I do believe fugues fascinate lots of other folks too, perhaps because at their best, they unite an ordered, formulaic world with emotion invoking music - they bring beauty to order. I think I connect with that concept in a personal way because I tend to feel most comfortable when my life follows a routine. I love order. I love putting together a plan for the day, the month, the year. I love it when all of the pieces fit together. I love the feeling of euphoria that I get when it all works out in the end. And as with fugues, even though my life might go through some detours and episodes in the process of carrying out a plan, I always know where I'm headed and I take great comfort in knowing that I will at some point, return once more, to my original thought. And that because of the journey that preceded, that original thought will be even richer in meaning and in emotion.
I came across an interesting video as I was on one of those detour-inducing quests on youtube. I can't quite figure out its origin, but I want to share it with you here because I feel that it is a fantastic way of showing what it is about fugues that make me love them as much as I do. This visual representation of what is going on during the course of the fugue adds so much whimsy into the performance and helps to balance the more intellectual side of this music form.
With videos like this one, I think fugues could be entertaining and understandable to just about anyone. Which leads me to the question, do fugues need to be understood in order to be enjoyed? My personal opinion is no. I feel that there is something innately evocative about these musical puzzles and that even without consciously understanding how the puzzle is put together, anyone can sense the magic behind the music. I find that incredibly awesome.
This past weekend I had the honor of attending a live performance of Bach's Goldberg Variations in the home of a local harpsichord player. This is a long piece made up of a theme and 30 variations, many of which are fugal and canonic (think of them like a gourmet, "Row, row, row your boats.") I have to admit that I wasn't quite sure how I'd feel sitting through it, especially in such an intimate setting but there was no reason to be concerned. Sitting there on the floor in a bean-bag chair, I closed my eyes and immediately felt myself transported to a place of intricate beauty. There were only a handful of other people in the room, all of them non-musicians, but they too seemed to be absorbed in the magic of this music.
I love it when music is magical.
I love it when beauty is combined with order.
I love fugues!