Questions on Fugue No. 12
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
by Johann Sebastian Bach
©2006 Timothy A. Smith

Your instructor may have referred you to this page with instructions to forward your answers to the following questions on the F minor fugue (WTC Book II). To do this you will need to enter YOUR NAME and INSTRUCTOR'S EMAIL in the spaces provided. When you have answered all of the questions, punch the "Send to Instructor" button.

         YOUR NAME: 

Before answering anything, click the following buttons to familiarize yourself  with some terms and concepts of Schenkerian graphic analysis as applied to the subject.

Background: The main notes of the subject, are represented by closed noteheads with stems. 
       These are the structural tones.  Every other pitch in the subject derives its existence and meaning
       from them. Before clicking the next button, sing the background: do - ti - fa - me.

Unfolding: The diagonal line indicates that the middle pitches, an ascending tritone (ti - fa), belong
       to the same harmony--a dominant prolongation.

1st Middleground: The structural tones are prolonged by diminutions, in this case consonant skips
       (represented by closed noteheads without stems).  The solid slurs connect consonant skips to their main
       notes. The dotted ties indicate the sustaining of a main note through consonant skips of a 3rd, above
       and below the main note.

2nd Middleground: The pitches in gray are passing notes.  These represent a second tier of diminutions
       that derives its existence and meaning from the consonant skips of the 1st Middleground. The unfolding
       symbol often implies gap fill, although its use is not dependent upon the presence of passing notes.  

Tonic Prolongation: Looking more deeply into the background, the subject is heard as a prolongation
       of the tonic by means of an upward consonant skip of a minor third (do - me).  The inner pair of notes
       therefore derives its existence and meaning from the outer. The inner tritone produces a dominant
       prolongation that is heard as neighbor notes in relation to the beginning and ending notes. The e-natural
       is a suffixed incomplete lower neighbor in relation to the first pitch, and the b-flat is a prefixed incomplete
neighbor in relation to the last pitch.  Can you appreciate how the inner pair, which was conceived
       as main notes in the background and middlegrounds, is now conceived as diminution (incomplete neighbors)
       at the deepest level.

Foreground: Now that we have identified the function of every pitch in relation to every other,
       let's restore the meter and rhythm to Bach's subject.


  1. Which of the following is true?

    Consonant skips derive their meaning from passing notes.
    Diminutions prolong structural tones in pitches of shorter duration.
    Main notes derive their meaning from diminutions.
    Unfolding necessarily involves gap fill.

  2. Which of the following is false?

    The consonant skips of the subject's first half are above and below their main notes.
    The consonant skips of the subject's second half are above and below their main notes.
    The consonant skips of the subject's second half are suffixed to their main notes.
    The consonant skips of the subject's first half are prefixed to their main notes.

  3. The 2nd Middleground represents the pitch b-flat five times.  Which option represents their functions, in order?

    main note - consonant skips - passing note
    main note - neighbor notes - consonant skip
    consonant skip - neighbor notes - main note
    consonant skip - main notes - passing note

  4. From your reading of the narrative (fugue movie), which of the following does not help us to perceive the structural tones in the subject of this fugue?


  5. Click the "Sequence" button to the left of the curtains in the fugue movie, then move the mouse horizontally to see how Bach has turned the subject into a sequence.  How many of the following are true?
    The sequence destroys the pattern of the subject.
    The sequence fragments the subject.
    Each leg of the sequence preserves the head/tail order of the subject.
    The sequence melodically inverts figures from the subject's tail.

    none of the above
    one of the above
    two of the above
    more than two of the above

  6. The subject's foreground is to its background as . . .

    Bach's skull to his tan.
    Bach's face to his skull.
    Bach's facial muscles to his face.
    Bach's tan to his facial muscles.

  7. Which of Charles Dickens's characters would say of this fugue: "Subject in f-minor, composed of 27 pitches, namely six eighths with remainder in sixteenths, five tonics and three dominants, the tonic and leading tone with immediate repetitions."

    Sissy Jupe
    Mr. Gradgrind

  8. On All Hallows Eve (our "Halloween"), Bach's family would have visited the graves of departed relatives, bringing flowers and lighting candles.  This custom came in belief that, while the body dies, the soul does not.  Which fictional statement by Bach would be most consistent with such an attitude?

    I did not cease to exist upon the last cadence of my final fugue.
    I continue to exist every time that my music is performed.
    The exhumation of my bones in the week before Halloween was a cool thing to do.
    Looking at my skull really gives me the creeps.

  9. Which simile is best?

    Fugal composition is like evolution, where one species replaces another in a
           process driven by external forces that have no awareness of what they are shaping.       
    Fugal composition is like organic growth, where an individual is transformed
           by an inner logic that existed from its beginning and is present throughout.   

  10. Imagine that the subject of this fugue is a creature with no knowledge of Bach.  It believes that every subject came into being by chance.  A roll of the dice prompts it to develop in literal repeats.  So it begins to mimic itself, ad nauseam, wondering all the while if it is a beautiful fugue. Not having Bach to decide, it proclaims itself beautiful. But, deep down, it worries that it might really be boring.   Having no way to know for sure, it feels great sadness. Our subject's world view is:


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