression marks that I like and to ignore, and even destroy, others so as to satisfy my own choice in these matters.

    • Our society has no firm basis for agreeing that there is such a thing as a horrid (or good) composition or performance because (again quoting Bentley Hart): “There is no substantial criterion by which to judge our choices that stands higher than the unquestioned good of free choices itself, and that therefore all judgment, divine no less than human, is in some sense an infringement upon our freedom.”

    • A composer who is NOT committed to the limitation of his or her freedom, this limitation emanating of out of loyalty to some measure that is outside himself, to the proposition that some musical choices are good while others are bad, would probably compose music that sounds very different from this fugue. This is not to say that the difference implies agreement with the modern view of choice, but it well might.

    All are true.
    Two are true.
    One is true.
    None are true.

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1. John Eliot Gardiner, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven ( Alfred A. Knopf, 2013), p. 209. [Return]

2. David Bentley Hart, “The idolatry of choice” (Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, Yale University Press, 2009), p. 21. [Return]