How a Bach Canon Works. Brilliant.

Brilliant. This moving manuscript depicts a single musical sequence played front to back and then back to front. Give the video a little time to unfold.

via @Slate. Catch @Openculture on Twitter here.


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  1. J. Castillo says . . . | September 12, 2009 / 4:01 pm

    testing new comment system… =0

  2. Open Culture says . . . | September 12, 2009 / 4:06 pm

    Hi all,

    Does this new comment system seem ok? Any thoughts?

    Thanks for the hand,
    Dan

  3. Greg says . . . | September 12, 2009 / 4:25 pm

    Twitter and FB connect both were taking forever to connect so used Open Id which worked fine/quickly. To be fair, twitter has seemed to be having issues today so probably something on their server end.

    I like the concept of being able to use any id to log in though!

  4. RaphaelleH says . . . | September 12, 2009 / 4:36 pm

    That is incredible. Love the infinite loop visual. And DISQUS is fantastic. Just need to get it for myself already.

  5. Open Culture says . . . | September 12, 2009 / 4:40 pm

    Hopefully the Twitter and FB logins will work. That's part of what I was hoping to accomplish here.

    Thanks again,
    Dan

  6. gary says . . . | May 23, 2010 / 10:44 am

    as always Open Culture is #1 in my book, thank you!

  7. Otis Turner says . . . | January 18, 2011 / 4:07 am

    Hope you like it. I did.

  8. Nicolas Buff says . . . | February 24, 2011 / 4:37 am

    Great, informative animation. I recently learned that once upon a time musicians would mail their canons to one another as puzzles. The task was to unravel how the canon worked from the single given line. Whatever happened to great pastimes like these?

  9. flavin judd studio says . . . | April 13, 2011 / 4:10 am

    gorgeously genius.

  10. Beta Cummins says . . . | April 13, 2011 / 4:39 am

    I love Bach, but can’t recall having listened to this piece before. What is it called?

  11. Beta Cummins says . . . | April 13, 2011 / 4:58 am

    Never, ever knew that. Worth repeating: whatever happened to pastimes like these?

    Cheers!

  12. IridiumDinosaurs says . . . | November 2, 2011 / 6:58 pm

    The relationship between music, art, life and mathematics. The notion of ‘undecidable propositions’. such as the geometry in something you see in the escher triangle, which doesn’t seem wrong but doesn’t work either, in your system. structured music which you hear and the patterns or puzzles of the cannon, how is that possible?. The existence or nature of God as an axiom, The notion of genius, atheism, a universe,.. with or without a god, or to believe….

    AN INTERESTINGLY POWERFUL FORMAL SYSTEM (anything) which is seemingly incomplete, or inconsistent,..The implication, in philosophical terms, is that we must always choose between knowing that there are truth’s that cannot be proven (incompleteness) or knowing that there are statements that are both true and false, at the same time (inconsistency). within a (your) given framework SUCH AS LIFE. …. The whole GEB idea and concepts about meaning, loops and value within the infinite really forces me to think of the way we live… need to get priorities right methinks.

    This is a book which covers everything! (Gödel Escher Bach, an Eternal Golden Braid by DouglasHofstadter.)

    this a book which explains everything with meaning!(Critical Path by Buckminster Fuller)..

  13. Lori says . . . | June 2, 2012 / 10:43 pm

    Absolutely brilliant!!!

  14. Anton Sherwood says . . . | August 13, 2012 / 12:36 pm

    What does the twist in the Möbius loop represent? The tune does not seem to swap high for low (so far as I could tell).

  15. Victoria says . . . | August 26, 2012 / 1:35 am

    Of course! Harmony, Counterpoint and Composition are pure Mathematics – and the reason I was allowed an alternate credit to the Math courses on offer in my last year of High School! The real beauty of this for me was the pleasure of the harmonic expression of Mathematics. However, I would always encourage pursuing the Calculus and Geometry credits even if you are intending to be a musician! Mathematics provides a wonderful and necessary entry to so many other subjects.

  16. mary o'connor says . . . | August 26, 2012 / 1:59 am

    mathematics and music are of the world and our experience. they are not so much man made as man-found and discovered.

  17. ketler says . . . | August 26, 2012 / 3:26 am

    Wonderful!

  18. aya yuson says . . . | August 26, 2012 / 8:13 am

    music is math & math is music… ‘cept music sounds good.

  19. Luca says . . . | August 27, 2012 / 12:55 am

    Infinite jest. Early morning Bach is the mental equivalent of brushing my teeth. Even 5 minutes seems enough to defrag what remains of my hard-drive.

    A precious site, is this. Thank you.

  20. fuse says . . . | August 27, 2012 / 9:34 pm

    Here’s my rock music crab canon – it’s the song and its retrograde mixed together – same forwards or backwards! Also please read the program notes – it is a palidrome – the first word is the last, the second word is the second last, etc. All hail the arch!
    http://tindeck.com/listen/lpvc
    Also, I;ve written a good fugue in classical style (last variation)for all you counterpoint junkies! Enjoy!
    http://tindeck.com/listen/jbbb

  21. Michel Camilo says . . . | August 29, 2012 / 7:23 pm

    Amazingly done!!! Bravo!!!

