Book 1 - No. 9 - E major - Fugue
music || notes || words || images prelude


This is a very short subject, and a very short fugue. The most prominent distinguishing feature in the texture of the fugue is the recurrent two-note motive, the first two notes of the fugue. It peppers the perpetual motion fabric of this fugue with sequins that sparkle with seemingly random but pleasurably surprising placement. It is a wonderful experience to sit and listen merely for this, like sitting on a dark, hot summer night watching for fireflies.

Other than this brief signature, the subject is so short and continues seamlessly into the swift and regular counterpoint that is really doesn't feel like a subject at all. In many ways, this fugue doesn't feel exactly like a fugue at all. With its brevity, its consistent motion, and a subject based more on a short motive than a traditionally more complex subject, this fugue feels more like one of Bach's inventions.

The countersubject shown here is from Siglind Bruhn. Her discussion about the its "omnipresence", especially when decomposed into a two sub-sequences, is fascinating. The two sub-sequences shown in the notes, are labelled 'a' and 'b' to accompany Bruhn's diagram. Because these motives appear against the subject and fill the content of the episodes, she concludes that every bar of the fugue includes at least a partial quote of the countersubject. As Altschuler so clearly points out, Bach's ingenuity and his success in creating so much coherent music with so much individual personality is due to this omnipresence of no more than a few characteristic motives in every piece. Altschuler calls it "Bach's big secret".