Monday, December 29, 2008

A fugue

In music, a fugue is constituted of two or more voices repeating a motif, or central theme. After a brief introduction by one, the other voices overlap and interweave, conversing with each other over the motif and accentuating all its eccentricities. Then, the music wanders from the motif and undergoes modulations, or "episodes." The hard structure melts, and what was originally a cut-and-dried theme is now a fluid mixture of sound, comparable to several conversations at once. The music becomes less and less distinct as the voices cascade over each other in counterpoint, swelling and falling to the mood with a life of its own. Then, after a number of episodes, there is a climax, a brief coda, and then the end.

This is the technical definition. Spiritually speaking, I believe it can be deeper than that.

Life, or, more specifically, history, is like a fugue - there is no single story independent from the others. One tale overlaps and influences the other; every action has a cause and effect, like a melodic pull-and-push factor that influences the present, future, and how we perceive the past. For example, we can't just study the American Civil War - we study the tensions between the North and the South, the white and the black, the slave and the free. Within the big picture there are little details, and within the little details, there are small emotions and drives within the individual. Sometimes we think independently; other times, we move as a body. And above it all, there are always recurrent themes, a motif, repeating without end, chasing itself in evermore complex patterns. But every so often, the motif wanders, fades, sometimes forgotten in our memory as we get caught up in the episodes. Then, when we least expect it, on the sudden, the motif returns, sometimes like an explosion, other times like gentle voice of a familiar friend chiming in from an unfamiliar crowd.

But that's just what I think. How about you?


  1. i love fugues! i haven't played one in ages - i played it after a matching prelude.

  2. Oh, from Bach, right? The Well-Tempered Clavier - my teacher calls it the "Short-tempered" Clavier. ;)

  3. I don't think it was wasn't a very well known composer - as in, not Bach or Beethoven or Chopin or something. Someone less well known. It was very simple - I played it ages ago - just something in C Major.

  4. Mendelssohn, maybe? Schumann, Schubert? Brahms?

  5. Nope. I'll find the book and see...if I haven't given it away - it was an old exam book from when I was like, seven.