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Johann Sebastian Bach's Case

Essay by   •  September 29, 2013  •  Essay  •  587 Words (3 Pages)  •  998 Views

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Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude No. 15 sounds drastically different when played on two different instruments. In the pieces we are examining, the piano and harpsichord are the highlighted instruments. While the general mechanics of the two different pieces were the same (they are still the same piece), the feel was much different. The harpsichord was bold and quick, while the piano was soft and mellifluous. These differences highlight the fact that an individual piece can be interpreted in many different ways based on the instrument. The main two differentiating elements in this piece are tempo and timbre.

The tempos of the two pieces were quite different. The harpsichord's beat was very fast paced, which made it seem like a heightened heartbeat. There wasn't much accent between the notes, as they were all mostly strong. It seemed to be duple meter, with no dissonance. The dynamic of the harpsichord was forte, as the notes were all very loud. The piano, on the other hand, had a slower paced tempo. It was much more mellifluous and light. It was more of a piano to mezzo dynamic, as the notes were soft and forgiving. The beat was slower than that of the harpsichord, adding to its soft feel. The differing tempos made the pieces feel different. The piano piece felt like I was walking through a park on a warm sunny day getting read for a picnic. The harpsichord, on the other hand, felt like I was being chased by someone, but in daylight not in darkness. Both put me in a good mood just by listening to them. The tempos of these pieces give them different meanings.

The timbres of the two pieces were also very different. Based on my understanding, timbre is what makes a sound different from another, even when they have the same notes. The harpsichord's timbre was very bright and in your face. It was harsher than the piano's version. If I could choose a color for the harpsichord's piece it would be brown, as it is harsh, but still has bright qualities to it. The piano, meanwhile, is soothing and peaceful. It is light and soft, and feels like being on the beach on a bright, sunny day. If I could choose a color for this piece, it would be a bright, vibrant yellow.

The third thing that differentiates these two pieces is their modes. As I have described above, the piano version is soft and flowing, while the harpsichord version is harsh and in your face. The piano part has a very Lydian mode. It put me in a good mood just listening to it, which caught me by surprise. I couldn't help but listen to it over and over again, and in total I listened to it many more times than the other version. The harpsichord version felt more skewed towards the Dorian mode. While it wasn't totally serious, it still had an anxious or foreboding feeling to it. This made these two pieces feel extremely different, even if they were the same notes.

Johann Sebastian Bach's Prelude No. 15 sounds drastically different

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