Questions on Fugue No. 17
Well-Tempered Clavier, Book II
by Johann Sebastian Bach
©2010 Timothy A. Smith

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  1. The author is drawn to the salmon story in pursuit of an answer to which of the following questions?

    Which came first, the chicken or the egg?
    What is the relationship between salmon and tall trees?
    Why was the passus duriusculus prized by 18th-century composers?
    What does the fugue's subject have to do with its countersubject?

  2. The countersubject of this fugue is to its subject as . . . 

    . . . pain is to pleasure.
    . . . an egg is to a chicken.
    . . . a leap is to a lament.
    . . . an actuality is to its potentiality.

  3. The “metaphysical constant” (of which the author writes) is that:

    Art is not a science.
    We cannot know what things are without knowing what they are not.
    The Fundamental Structure is itself the actualization of a deeper potentiality.
    "Sacred" implies holy, of divine origin, awe inspiring, worthy of reverence.

  4. The “truth” of this fugue is found in . . .

    . . . its reconciliation of opposites.
    . . . the relationship of counterpoint to harmony.
    . . . the primal idea that undergirds every actual thing in this fugue.
    . . . the internalization of beliefs consistent with our need for purpose and meaning.

  5. The assertion of Richard Dawkins, that “all life, all intelligence, all creativity and all ‘design' anywhere in the universe, is the direct or indirect product of Darwinian natural selection,” is based upon . . .

    . . . an empirical fact.
    . . . Darwin's Origin of Species.
    . . . something he believes, but cannot prove.
    . . . the marvelous explanatory power of evolution.

  6. Who might have said the following?

    "I believe in Bach as I believe in this fugue, not because I hear it,
    but because by its counterpoint I hear everything else.

    C. S. Lewis
    Richard Dawkins
    Michael Polanyi

  7. If B can't exist without A, and A can't exist without B, then:

    B came before A.
    A came before B.
    B and A are irreducibly complex.
    B and A generate each other.

  8. The author suggests that Bach balanced this fugue on the brink of calamity.  Assuming that this is the case, which of the following does NOT represent a plausible explanation for (a) why Bach attempted such a thing, and (b) the fugue nevertheless “works”? 

    The fugue is a musical Sudoku puzzle.
    The fugue is the tonal analogue of joy from sorrow.
    The subject and countersubject are the work's yin and yang.
    The fugue models a sacred balance like that between salmon and trees.

  9. Simone Weil (The Need for Roots, 1952) wrote the following:

    “The true definition of science is this: the study of the beauty of the world. (The motive of the scientist, if it is pure, must be the love of beauty.) The savant's true aim is the union of his own mind with the mysterious wisdom eternally inscribed in the universe. Scientific investigation is simply a form of religious contemplation.”

    From the foregoing quotation, one might infer that Weil would be more likely to agree with which of the following statements.

    Art is a science.
    Science is an art.
    "The alleged convergence between religion and science
           is a shallow, empty, hollow, spin-doctored sham.”
           (Richard Dawkins, The Devil's Chaplain, 2004).
    “Science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind.”
           (Albert Einstein, “Science and Religion” 1941).

  10. Respecting the relationship between this fugue's subject and countersubject, the author concludes that:

    The countersubject is heard first in time, and the subject in reply.
    The subject existed first in conception, and the countersubject in response.
    The subject and countersubject actualize the potentiality of a single pitch.
    The countersubject could not have come into existence without the subject.

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