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My great father Johann Sebastian Bach told me to make some comments about this prelude, the Well Tempered Clavier Prelude No. 24 B minor. I am not so addictive as people may suppose me to be. But I found out its secret that Johann Sebastian had buried under an ordinary face of this beautiful arioso or cantabile. To tell the truth, the walking bass line of the first half of this prelude is made of the Dorian Mode using mainly the notes in the A Major Scale in some minor mood.My father Johann Sebastian Bach intended to defer his proper respects to the church modes on which Gregorian Chants had been compiled, by adopting the Dorian in his final prelude of the Well Tempered Clavier. Somehow he was afraid of the reaction of churchs because "the Well Tempered Clavier", especially this No.24 Prelude and Fugue, could have been supposed to be a rebellion towards Gregorian Chants or churchs. Even though there was a gradual eclipse of the old church modes upon which Western music had been based, he would have received an informal warning that the Equal Temperament theory was contrary to the teachings of the church saying, "You should not be another Galileo Galilei who lived near Florence under house arrest during his last eight years, from 1634 to 1642." The Catholics only wanted to get the scientists like Galileo out from their sight, so his less illustrious composer father, Vincenzo Galilei, was never in any danger. But the Calvinists were antagonistic to the splendors of the Lutheran liturgy even in music.
The bass sequence of the first measure is "B C# D E F# G# A B", which is "Tonic, Whole-Step, Half-Step, Whole-Step, Whole-Step, Whole-Step, Half-Step, Whole-Step". This is called the Dorian Mode. In other words, this pattern of intervals: T-S-T-T-T-S-T is the characteristic of the Dorian Mode. It is symmetric.
TFor the reference, T is Tone and S is Semitone. "Dorian" is one of the original "Church Modes" and it has a beautiful minor sound. The Dorian mode is a kind of minor scale because of the flattened third note. But it is not the B Minor scale where G sharp should be in the place of G.
In the C Major Scale, build a scale using "D" as its tonic, then there emerges the "D" Dorian Mode which is a very popular formula "D E F G A B C D". The "D" Dorian Mode is not the same as the D Major scale nor as the D Minor one.
This mode can express "solemnity", "gracefulness" and "modesty" under calm and tranquil circumstances. In other words it is called the mode for "theoria" or "contemplation".
Aristotle wrote in his "POLITICS";
A certain mode produces a moderate and settled temper, which appears to be the peculiar effect of the Dorian. All men agree that the Dorian music is the gravest and manliest. And whereas we say that the extremes should be avoided and the mean followed, and whereas the Dorian is a mean between the other modes, it is evident that our youth should be taught the Dorian music.
When my father was in Kothen holding the position of Capellmeister, his master was the young prince Leopold of Anhalt-Kothen and the son of Calvinism of which founder, Calvin, had said that God's electing purpose be not conditioned by anything in man. The young prince respected Johann Sebastian as a great musician and made a good effort to let him work comfortably and fruitfully in Kothen. But so there was no church music there. My father's theological thinking was based on the Lutheranism. Luther thought music as a gift from God, rather than a human invention, while he put a heavy censorship on all artistic expression in the church. Only music was excepted. Calvin thought that a constant vigilance must be maintained for music like as a prisoner. He had no feeling at all for the developing art of sacred music. Anyway and fortunately the young Prince loved and enjoyed cheerful and instrumental music featuring the latest styles and fashions. My father happily wrote much of his chamber music, violin concertos, sonatas, keyboard music there in Kothen. But Johann Sebastian had an experience that he was arrested and imprisoned for a month in 1716 while he lived in Weimar because of his disobedience against his master at that time. He could not forget it. Always he had to be careful not only about the difference of the theological doctrine between Calvinistm and Lutheranism but also about the changing temperament of his master. On 7th of July, 1720, my mother, Maria Barbara, 36 years old, passed away suddenly while my father was out of town with his master. I remember that the funeral was held in a Calvinist church and my mother was buried in my father's absence. But at that time I was only 6 years old, too young to know the details. My father was in a great shock for a while but he had to take care of children and to continue his job.
Thereafter one of his assigned works was to compose and perform cantatas for the Prince's birthday and the New Year. Anna Magdalena, daughter of Mr. Wilcke, Court-Trumpeter at Weisenfels, came to sing these cantatas as one of singers and attracted my father's attention with her fine soprano voice and her sunny disposition. In December 1721, Anna Magdalena at the age of 20 and my fahter 36 married to make a happy home again. His problem was that thier wedding ceremony would have had to be held in the Calvinist church which the Prince reserved. Johann Sebastian was annoyed but he begged a pardon to the Prince that he could use his house for thier wedding ceremony. Of course he could not insist that the Lutheran church was the right place. Anyway he should be happy with his new bride, so there was a lot of consumption of wine and the wedding was a feast.
