The Organ Fugues of J.S. Bach: A Historical and Contemporary Study

My research will consist of an intensive study of the sheet music to the organ fugues of Johann Sebastian Bach, culminating in a composition of my own intended to replicate Bach’s compositional style. A fugue is a contrapuntal piece wherein a fragment of melodic material (a theme) is repeatedly introduced in the different voices of the piece. Bach is generally considered the master of this art form, which is why I am seeking to study his methods in order to learn about the technical and structural elements that make fugal writing possible. Topics considered will include, but are not limited to, chord progressions, rhythmic motives, key relationships, inversions and augmentations of the theme, and playability as it relates to the mechanics of an organ. I myself am an organist, so through this project I hope not only to hone my music theory and composition skills, but also my performance skills. I will take approximately a week and a half to analyze and take detailed notes on the structural elements of the organ fugues in my New Bach Edition manuscript. I will then begin the composition process by selecting a theme to use for the fugue, which will an already existing and recognizable tune. Through the choice of theme, I will tie Baroque methods to more modern melodic writing, thus forging a connection between eras. The rest of my research will consist of using the techniques I have documented and learned to write a fugue on the selected theme. If I have time, I will learn to play the fugue on organ and record it.