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Grand Dissection !:-) J.S.Bach's Invention No.1(1)

I will dissect :-) J.S.Bach's Invetion No.1. This famous piece is often used as an introduction to Bach's keyboard works and his counterpoint. In Japan, Bach's Inventions are often considered to be only for beginners. But they are not only for beginners -- they have much to offer professional musicians as well. Much of their content is quite profound. Although most pianists admire Chopin's -Ballades- and other works, and find them attractive, I believe that Bach's inventions reveal a higher density of content. I'm just offering my opinion, and will not further compare them here. As a matter of fact, I dislike the music of Chopin. Indeed, Chopin is a great composer. But most of his achievements are only for piano music. Although I am a amateur pianist, I don't like the stand to treat the field of piano only !...Well, this really has nothing to do with the "dissection" of the Invention...I've gotten off the subject. We should return !

To begin, we will look at the overall structure of this composition. It consists of the following three sections.

On this page, I will analyze the first section, which can be divided into the following three subsections:

---------- In the following, I use sheet of music as image data. You may worry about it cannot be understand without using browser which can display images. But all of these can be downloaded. You can see all of these sheet of music using other image-display software and you will be able to understand the contents of this page. ----------

Here are the first two bars ( 1 - 2 ).

[Invention No.1 bar. 1-2 (Note2.gif 1.83KB)]

Almost all of "Invention No.1" is built from the two motifs shown in figures A and B. Looking at Figure A, we see that the first motif beautifully mixes stepwise and leap motions. And the second motif, shown in B, provides an excellent accompaniment for the motif A, in simple counterpoint. A this point I'd like to raise an interesting question: Which is the "melody" and which is the accompaniment in the second half of the first measure? Those familiar with contrapuntal music might be tempted to say "This is contrapuntal music, so it is wrong to call either one the melody." But I don't think so. Think harder about it, and see what conclusion you reach after some consideration. Even a cursory examination of the "Invention" reveals that figure (A) dominates figure (B), it is used far more often and more prominently. So is figure B merely an accompaniment to the melody whichis figure (A)? No. The melody in the right hand in measure 1 is a very natural melody, which might lead one to think that the melody in this bar is in the right hand... well -- this - is - "contrapuntal music", and it's difficult to decide which, if either, is "melody".

"Hey! Didn't I already say that this music is 'contrapuntal' ? why am I repeating myself ? " If you agree with this, I think you are wrong. Please do not miss this important point. It is often difficult to decide if a given measure, or movement, is "coutrapuntal" or not. In musical textures not regarded as "contrapuntal", we often encounter the same situation. See the next excerption.

[From Chopin's Waltz Op.64-2 (Chopin.gif 2.15KB)

This excerption is in C-sharp minor. There are two melodies, one based on the chromatic scale, and another in eighth-notes. We feel the line of eighth notes as a foreground, but the chromatic melody is an important one, too. We see that there are really two "melodies" active at once here, and it is not easy to decide which is the "melody" and which is that other melody's "accompaniment", and which, if any, to emphasize in performance. This is from Chopin's Waltz Op.64-2. As we can see in this excerpt, the techniques of counterpoint are often used in works we do not usually think of as "contrapuntal", and add poignancy, depth, and interest. In this example, Bach's Invention demonstrates this basic contrapuntal technique very clearly, which is of great value to students.

Now look at measure 2. While measure 1 is centered on the note C, measure 2 is centered on the note G. The subsection of the piece which is these two measures incorporatesa the harmonies of the "tonic" and then the "dominant".

This is the technique of establishing the key of a piece by presenting an "exposition" of the tonic and dominant. and establish key". It is standard technique in classical music. For example,

Sonata form : The 1st theme is in tonic. The second theme is in dominant.
Fugue : Dux(subject) is in tonic. Comes(response) is in dominant.

The first two bars reveal these standard techniques of classical composition in simple and easy-to-understand form. That is, "exposition of thematic item " and "establishment of principal key" are completely achieved in these two bars. The phrases "complete simplicity" and "necessity and adequacy" come to mind for describing this excerpt.

In the next subsection (measures 3-4), we can see the following:

[Invention No.1 bar. 3-4 (Note3.gif 2.55KB)]

The thematic figures are "developed" in this subsection.The figures in the right hand are the "inversion" (the melodies turned upside-down) of thematic figure (A).But also observe that the figures in left hand are the beginning of (A) and they are augmented, that is, each note of (A) is doubled in length. We notice that the figure in left hand has the rhythm of eighth notes. Eighth-notes are the metric unit of figure (B), which is the counterpoint of figure(A). We conclude that in mm 3-4, the left hand plays two roles, simultaneously the development of figure (A) and a counterpoint to figure (A).

Now, we will compare the second subsection (measures 3-4) to the first subsection (measures 1-2). In the first subsection, tonic and dominant are strongly presented and the principal key, C major, is established. The next subsection (measures 3-4) the harmony is not fixed. It is changing for each beat. So this subsection gives us the impression of "bridge passage" or "development".

In the next subsection (measures 5-6), we observe the following:

[Invention No.1 bar.5-6 (Note4.gif 4.08KB)]

The second system of this figure is the third subsection. This has somewhat complex structure than before.

Both (A) and its inversion are present. And the figure in bar.5 in right hand is the variation of figure (B). So, bar.5 can be related to the first subsection as follows.

(A)->(A) between both hands
(B) is used as a counterpoint to (A).

The region from the latter half of bar.5 to the former half of bar 6 can be related to the second subsection as they both contain the inversion of (A) and augmented beginning of (A). In the latter half of bar 6, a new figure, and the high note G, are introduced, creating the feeling of the ending of a section.

Unlike the second subsection, the third subsection does not create the feeling of its being a "bridge passage". But, the excitement introduced by the high note dispels any feeling of "merely establishing the key", as in the first subsection. Bach uses the melodic figures to unify the first and second subsections, creating continuity. The third subsection serves the role of "codetta" ("little coda") to measures 1-6.

To summarize the above, the first section of the Invention, that is, mm. 1-6, has the following structure:

The 1st subsection : Exposition of thematic figures. Establishment of the C major key using tonic and dominant.
The 2nd subsection : Development of figure. Bridge passsage.
The 3rd subsection : Conclusion.

" Exposition, establishment of key ", " development ", " Conclusion "...All of them are basic tools of classical composition. In Bach's period, sonata form was not so established form. However, these tools are the principal in sonata form. So In only six bars, Bach has revealed four basic tools of classical composition. We should accord this music the greatest respect.

...Umm... I have spent such wide space to explain only the first 6 bars. I am afraid that I cannot complete my dissection because I am not native speaker of English(X-<). For the time being, I take rest...(To be continued...Really ? X-P)

** This page was rewritten by Bernard S. Greenberg. I appreciate his kindness.

** The sheet of music in this page are made with "MusicTime Deluxe for Windows 3.1 and 95" ((C) 1996 Passport Designs Inc.)


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