Elegance, Context, And Bach

Music isn’t typically considered something that requires a context, as much as it is a contextual element. Music, like everything else in the universe, does have a mathematical component. As such, it can easily be incorporated into a contextual framework.

However, there are times when providing a visual context for a piece of music can greatly enhance not only the enjoyment of the piece, but the understanding of the underlying structure. In this post, I’ll be showing you how context can enhance the understanding of musical structure, and in the next, we’ll look at music as a contextual element.

Bach To The Basics.

Johann Sebastian Bach composed music in a time when form, symmetry and structure of a piece was one of the most important components a composer addressed, and it is beautifully illustrated in a short piece he wrote, according to history, in a half an afternoon.

As played here, with minimal context, the piece is simple, but beautiful. Balanced, delicate, and light. A Canon is a piece of music that is highly structured, and as there are multiple elements that can be introduced, the composer could achieve an amazing diversity within the rigid structure of the style. A Crab canon is also called a “retrograde” canon, as the leader is reading the music left to right, while an accompanying musical instrument (or the “other hand” on a piano)  is reading from right to left. Crab canons may also include “inversion”, where one set of notes is rising while another is falling.

The Canon Structure

Canons can range from the simple canon, a “round” like “Row , Row, Row Your Boat”, to complex Baroque pieces employing retrograde, inverse, and several varieties of contrapuntal motion; everything from parallel (the note spaced evenly apart in pitch and rising or falling) and oblique (one note remaining the same while another rises and falls in relation to it), to the “species counterpoint” found in fugues. BTW, a “species counterpoint” is when you start with one simple progression or melody, and add a second, third, and fourth, while still maintaining structure and harmony.

Now that you have heard the Crab Canon with minimal context, let’s watch the Canon in action:


The simple addition of animation allows you to “follow” the piece, and better appreciate the structure in a way that the sheet music alone doesn’t, unless of course you can read sheet music :-). Even then, the Moebius effect isn’t evident at first.

Then there is Pachelbel….

In this very familiar piece, you’ll see nearly every possible form of contrapuntal construction; parallel, oblique, inverse, and species are all represented. Note that the more complex animation used, “Synthesia” is actually a teaching tool. If you look around on You Tube, you’ll find literally thousands of complex piano pieces translated into this format, typically in different speeds–this one is 100%, but it is available as slow as 30% of full speed.

The growth of synthesia is part of an overall trend in learning and multi-sensory knowledge integration known as “gamification”, something we’ll be referring to more often as this series progresses. Gamification has been used for everything from teaching piano to collecting data in political campaigns, with Ted Cruz’s Cruz Crew App being the first example of a truly sophisticated data mining program disguised as a game.

Gamification works because it fully engages the subject, creating an immersive, personal experience in a way that is instructive, and in many cases, mildly addictive as well. Combining a zero risk environment, strong audio and visual cues and carefully spaced “rewards”, gamification provides an ideal vehicle for enhancing and delivering a project over time.

Personally, I prefer Pachelbel.



11 thoughts on “Elegance, Context, And Bach

  1. So, partly because of you and your recent lack of sleep weekend, I have “*applied*” to be a California delegate to National Convention for Trump. This is really a dream for me, but I feel in my heart there is no possible way the Party people, would allow a normal peon like myself to be selected. I did not realize that Facebook had a grassroots campaign going for Trump and some organization already in place. I was waiting for main Trump people to return my pleas to use me to help out in California, but never heard from anyone. Now it seems these people will select the delegates. I guess I shouldn’t care as long as they are true Trump supporters. I will attend a rally here on 23rd in Orange County. I am already, on my own, registering voters for Primary. I can combine forces with these people and help out. Do you think, with your experience, that all the delegates will be Party people? Do I, an outsider, have a chance? Can you go to Convention and get in as visitor? thanks for what you’ve done for me and any insight you can give. I want to be Trump Delegate!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I doubt all the delegates will be party people–but it depends on how many normal people apply, and show up at the meetings where delegates are chosen. How it’s done varies from place to place, but since I went into posing as a GOPer, knowing that all my local GOPers are Cruz supporters, they chose me :-).

      As an outsider, you want to find out from your local GOPers who is doing the voting in your area to choose delegates, contact them, and feel them out (without letting them know where YOU stand). Because if they like you, they’ll vote for you.

      When it comes to conventions, the party charges in most states to cover the cost of throwing the convention, but the details vary from state to state. Anyone who gets a ticket can go, always, and it’s a really good way to network, learn how the party functions, and gather intelligence.

      Your local county or precinct people can give you the details for where you are, And in a few weeks when we have an “official website” so I can begin gathering people, there will be a special forum section for each state so you can network and share.

      The most important thing is getting involved at precinct level–that’s where the power is in the party. As long as they don’t know you’re a “reformer” or a Trump fan, they shouldn’t have an issue with putting you in a seat if one’s available, or telling you how to get one.

      Being on the inside has its advantages, now and later. Good luck on the delegate, I’d say the best thing you can do is find out from your local GOPers *who does the voting*–then go convince them you’re on their side, and find out how many people you’re in competition with.

