Apathy - Bach and Tone

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J.S. Bach Archive and Bibliography

[Thursday, October 14, 1999]

Part of the jsbach.org "joint project set up to promote world-wide web interest in and knowledge about one of the greatest achievements of western civilization of all time".

Explore through the illustrated biography, and cross-link to the author's own trip through the towns Bach once lived in, now living their own lives.

As a Bach tourist, you are ... pretty much on your own in Köthen. In fact, we did not see any tourists at all in Köthen. It is just a place that is skipped altogether by tourists, which is also clear from the fact that you cannot buy a single post card in the main shopping street.

This same web'ster has taken on the insane project of getting the entirety of Bach's cantata output onto the web. I didn't think I would be able to find much on Johann's cantatas on the web, especially since just tracking down recordings is rough.

Even if you can't read the German transcriptions, try Ambrose's texts of the complete vocal works.

Even More MIDI

[Thursday, October 14, 1999]

Entranced with it, I tell you. This page expands into the Art of Fugue with some excellent versions of the Contrapunctus (contrapuncti?) and also the MIDI-ized Suites for Accompanied Cello that I have been comparing against my "normal" CD version.

Complete Bach Midi Index

[Thursday, October 14, 1999]

Each MIDI file this author has collected (arranged themselves?) is listed here, and at the top you can get the whole bag in one fell swoop in .hqx and .zip. I am magnetized by these emotionless, computerized renditions for some reason I can't fathom. In eliminating the human error/interpretation factor to some extent, the precise wonder of it all rings through.

Bach Midi by BWV

[Wednesday, October 13, 1999]

Finally found a semi-comprehensive archive of Bach tunes in MIDI format, ordered by Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis. [Although it is on Xoom, yucky top ads.] Unfortunately for the reader, this is mainly in German. Should not be too hard to translate; a Kanon is a canon, but try Babelfish as always if you have trouble.

At any rate, the best page in this index is for BWV 1079, Das Musikalische Opfer [the Musical Offering]. Ricercar a 3 and Ricercar a 6. Contrast and compare, and also see the Kanons page for more mind-bending music.

I think the thing I find most amazing about Bach is how enjoyable his compositions are to listen and to study. Modern and postmodern [and etc.] composers force you to think, but with Bach, you can let the harmonies wash over, or consider the heights of contrapunctus in the Ricercar a 6, integrating the Royal Theme, while maintaining an enjoyable tune.

GEB and alt.fan.hofstadter FAQ

[Wednesday, October 13, 1999]

An excellent jumping-point for many things interrelated by Douglas Hofstadter in "Gödel, Escher, Bach: An Eternal Golden Braid". The most interesting things I wanted to find links to (the 3 and 6-part ricercars) don't have URLs, so the search continues.
However, there are links to some very crazy computer aided interpretations of a few composers, including Bach. Further down the logic train, we find experimental MIDI tracks that have been composed mainly by algorithm. Be sure to give Prime Numbers Whole Tone Quartet a listen-through. These are the types of artificial amplifications of themes that Hofstadter refers to as Bach squared.

Math and the Musical Offering

[Tuesday, October 12, 1999]

Until I dig up a good GEB FAQ link, this is an intruiging introduction to some of the math involved in canons of many types. Each type is described in terms of a mathematical function, and graphed with the appropriate transformation applied, so you can see how the pitches overlap and roam.

Food for thought: there is one elementary transformation of functions that does not appear in any of Bach's canons. Which is it and why?
Hoo hoo! Quiz time.

Canons of the Musical Offering

[Tuesday, October 12, 1999]

GEB covers many of the canons and types of trickery involved in the Musical Offering canons. Here's some pics of the score, so you can look at them visually.

Incidentally, the recording pointed to at the top of this page arranged by Neville Marriner is by far the best rendition of the Offering I have in my meager collection.


[Tuesday, October 12, 1999]

Huge mine of information on the composer at hand. References to every piece and recording thereof. The definitive Bach portal, I guess you could say.

Risset's Endless Glissando

[Sunday, October 10, 1999]

Exploring the Shepard tone sequence in more detail, this site has computer generated cycles in linear and logarithmetic varieties, with both sound clips and Quicktime color movies so you can see with your eyes how your ear is being fooled. Stay tuned! [ack]...

Demonstrations in Auditory Perception

[Sunday, October 10, 1999]

Although not directly related to Bach and his mastery of canon and fugue, the resources on this page are superb for exploring the land of musical paradox and psychoacoustics.

Selections include:

  • How listeners percieve a trill and seperate tones, varying by delay with sound clips to follow along with.
  • Complex octave-related tones and how distinguishing between overlaid octave sound waves is rather difficult. For anyone big on guitar noise, octave feedback and string crossbleeding has much to do with this subject.
  • The "auditory analog of the barberpole illusion". Another seemingly endless rising sequence, with super spiffy spectograms and a discussion at the end about how people can be divided into single and double tone circle percievers.
"...When several components of a complex tone move together, in the same direction and by similar amounts, we experience a single motion called dynamic pitch...
They do not reject the notion of tone chroma, but argue the pitch circularities found by Shepard can be explained in a more consistent way without appealing to tone chroma."
Plus plenty more audio clips and explanations for some of the strange tricks our ears play on us.

Acoustic Illusions: Bach's Canon per Tonus

[Sunday, October 10, 1999]

Reading onward into the shifting staircase of eternal scales, here we find actual audio file demonstrations of Bach's "Endlessly Rising Canon", as it is known from GEB.

The astute reader will notice that this handy page with columns for Deutsch und Englisch has been around since 1996. Almost before the web exploded!

Pitch Invariant Sound

[Sunday, October 10, 1999]

Shepard's tones have always intrigued me, ever since I first read Douglas Hofstadter's intelligence and self-consciousness masterwork, Gödel, Escher, Bach. Go here for mad craziness relating logarithmic pitch deception to inaudible phase shift. In other words, it sounds like it's going up and up or down and down... but it ends up back where it began. Scary.


  • various interpretations of Bach's Suites For Unaccompanied Cello
  • the new Arcwelder album
  • Five Style's Miniature Portraits

Instead of just syndicating per-day random content that varies by the link, I have decided to try switching it up with large, chunky updates that feed you information about obscure topics over longer periods of time.
It's a site that covers a wide range of diverse oddness.
I call it a "changing link list", or "stupid" for short.

The masterminds over at Cardhouse recently linked to the pitch invariant tone page, which led me to thoughts of Hofstadter's GEB and other interesting tone-based puzzles.

all archives
bach and tone

Dan Fitch dgfitch@yahoo.com
Thanks to the wonder-full folk of Pitas.com for hosting my old-fashioned link-list!