John 2:( fictionalized ) ...And when they wanted wine, Maria saith unto him, They have no wine. ... Jesus saith unto them, Fill the waterpots with water. And they filled them up to the brim. And he saith unto them, Draw out now, and bear unto the governor of the feast. And they bare it. When the bridegroom had tasted the water that was made wine, and knew whence it was.
When my father accomplished the Well Temepred Clavier in 1722, he dared not attempt to put an inordinate expression for this work, say "Even-Tempered" or " Equal-Tempered". Let me review the history.
In 1530, Nicolaus Copernicus finished his great book, 'Concerning the Revolutions of the Celestial Spheres' but hesitated to publish it, because he was afraid of being contempted from the church which might have accused him of his novely and absurd opinion. In fact his theory was in opposition to the teachings of the Roman Catholic church, and the book had not been published for 13 years till the year 1543. Andreas Osiander, one of his supporters and a Luteran theologist, added some comments in its preface saying, "... If there is a hypothesis, it needs not to be a truth. It is sufficient that the result of calculation corresponds the data of observation. This theory is only for calculation." He intended to protect Copernicus, but both Luther and Calvin, who were leaders of Protestantism, actually scorned Copernicus as an idiot who was trying to confuse the Astronomy. After all in 1616 the Roman Catholic church forced this book under the Index of Prohibited Books.Johann Sebastian Bach only wrote down decently "Well Tempered" and "For the profit and use of musical youth desirous of learning and especially for the pastime of those already skilled in this study" on the title page behind which, in the last pages, he made an inconspicuous challenge to create a no-one-never-heard-of chromatic mode in the last fugue next to this prelude.
In 1609 Johannes Kepler published a book on the results of his work, boldly titling it 'The New Astronomy' about his discovery that the orbits in which the Earth and the other planets of the solar system travel around the sun are elliptical, or oval, in shape. But he died in 1630 before the arrest of Galileo. By the way he wrote another book which contains 'Kepler's Third Law' in 1619. Its title was "the Harmony of the World (Harmonices mundi)". There he discussed about the musical scales and harmonics related to the planetary motion. Especially the correspondence between musical ratios of whole numbers and planetary velocities was, he thought, marvellous.
In 1687 Issac Newton published his major work, 'Principia' (Philosophiae Naturalis Principia Mathematica, or Mathematical Principles of Natural Philosophy), setting forth the theory of gravitation. Newton had not been bothered by religious pressures. Fortunately he lived in the country whose king tried to insist that a Benedictine monk be given a degree without taking any examinations or swearing the required oaths. As to music, in 1704 he wrote another book called "Opticks" which dealt with the theory of light and colour and the relation with musical scale or harmony.
Newton classified the spectrum of the sun-ray into seven colors and placed dividing lines. Then he thought that he found out its relation with music. It admirably represented the Dorian mode. It is astonishing that even Issac Newton believed in ratios of whole numbers as the base of musical harmony.
In following year, in 1723, Johann Sebastian had took an examination to be appointed as Thomaskantor. He had to give formal and written assent to the Book of Concord. In the examination he had to answer the questions related to Biblical theology in general and to Lutheran theology as delineated in the Book of Concord denying non-Luteran beliefs. While denying non-Luteran beliefs, he should avoid another arrest and imprisonment caused by his master's displeasure or slanders of Calvinists. Because he already decided to leave Kothen as soon as possible with us uneventfully.
------The first measure consists of Dorrian itself.
------In the original score it can be callled B-Dorian.
------It looks complicated but it is the ddescending mode of Dorian. C sometimes accompanies sharp and B does flat.
------A Neapolitan quasi-cadence with C shharp (or D flat) is in the third measure to create an ambiguous stop before restarting Dorian in the fourth measure.
------The sixth, seventh and eighth measurres consist of Mixolydian Mode. In the key of C, a mixolydian scale is built on G, and consists of "G, A, B, C, D, E, F, G" which means T-T-S-T-T-S-T. This scale is like the major scale except that the seventh step is lowered a half step.
------An Neapolitan quasi-cadence with G ssharp (or A flat)
------The 13th and 14th measures are of
Dorian mode. Here can be seen T-S-T-T-T-S-T as the characteristic of Dorian Mode. In the original score they can be called E-Dorian.
------An Neapolitan quasi-cadence with C ssharp (or D flat) is identical with the 11th measure.
------This is an abbreviated figure of thee last two measures. It shows the descending mode of Dorian.
This prelude was built to present my father's homage to the church. So its base is "Church Mode". At first my father Johann Sebastian, I suppose, treated this Dorian sequence as upper melody and added lower suporting chord backing to it in order to unite modes and chords. Then he made the work upside down and got a surprisingly beautiful result.
For the second part of this prelude he tried to create a new fusion of modes and chords with a chromatic flavor where modes and chords can not be separated. It became the introduction to the final fugue.
Thank you for giving me your company to this last.
Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach
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