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Bach's Cycle, Mozart's ArrowAn Essay on the Origins of Musical Modernity$
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Karol Berger

Print publication date: 2007

Print ISBN-13: 9780520250918

Published to California Scholarship Online: May 2012

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520250918.001.0001

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A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet

A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet

(p.89) 2 A Crystal Flying Like a Bullet
Bach's Cycle, Mozart's Arrow

Karol Berger

University of California Press

This chapter offers a close reading of an instrumental composition: the first fugue from the first volume of the Well-Tempered Keyboard. It shows that what is of interest in a piece of this sort is the invention of subjects capable of many interesting and varied contrapuntal treatments, rather than a specific temporal order in which such treatments occur. To be sure, a fugue combines the atemporal and the temporal, but it is the atemporal dimension that really matters. Given that music is a quintessentially temporal art, there is something peculiar in Bach's evident desire to neutralize time—to make it relatively unimportant or abolish it altogether. What matters to Bach in most of his music, whether vocal or instrumental, is not the linear flow of time from past to future, beginning to end. Rather, time is made to follow a circular route or neutralized altogether.

Keywords:   Well-Tempered Keyboard, circular time, fugue, temporal art, Bach

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