Die Künst der Fuge

To commemorate JS Bach's 300th birthday in 1985, I undertook a visual music project.

I chose his “Die Künst der Fuge” and proceeded to create a fiber panel, one for each fugue. (The mirrors of the mirror fugues are presented together).

At the time I was devoting my creative energy and thinking to fiber, so the result would become a series of fiber panels. What I eventually accomplished was 18 panels depicting each fugue in turn.

The whole cycle of fugues was left unfinished at Bach's death and the last “Quadruple fugue” has only the first three themes before breaking off. This has lead to much speculation about what the fourth theme might be. Many musicians and scholars feel it was to be the original theme restated as a kind of bookend. Panel 1 and panel 18 reflect that.

Mention should be made about the vertical orientation of the panels. It was a conscious decision. A horizontal orientation would focus attention on the sense of a musical score. The visual aspect would be sublimated. A couple of untoward aspects of the vertical presentation as observed by a couple of viewers is how the sound of a fugue is rather like a waterfall that gains energy as it descends. The other is how ingrained, the glacial landscape is in my thinking. Both of these ideas are very much after the fact.

The work was finished in 1985 in time for Bach’s 300th Birthday. There were numerous public views usually accompanying a performance of the music at SUNY Stonybrook (Long Island, NY, US) with Samuel Baron performing his own transcription for Woodwind Quintet and String Quartet.

Since that time, the panels have rarely been seen and it was only a few years ago that reasonable photographs were possible. You can see them in their own “project page” together with a brief description of each fugue.

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