Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto #4, Visualized by the Great Music Animation Machine

Yes­ter­day we fea­tured videos visu­al­iz­ing Igor Stravin­sky’s now hun­dred-year-old The Rite of Spring. They came from acknowl­edged mas­ter of music visu­al­iza­tion Stephen Mali­nows­ki, inven­tor of the Music Ani­ma­tion Machine. Have a look at Mali­nowski’s Youtube page and you’ll find oth­er videos show­cas­ing how his soft­ware, by trans­lat­ing musi­cal sounds into instinc­tive­ly under­stand­able graph­ics, allows us to bet­ter grasp the intri­cate work­ings of famous pieces. Today, let’s go back not just one hun­dred but about three hun­dred years, to Johann Sebas­t­ian Bach’s Bran­den­burg Con­cer­tos, the inge­nious intri­ca­cy of which has, since the Baroque peri­od, only won more and more devo­tion from musi­cal schol­ars.

At the top, you can hear, and more impor­tant­ly see, the first move­ment of Bach’s fourth Bran­den­burg con­cer­to. Just above, you’ll find its sec­ond move­ment, below, its third. (This video presents the move­ment whole.) Watch as you lis­ten, and you can expe­ri­ence through shape and col­or (I can only imag­ine the kick synes­thetes get out of this sort of thing) the way that the con­cer­to’s var­i­ous voic­es, meant for vio­lins, vio­la, cel­lo, vio­lone, and bas­so con­tin­uo, trade off, over­lap, inter­act, giv­ing each move­ment, and the whole piece, its shape. Though Bach’s musi­cal accom­plish­ments can some­times seem impres­sive to the point of feel­ing for­bid­ding, Mali­nowski’s graph­i­cal scores offer a way into com­pre­hen­sion, espe­cial­ly for the visu­al­ly inclined.

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Stravin­sky’s The Ride of Spring, Visu­al­ized in a Com­put­er Ani­ma­tion for its 100th Anniver­sary

The Genius of J.S. Bach’s “Crab Canon” Visu­al­ized on a Möbius Strip

Visu­al­iz­ing Bach: Alexan­der Chen’s Impos­si­ble Harp

Col­in Mar­shall hosts and pro­duces Note­book on Cities and Cul­ture and writes essays on lit­er­a­ture, film, cities, Asia, and aes­thet­ics. He’s at work on a book about Los Ange­lesA Los Ange­les PrimerFol­low him on Twit­ter at @colinmarshall.

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  • Kenny Cross says:

    It’s the same thing as grab­bing the musi­cal score and read­ing along as you lis­ten to the music. I know I know with this you can sit back, watch and lis­ten pas­sive­ly with­out know­ing what all those black dots and and lines mean.

    I pre­fer seeing/reading the actu­al notes, the black on white flow­ing across the page of the musi­cal score.

    But I’m old and cranky. And any­thing that will get peo­ple to lis­ten to the great­est music I’m all for. So hur­ray!

    Still it reminds me of Gui­tar Hero for clas­si­cal music. And maybe that’s exact­ly what they were going for. Still, dis­con­cert­ing­ly hyp­no­tiz­ing.

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