9th Biennial Conference on Baroque Music


Towards a Codification of J.S. Bach's Golden Sections

Tushaar Power

This paper follows on from 'J.S. Bach and Andreas Werckmeister's "Natural Order",' originally presented at the 'Sixth Biennial Conference on Baroque Music' in Edinburgh, 1994. Whilst that essay explored the external evidence, documentary and literary, regarding Bach's putative use of the Golden Section, this essay considers internal evidence, drawn from Bach's works. After extensive observation and reflection, it can be proposed that the appearance of the Golden Section in Bach's works can be classified into several archetypes. This essay shall present each archetype, with a corresponding musical example. Furthermore, it will then be shown how these several archetypes are employed at different architectural levels, both micro-, and macroscosmically. Finally, the combinatory use of these archetypes will be illustrated, for they often can co-exist, and indeed even co-operate, within a single work. The ultimate aim of this paper is to illustrate that whilst the compositions of Bach do indeed "display" the Golden Section, its appearance is so consistent and formulaic that it is likely in fact an architectonic feature not merely present in the final composition, but also in the composer's initial process of conception.

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Last updated on 22 March 2000 by Yo Tomita