JS Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier Artistically Animated with Pulsing Neon Lights

The Well-Tem­pered Clavier, com­posed by JS Bach between 1722 and 1742, remains one of the most inno­v­a­tive and influ­en­tial works in the his­to­ry of West­ern clas­si­cal music. A web­site from North­ern Ari­zona State U. sums up what essen­tial­ly made Bach’s com­po­si­tion — a col­lec­tion of 48 pre­ludes and fugues spread across two vol­umes — so inno­v­a­tive, so influ­en­tial.

One of Bach’s pri­ma­ry pur­pos­es in com­pos­ing these cycles was to demon­strate the fea­si­bil­i­ty of the “well tem­pered” tun­ing sys­tem that would allow for com­po­si­tion in every key.

Anoth­er pur­pose of the Well-Tem­pered Clavier was to reveal how mod­ern and pro­gres­sive com­po­si­tion could be informed by con­ser­v­a­tive ideas. The Well-Tem­pered Clavier is an ency­clo­pe­dia of nation­al and his­tor­i­cal styles and idioms. Its influ­ences range from the white-note style of the Renais­sance motet to the French manier. Iron­i­cal­ly, half of this styl­is­tic smor­gas­bord is expressed in fugue, a form that was out of date upon the cycle’s com­ple­tion. Bach was of course aware of this. His hope was to defend the ven­er­a­ble form by demon­strat­ing how it could absorb con­tem­po­rary fla­vors.

If you’ve nev­er expe­ri­enced Bach’s piece, then I’d encour­age you to lis­ten to the 1960s record­ing by Glenn Gould. Or watch a sec­tion of the piece being per­formed on the All of Bach web­site — a site that will even­tu­al­ly put 1080 Bach per­for­mances online, for free.

Above, we have some­thing a lit­tle dif­fer­ent. Cre­at­ed by direc­tor and visu­al artist Alan War­bur­ton, this new­ly-released video takes a famous sec­tion of Bach’s com­po­si­tion and ani­mates it with puls­ing neon lights. Describ­ing what went into mak­ing this video, the Sin­fi­ni Music web­site writes:

Alan’s incred­i­ble design incor­po­rat­ed many thou­sands of sep­a­rate CGI lights, every one of which had to be tai­lored to the pre­cise dura­tion of Pierre-Lau­rent Aimard’s note strikes. ‘I need­ed to find a way of automat­ing the process of these turn­ing on and off in time with the music,’ says Alan. With no midi file of the per­for­mance avail­able, he was faced with the seem­ing­ly impos­si­ble task of match­ing every note of a stand-in midi file to the record­ing, by ear alone…

Then it was a ques­tion of ren­der­ing the ani­mat­ed data in CGI with­in the vir­tu­al space cre­at­ed espe­cial­ly for the ani­ma­tion. This too, was no mean feat, even for the army of cloud-based com­put­ers that had a hand in the task. Each frame took 15 min­utes to ren­der because of the thou­sands of cal­cu­la­tions involved in acti­vat­ing each light as well as the shad­ows, glows and reflec­tions required to make the scene look tru­ly life-like.

Sin­fi­ni Music, which com­mis­sioned this project, has more on War­bur­ton’s cre­ation here.

Hope this gets your week­end start­ed on the right, er, note.

via The Kids Should See This

Relat­ed Con­tent:

All of Bach Is Putting Videos of 1,080 Bach Per­for­mances Online

A Big Bach Down­load: All of Bach’s Organ Works for Free

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

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