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from the [BACH-LIST]: Baroque 'rules'
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- Subject: from the [BACH-LIST]: Baroque 'rules'
- From: jerry and judy <email@example.com>
- Date: Wed, 7 Apr 1999 08:53:49 -0600
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Date: Tue, 06 Apr 1999 20:07:18 -0400
From: Mike Flemmer <mikejf@FREEWWWEB.COM>
Subject: [BACH-LIST] Baroque 'rules'
Sender: JS Bach and other Early and Baroque Music List
Reply-to: JS Bach and other Early and Baroque Music List
Seems to me that Bach followed compositional 'rules' at least
95 percent of the time. Things like:
(1) avoid parallel 5ths,
(2) avoid using a sequence more than three times in a row,
(3)avoid over-lapping voices, etc...
Bach broke every 'rule'- but only in the most inconspicuous
way, that is if he broke a 'rule' it would be in a manner that
was not blatant, but somewhat obscure. (except those
pieces that break the rules on purpose for outrageous effect).
Ornamentation certainly has many 'rules' that again, Bach
followed. Breaking an ornamentation 'rule' even today is very
risky and better be good- else the critics will be relentless.
Was it C.P.E. Bach that wrote a keyboard technique book?
Every page has some kind of fingering 'rule' or technique
considered essential in order to master the Baroque keyboard.
The student of Baroque music can make a choice- figure things
out haphazardly on one's own, basically re-inventing the wheel,
or, follow the 'rules' (really guidelines) that the masters of
Baroque created. After all, they created the music.
Even Glenn Gould is following the keyboard rules most of
the time, as much as he wanted you to think he was playing
in a new way- he really wasn't. He was following the rules
95 percent of the time. (I'm not fooled by his unusual
mannerisms one bit, which are nothing more than distractions
when for some reason a lot of people think his mannerisms
are proof of genius.)
Apparently Bach saw no need to write a book on theory
or composition. Maybe Bach thought his music was
example enough and that his compositional techniques
were so traditional that there was nothing new happening
in his music that needed explanation. Bach didn't create
new harmonies or forms- he just used harmonies, melodies,
and forms far more brilliantly. Within the 'rules'- 95 percent
of the time.
Naturally, it became all the rage to break the Baroque rules
and yes, countless new masterpieces emerged. But, when
the romantics broke the rules and everything became possible
we were also subjected to too much 'new' music that is full
(1) endless sequences that pretend to be brilliant just
because they repeat all the way up or down the scales
(2) melodies that are flashy but essentially lacking substance
(3) harmonic lack of discovery- or petty harmonic tricks,
like sudden key changes that really provide nothing of
intellectual merit but only shock value
These kind of problems have plagued a lot of music
since Bach (there are many great exceptions of course),
Go ahead, break the 'rules'. But as the old adage goes-
better learn the rules first- then you know how to break
them - and then if you're lucky, you might succeed.