9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Composing in Time: Towards a new understanding of temporal structure in J.S. Bach's multi-movement works

Don O. Franklin

Drawing on primary manuscript and print sources in conjunction with Johann Philipp Kirnberger's description of Tempo, Meter, and Rhythm in Die Kunst des reinen Satzes in der Musik, 1776-79, I propose to examine the temporal parameters of a selected number of multi-movement works by Bach, including the Goldberg variations. My aim is two fold: first, to describe the notational means by which Bach sets out his music "in time"; and secondly, to identify the "time-units" that constitute the building blocks of a larger temporal structure. Bach's temporal procedures (to date little discussed in the literature) deserve our attention, I will argue, for what they tell us not only about Bach's working methods, but also about how he intended his works to be read and performed.

After summarizing the basic elements of Bach's "temporal" notational procedures, I will illustrate how he employs them in a consistent and comprehensive manner. Particular attention will be given to how Bach alters and adapts contemporary practice to suit his own purposes. Also discussed will be the variety of ways in which he achieves within the same work a proportional relationship between, on the one hand, the beat of two successive meters, and, on the other, the duration of two successive movements.

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Last updated on 31 March 2000 by Yo Tomita