  22. Elly Smith says . . . | August 30, 2012 / 9:01 pm

    I did love hearing Bach. Don’t hear music like that these days. I have some of Bach’s CD’s.Will have too listen to them again to compare.

    d

  23. Hildigunnur Rúnarsdóttir says . . . | September 4, 2012 / 8:57 am

    This is amazing, I’m SO going to use it in my teaching!

  24. Anna says . . . | September 4, 2012 / 10:00 am

    Brilliant
    Your site is amazing
    Love you guys

  25. A. Person says . . . | September 6, 2012 / 10:19 pm

    I shouldn’t be surprised this is narrow, stupid, and just wrong- it’s titled “A Bach Canon”. A) it’s a fugue, unless you’re really going to explain a Cancrizans Canon [and it’s not a simple one in context]. B) it’s not a type only composed by Bach- there’s no such thing. Unless it said ‘A fugue from X piece by J.S. Bach’, it’s a misnomer. Stupidity about classical music, and dismissing accuracy as elitist and unimportant, is an indication of this country’s whole attitude problem with the arts and culture. I expected better from openculture.

  26. A. Person says . . . | September 6, 2012 / 10:21 pm

    I shouldn’t be surprised this is narrow, stupid, and just wrong- it’s titled “A Bach Canon”. A) it’s a fugue, unless you’re really going to explain a Cancrizans Canon [and it’s not a simple one in context]. B) it’s not a type only composed by Bach- there’s no such thing. Unless it said ‘A fugue from X piece by J.S. Bach’, it’s a misnomer. And musicians (including opera singers, instrumentalists, composers, etc) spend years learning, and creating based on, *actually* learning and watching how these things “work”. And, really, Stupidity about classical music, and dismissing accuracy as elitist and unimportant, is an indication of this country’s whole attitude problem with the arts and culture. I expected better from openculture.

  27. Mark says . . . | September 7, 2012 / 12:57 pm

    A. Person: This is actual material from Bach’s Musical Offering, as it says as the book opens at the beginning of the video (Musikaliches Opfer). He used that material as the video shows in composing the actual work. So its actually quite correct, and an interesting look into the how the work is structure. It is out of context of the complete work, but regardless, go study the actual piece, and you will find exactly what is displayed in this video.

  28. miok says . . . | September 16, 2012 / 12:15 am

    i like peanut butter….

  29. Nancy Joy Koch says . . . | September 16, 2012 / 7:15 am

    Bach’s mind was absolutely incredibly brilliant!

  30. John says . . . | November 22, 2012 / 2:47 pm

    It does sound like a crab, I feel hungry.

  31. Frankie G. String says . . . | February 4, 2013 / 8:10 am

    Nice video. Would even be nicer with real music!

  32. August Grillo says . . . | February 7, 2013 / 3:23 pm

    Theme is by Fredrick The Great given to Bach while visiting. Bach improvised on this chromatic theme for several hours, went home and wrote an enormous work, the Musical Offering as a gift to Fredrick. Some of the puzzle canons instructions were simply marked ” seek and ye shall find ” The work ends with a fugue in 8 parts that sounds very modern. Great piece of music.

  33. jonathan damelio says . . . | February 9, 2013 / 9:37 am

    This really is brilliant! Did Bach see the mobius strip in his mind while he wrote this or did he physically do this with his staff paper? Really makin my math knowledge from the 70’s go into overdrive. You see the Mobius strip was discovered by German mathematicians August Ferdinand Mobius & Johann Benedict Listing in 1858. Bach died in 1750, ONE HUNDRED YEARS BEFORE the strip was discovered!

  34. MT says . . . | February 13, 2013 / 3:47 am

    To: A. Person.
    Actually, you are wrong. This is a canon from the Musical Offering. Not a fugue. Your rant is really misplaced. Maybe it’s your attitude that’s the problem.

  35. outseeker says . . . | February 22, 2013 / 8:49 pm

    His talent is truly beyond my comprehension. Thanks for the video to illustrate why I can never be such a musician/composer :)

  36. paul delesdernier says . . . | March 19, 2013 / 10:00 pm

    Why did the chicken cross the mobius strip? To get to the same side.

  37. Dia's Mom says . . . | March 25, 2013 / 7:27 am

    I just played the video for my 11 year old. His first comment was, “Wow, so it’s just as brillant backwards as forward!” , and, “Now, that’s a music writer!”. I loved it, short, to the point ,and well said.

  38. Dorothy says . . . | April 20, 2013 / 7:24 am

    I love the devine elegance of it’s sound and structure. Magnificent.

    (Note to A. Person: Not knowing something, or being incorrect isn’t stupidity. Stupidity is the inability to learn, not the lack of knowledge. Aftr reading the history of this piece, I’d say you exposed yours. Lighten up; it’s just as elegant, regardless of what you call it or who used the form. I’m sad you couldn’t just enjoy it.)

  39. Apolloguy says . . . | September 6, 2013 / 7:14 am

    A person just got Bach-slapped for being too sharp. Give it a rest and measure your notes.

  40. Victor Fleischer says . . . | January 9, 2014 / 6:11 am

    Example of BACH cannon was brilliant. Superbly done!
    BRAVO…BRAVO!!! I have been in love with JOHANN all my life.
    Thanks.

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