      They are going to want to see people who are “GOP first”, especially in CA.If you run into official Trump people along to the way who will be overseeing the voting (or who have a vote, it’s not impossible that there are Trump people in the system), let them know you’re campaigning for a slot.

      And you *are hard core Trump, but you’ll get further if they think you’re all GOP*. Experienced operatives will totally get that (and hopefully use it state wide).

      Hope you make it!

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Thank you very much for your response. My schedule is clear that convention weekend though I hadn’t planned to go because I’m coming from a long way and will be in the Valley the weekend prior so that means two weekends eaten up when my garden stands begging to be worked for planting season. Plus, not being active enough in the party to be able to do anything. By the way, tickets are still available from the azgop website.

    I know who the officers are in my county GOP party even though its chairman did not return my call asking if any pc’s had been appointed since the last election. No matter though because my other half (DH) and I are circulating nominating petitions now and hope to at least fill two of the slots in Nov. The county party meetings take place when I can’t be there (and it’s also another long and treacherous drive to get there) although I’d be able to make it happen without too much difficulty. You know, life happens.

    Also, I did not mention I live in a remote dinky little hamlet with only three gop pc slots. And yes, they are all empty.

    Okay, so putting some pedal to the metal now and will be back in touch when I have something to report. I’d love to be able to hook up with you and yours at the convention. You are doing some good things.

    And thanks again for the encouragement.
    Oh, I’m shocked you still have 108 out of 151 pc slots empty, especially after Tea Party surge, etc. But, it’s Tucson. I know. I’ve lived in AZ since 1960 and have a good handle on how it operates. Good luck down there. You’re in enemy territory.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yep, seriously behind enemy lines down here between living in Grijalva’s district and dealing with the GOPer contingent LOL.

      Lucky you being in the boonies though! If we can’t hook up at the convention, my plan is *after the convention* when I have the website working well etc. to do some travelling around the state meeting people anyway–any excuse for a road trip :-).

      But I hope you *can* make it as it’s an invaluable earning experience to attend one in person. GOPers in their natural habitat are very different from in the field.

      You and your other half might be lucky and get appointed mid term, we’re having some luck with midterm appts. down here as the GOPers are short handed having to deal with the new voters in the party.

      So they are basically taking everyone who says the right words to them and not looking to closely as long as we work hard :-).


  3. Question: Do you recommend we attend the state convention (AZ) even if we are mere Republican peons? Every PC slot in my precinct is empty. Is that a good venue to wrangle an appointment? Or not? Sorry to be OT.

    Liked by 1 person

    • *YES YES YES* Please come to the convention. And if you can’t actually get a ticket to it, *please hit the Facebook button on any post on my blog, and drop me a Facebook message. I want to meet with as many Trump people in AZ while there as possible, so we can coordinate our raid on the AZGOP.

      It may or may not be a good place to wrangle an actual appointment (that depends on who is there), but it is an amazing chance to see things from the inside and gather hard intelligence on your part of the system.

      You might also check the GOP calendar in your area and see if there is a local monthly meeting in your area between now and then that you can go to, as your captain would be at that meeting.

      If there is, and you go, don’t ask for a seat right away *unless they ask for volunteers*. And follow the tips here to pass as a GOPer:


      Every PC slot??? Wow. That is YUUUGE news. Where I am the vacancy is 108 out of 151….

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Sort of OT but not – – a few years back I made a cd of various versions of La Folia which I found online. This is a tune supposedly from South America 400 years ago, composer unknown, which is interesting in itself.

    I listened to it 19 trillion times and then decided to retire the debt. Some things are “endlessly” intriguing, speak to the soul, and then they are not and do not. But when that happens, there might come a time to regard it in a new and different way.

    Years ago I bought someone a cd of Pachebel’s canon (the famous one) with a dozen variations of the same piece. No response. Hard to understand how different people cannot hear or feel the same thing, which almost sounds like a stupid thing to say because OF COURSE they can’t, what were you expecting?

    The context is meaningful to some of the people all of the time, and to all of the people some of the time, but not to all of the people all of the time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Exactly! and that last point is why introducing a concept with no context at all has more force than providing context.

      A blank slate offers endless possibilities. it asks you to engage with it, personalize it, and endow it with portent, so to speak.

      If you ever want to try an interesting experiment, leave empty baskets around a cluttered room (that has hidden cameras), and ask someone to do you a favor and tidy up.

      you can add extra anxiety triggers by making sure all the conventional places to “put things away”, like book shelves and drawers, are full.

      Then see how long it takes them to use the baskets, and how they use them.

      La Folia, if memory serves, actually has been traced back to Iberian fetility dances in the 15th century. I have always admired Vivaldi’s use of the form itself, though Rachmaninoff could really bring it in home, so to speak.

      Beautiful form to it :-). I put it, and canons, in the same category as “classic Literature”–you can read the same great book over and over in different periods of your life, and find something new every time, thanks to a flexibility of context *and* exceptional use of language.


  5. Pingback: Perspective, Perception, Context, And Madame Butterfly – fortunesthoughts

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