Bach- Toccata and Fugue in D minor

In music today we were introduced to Bach who lived at the same time as Handel and he also wore a wig. He had 20 children! We talked about the organ that he wrote music for. We listened to his music in a mindful way and this is what we observed:

Marnie: It sounded like it should have been the end when it was actually the start.

Manou: It sounded like music from a funeral.

Theo: It sounded like the musician was playing 3 notes at once.     (We then talked about chords)

Yusuf: It sounded mixed up like it had been put back together in a new order.

Olivia: I thought it sounded scary.

Luca: It sounded like there was an argument going on between the left hand and the right had.

Marlo spotted the silences in between the music.

Here is video of the music I will show you tomorrow to demonstrate what the organ looks like, how the hands work together and how to play the chords:  Bach – Toccata and Fugue in D minor



4 comments on “Bach- Toccata and Fugue in D minor

  1. These comments are fantastic. I am amazed that you made such intelligent and clever comments after studying Bach’s music for such a short time.
    I play the organ and sometimes play this piece, so I know it really well, but it took me much longer to notice the things you have said here.

    Marnie’s comment about it being the end when it was really the start is very perceptive. Bach often wrote pieces which deliberately confused the listener (in a good way). All great composers do this. The Toccata is full of ‘stops’ and ‘start’s to the music, and often you are not sure it is has finished, or more is to come. This is part of the clever games Bach would play with the people listening to his music. They were always being surprised by how he would start his pieces, and end them, and the stuff he would put in the middle too 🙂

    Manou’s comment about it sounding like music from a funeral is also very clever. We don’t know for sure that this music was played at a funeral, but Bach did play the organ for lots of funerals, and when a rich and important person had died he would often write a piece especially for that funeral. So this piece may well have been played at one of those funerals.

    Theo is right that 3 notes are playing at once, in fact sometimes it’s 4, or 5 or more, and in some parts there are 9 notes sounding at once.

    Yusuf is a straight-up genius for his comment about the music being mixed up and put together in a new order. This is exactly how Bach wrote many of his pieces. He would take a short tune (called a theme) and then break it apart like it was made of lego, the individual bricks were chunks of the tune or theme. He would then make up new music by putting the bricks together in a different order, sometimes turning the tune upside down, sometimes putting it back to front, or changing it in other clever ways. Even though Bach has been dead for over 250 years, people are still looking at his pieces and being amazed at how clever he was with this musical lego trick.

    Olivia says it sounded scary and this is very good point too. A lot of Bach’s music does sound scary, particularly when played on the large organs from the part of Germany where he lived. These organs were all in churches and the music was there to remind the people in the church about the power of God. Also this piece uses a special kind of chord (a diminished 6th) again and again and this kind of chord feels spooky when you listen to it. Composers who write music for scary films often use the diminished 6th to create a spooky atmosphere.

    Luca said there was an argument going on between the right hand and the left hand. This is another genius comment as this exactly how Bach wrote a lot of his organ music. He would put one tune in the right hand, and then after it a similar (but different tune) in the left hand. Throughout this piece he uses one hand to ask a kind of musical question, whilst the other hand then provides the answer. It is very exciting to listen to, and just many of the reasons why Bach was probably the greatest composer ever to have lived.

    Marlo spotting the silences between the music was very clever too. There are silences between the parts of the tune and Bach put them there for a very special reason. The organ is a very loud instrument (the loudest ever invented), and when you play a loud note on it in a big church it takes quite a while to die away (the sound bounces off the walls and echoes around). Bach put the silences in this piece to show that echoing effect off to his listeners. In other pieces he does the opposite and puts no silences in at all, and this is dramatic too in its own way.

    So thanks for your comments, if I get time I’ll make a short video if you want of the piece and show you whereabouts the things I mention here happen.

  2. That would be great.Thank you for offering to play it for us.Thank you very much for leaving these lovely comments and spending all that time leaving comments for us. We have leaned a lot from your comments. From Kingfisher Class

  3. Thank you to Kingfishers and Matthew Pearson – I have learnt lots from listening to the piece of music and reading all your blog posts about it. I think that learning about music is really interesting because there are so many parts to it: the way different sounds fit together; what the composer is trying to tell us with the way they put the music together and what instruments are used; how it sounds to us and how it can make us feel. And I’m sure that you can think of lots of other interesting things about music.

  4. Wow, Kingfishers, I could not be more of proud you, your dedication and enthusiasm is so evident in your amazingly deep comments about Bach. I am absolutely delighted that you are also engaging in conversation with Matthew Pearson, what a wonderful privilege to hear your comments Matthew, thank you so much! I can’t wait to see how all this develops. There is nothing more rewarding than developing a love for music.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s