Virtual Concert

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Paper instructions:

Virtual Concert No.1 – J.S. Bach’s “Goldberg” Variations, BWV 988:
For this week, we will “attend” our first virtual concert!  The piece we will experience is Bach’s Goldberg Variations.  Our performance is archived on YouTube, and you will use the following link:

Some things to consider:
1) The form of this work is theme and variations.  This general idea is integral to how composers tend to think, namely, how to develop one’s ideas to the fullest.  (This idea of development is taken to the extreme in this example. How fertile is the soil that Bach has for this piece!  It is quite remarkable how much material he manages to generate out of an opening theme.)
2)The work is quite long; there is an opening ‘aria,’ (although not sung, you can hear the melodic character reminiscent of the Baroque aria) followed by 30 variations.  The music actually begins at 6:23, but you might find the opening, documentary portion interesting.
3)You will need to concentrate, as it is quite possible that many of the variations will sound rather similar – try to listen for nuance!
4)You will need to watch/listen to the work AT LEAST two times; for one of the times, I want you to listen and concentrate, but for the second time I want you to occupy with some other activity as you listen, thus making the work become background music.  (You may listen more than just 2 times, if you wish!)
5)This should be ENJOYABLE!  Enjoyment doesn’t mean that every second of the music elicits your complete adoration, but it shouldn’t feel like you are “eating your vegetables,” which is sometimes the unfortunate result when one is assigned a work to experience as part of a class.
6)Lastly, you will need to know the timings for the start of each variation – here goes:
Opening Aria: 6:23    | Var.1: 09:15  |  Var.2: 10:25 |  Var.3: 11:14  |  Var.4: 12:45  | Var.5: 13:35 | Var.6: 14:12  | Var.7: 14:52  |  Var.8: 16:10 |  Var.9: 17:03  |  Var.10: 18:02  | Var.11: 19:06  |  Var.12: 19:59  |  Var.13: 21:36  |  Var.14: 24:13 | Var.15: 25:19 (minor mode) | Var.16: 30:21  |  Var.17: 31:59  |  Var.18: 32:54  |  Var.19: 33:57 |  Var.20: 35:01  |  Var.21: 35:51 (minor mode)  |  Var.22: 38:05  |  Var.23: 39:07  |  Var.24: 40:07  |  Var.25: 41:50 (minor mode)  |  Var.26: 47:47  |  Var.27: 48:41  |  Var.28: 50:01  |  Var.29: 51:05  | Var.30: 52:06

In order to prove that you ‘attended’ this virtual concert, you will write a short essay, almost identical in nature to your responses, excepting the length requirement which is 2-3 pages (please see the course syllabus for a more complete description of how these “essays” work). For this essay, you are going to identify the four variations that you find to be the most compelling musically, and you will explain why you made your choices.  Be sure to discuss specific musical components in your explanations.  (In other words, you are to avoid an excessively poetic language, such as “The 3rd variation makes me feel like I’m flying through a cloud, with angels and God moving through shadows of…”) Although not a variation, I will allow you to pick the opening aria as one of your favs.  
Make sure that you include specific timings from the video to corroborate your thoughts about what contributed to making your four favorite variations the most likeable.  

613 Words  2 Pages

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