Preludium et Fuga in A Minor, BWV 543
Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750)
Norton Recorded Anthology of Western Music, CD 5 Tracks 43-44
My high school cross country coach once gave me an award for most consistent. He, Major Graves, was working hard to say something nice. As I approached the podium Major Graves talked about my perfect attendance to races we never won and my strong admiration for the music of J.S. Bach. This and many other high school experiences coincided with the early days of rap music. When I hear rap music on the street these days it rarely seems like the complex pattern music my classmates shared with the rest of the school and environs from their car speakers. In a way, I liked it. I wanted to get one of those Pacer station wagons, put some big speakers sticking out of the back, and cruise around with some Prelude and Fugue for the neighborhood. It would be even cooler if I managed to lay down a track of someone cussing in German.
Much visceral appeal is achieved by pedal tones. Among other advantages, these notes allowed Bach to pursue complexity because they hold the listener to a particular point.
What I like about BWV 543 is the moment, near the end of the first long pedal tone, where all etiquette is tossed aside. Just before the feet take off in a speedy arpeggio for the first time, the fingers stutter out a diminished chord with happy zeal.