Saturday, 7 November 2015

Variatio 7. a 1 ô vero 2 Clav. al tempo di Giga: Tipping Point @ Sonica

Will future generations mistake Kathy Hinde's Tipping Point for a religious ritual? Consisting of six pairs of glass vessels containing water, it generates sound from the rising and falling of the water in each vessel (using gravity and a mechanism that shifts water between each vessel in the pair).

Placed in a darkened room, during the long hours it stands as an installation, the mechanisms randomly adjust the water level: Hinde also performs on the machinery, demonstrating the tones and how they shift and twist. It produces a hushed, darkened atmosphere, an Orphic cave that encourages a reverential meditation on water. 

The variation is in 6/8 meter, suggesting several possible Baroque dances. In 1974, when scholars discovered Bach's own copy of the first printing of the Goldberg Variations, they noted that over this variation Bach had added the heading al tempo di Giga

But the implications of this discovery for modern performance have turned out to be less clear than was at first assumed. In his book The Keyboard Music of J. S. Bach [5] the scholar and keyboardist David Schulenberg notes that the discovery "surprised twentieth-century commentators who supposed gigues were always fast and fleeting." 

However, "despite the Italian terminology [giga], this is a [less fleet] French gigue." Indeed, he notes, the dotted rhythmic pattern of this variation (pictured) is very similar to that of the gigue from Bach's second French suite and the gigue of the French Overture. This kind of gigue is known as a "Canary", based on the rhythm of a dance which originated from the Canary islands.

 Bach rendered into Jazz evokes improvisation, technical virtuosity and style... does this come closer to the spirit of Goldberg Variatio 7 than any number of classical recordings? Certainly, this version brings me closer to restful ease than the challenge of listening to, say,  the Glen Gould recording. Nice.

A time signature of 

6/8 means count 6 eighth 
notes to each bar. This is 
also a very often
-used time signature. You 
would count the beat: 1, 2, 
3, 4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 
3, 4, 5, 6, and so 

Now you will wonder why can’t 

you just reduce 6/8 
to 3/4? After all,
they add up to the same 
amount. One reason you 
might pick one time signa
ture versus the other 
is how the music is 
organized. 6/8 is 
grouped into 2 groups
of 3 eighth notes. 3/4 
time would be grouped in
to 3 groups of 2 eighth
notes. Depending on the
structure of the bassline
or song, it may make sense 
to group it one way in
stead of the other. So
6/8 feels more like two:
3/4 feels more like three.

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