Well-Tempered Clavier (aural play accompanied by geometry play)

On July 9th, 2016, I completed the final video in a multi-month project: animated graphical scores for the 48 preludes and fugues of the first book of J. S. Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier (based on the recordings from pianist Kimiko Ishizaka's Open Well-Tempered Clavier). Here are some reviews and other public mentions:

  • Robert Douglas (Festival Peak), See Bach's music like you've never heard it before (July 10, 2016)
  • David Cassel (The New Stack), The Man Who Animates Bach (July 23, 2016)
  • Stephen Smoliar (The Rehearsal Studio), Stephen Malinowski's Latest Project: Visualizing Book I of The Well-Tempered Clavier (July 16, 2016)
  • Daniel Nass (Classical MPR), Bach's Well-Tempered Clavier ... Animated (June 21, 2016)
  • Rion Nakaya (The Kid Should See This), Bach, Prelude in C-sharp major, WTC I, BWV 848, animated (undated)

    Here's the full YouTube playlist. In these videos, I explore a variety of approaches:

    In the F major fugue, I used the simple bar-graph notation I've used for years (yawn?), but mostly, I've used new techniques to highlight each piece's characteristic features.

    In some, I focus on structural elements. For example, in the B-flat minor fugue, I use an unrolling spiral (originally developed for Björk's Black Lake) for the fugue subject, to highlight the 5-voice, 1-beat stretto at the climax:

    In the C-sharp minor fugue, I use shape and motion to differentiate the three themes, and in the D-sharp minor fugue, I use multiple time scales to show how the augmentation of the theme works.

    In some, I've taken my cue from expressive aspects of the music. In the C-sharp major prelude, I focused on the bouncy pattern that begins in the bass; in the B-flat major prelude, the bouncing takes over completely.

    In the E minor prelude, I put the dynamics of the piano tone under the microscope:

    For the F major prelude, I go for straight video-game excitement.

    And in some, I just go for the purely (or almost purely) ornamental. I recently began experimenting with the Voronoi tessellation as an analogue to music perception (see this for some background); I've used these in a simple form to show the music as a pure, stained-glass window pattern (as in the D major prelude, but I've also tried variations, like the D minor prelude, where the Voronoi vertices become crazy spiders ...

    ... or the A minor prelude in which the score assembles itself or explodes.

    In the C major prelude, I abandon the scrolling paradigm entirely, and let the repeating arpeggiation become the petals of a blooming mandala:



    Stephen Malinowski, July 9, 2016