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This music written in 1963 in the key of c minor for 4 solo voices and string quartet or piano accompaniment is the satirical work of the late, hugely talented, and world class Canadian pianist and Bach specialist Glenn Gould.

Besides offering lyrics full of encouragement this composition reveals an extremely keen sense of humor, a quirk imagination, and a penetrating understanding of the materials of composition in general and the craft of fugue writing in the style of J.S. Bach in particular.

The score begins with a long subject full of promise in the bass and a correct tonal answer in the tenor employing complimentary rhythm and contrary motion in the counterpoint, so far, so good.  But then, the music begins to change direction on its own ... the tenor line bursts through its normal upper range, voices start crossing mid-way through the exposition and continue throughout, wide voice leaps are introduced, passages from Bach and Wagner are parodied, parallel octaves appear, a long and difficult-to-sing trill is written into the tenor line, the subject becomes background material, and the free-wheeling counterpoint continues on its way to a coda lacking a final chord in which all 4 voices end on a lone tonic note approached from a swarm of parallel octaves.

 This piece actually seems to beckon emerging composers to quiz themselves to see how many things they can find in the score where the music went off the rails, where at, why, and what could have been done differently to prevent it.

A message seems to be embedded in this work, and it is this:  "Go write a good fugue and have at it -- if you're so wary of creating a train wreck that you're too scared to begin, look what happened here, and it hasn't shamed me (Gould) one bit ..."

As this music proceeds it deliberately "demolishes" (to use the composer's term) and morphs into a study which demonstrates how one can start on a fairly firm footing and then go haywire, take off and leave the subject behind, even plagiarize the work of others, then recover, pour on the coals, lose forward motion finally, and have the wheels come off at the end.

What this illustrates is:  It's intimidating at first, but

don't be afraid

to try to compose a fugue -- be clever anyway, and give it a go.

[See blog, Ten Steps of Fugue Writing]


Start out by learning the rules and guidelines -- all of them [See blog, Getting Started With Writing, Part XX] -- and agree to adopt them for the time being so that, if and when you decide you want to bend or break a rule you do it like an artist without opening the floodgates to a fugal melee.