Last week we considered the fact that Jesus is always surround sound. The foundational reason for this truth is because the Trinity is never a two-channel, dual sound, static experience. The continual movement, giving and receiving, and interaction of the Trinity among themselves and with creation, defines both the nature of the surround sound, and the specific sounds of each member. The three each contribute their own dynamic melodies and harmonies to the music, combining and enhancing the music of the others. In a similar manner, the surround sound speakers each project a specific combination of sounds that combine to create the multi-channel experience of 5.1 Dolby.
In his book on aesthetics, David Bentley Hart discusses Bach’s great fugue in E-flat major—his Trinitarian fugue—as an “aesthetic analogy” to the Trinity: there are “three fugues on three different subjects and in three different time signatures … a pneumatological dynamism.” According to Hart, Bach’s complex, beautiful, multi-voice fugues install him as “the greatest of Christian theologians.” In Bach’s fugues, each voice is distinct, but borrows from and offers to each of the others in an almost infinite interweaving of divergence and convergence, each voice retaining its line while combining to create something completely “other.”
Three voices, one music. Three persons, one God. Surround sound.
This week’s YouTube playlist – ST#77, has two versions of the E-flat Major fugue from The Well Tempered Klavier: one is a rare video performance featuring Glenn Gould. The Gould version has only the fugue, the Sato performance includes both the prelude and the fugue. The organ work, Toccata and Fugue in F major, is not a three-part fugue, but a complex double fugue. The contrast between the toccata and fugue in this work shows the contrasts of Bach’s Italian-influenced writing for organ. Finally, the Contrapunctus VIII, played on harpsichord, is a three-part fugue from Bach’s unfinished work called The Art of Fugue.
For the geeky musicologists in the crowd, this link takes you to a super-cool online project that analyses all of the sections of The Well Tempered Klavier, color-coded and in real time. You can see the score and the basic thematic analysis as the piece is played!