Josh Goleman/Courtesy of the artist
Within the early 1720s, Johann Sebastian Bach composed a set of Two-Half Innovations to assist his eldest son, Wilhelm Friedemann Bach, study to play the keyboard.
Now, 300 years later, jazz pianist and composer Dan Tepfer has extracted the framework and narrative from these deceptively easy workout routines to information new improvisations for an album he calls Innovations / Reinventions. “The musical content material, what is going on on beneath the floor is so profound that it is actually this glorious method of introducing youngsters to what the best music may be,” he tells NPR’s Sacha Pfeiffer.
Bach’s items assist the training pianist grasp concord, rhythm and method. They’re known as Two-Half Innovations as a result of there are two separate voices distributed between the pianist’s two arms. “So not solely is there a dialogue between two voices right here, however there’s additionally a dialogue between two arms,” Tepfer explains.
The New York-based pianist initiated a dialog with Bach throughout the centuries by emulating the composer’s narrative construction: A musical thought, or theme, is sort of a protagonist, launched earlier than experiencing varied adventures — expressed musically by modulations — and in the end returning to the house key.
“The chief purpose right here is to be in dialog with Bach and to remain in my footwear — to not be enjoying on his turf, however to be utilizing his concepts on my turf, which I feel is what any good dialog is,” Tepfer says. And in doing so by improvisation, Tepfer can also be drawing from the beating coronary heart of Bach’s music. The Baroque grasp was famend in his personal time as an improviser, one folks would journey from throughout Europe to listen to.
It is not the primary time Tepfer, 41, has improvised in ways in which construct upon Bach. In his 2011 album Goldberg Variations / Variations, he performed the unique 18th century composition (an aria and a set of 30 variations) alongside his personal twenty first century improvisations. In the course of the pandemic, Tepfer, who additionally has an undergraduate diploma in astrophysics, wrote a pc program that performs again every Goldberg variation, however flipped the other way up.
Basically, Tepfer inverted the a number of traces of music (counterpoint) Bach had composed. The place a melody would possibly fall within the unique composition, the sample would rise in what Tepfer known as the #BachUpsideDown venture. Whereas the flipped variations are utterly new music, in addition they are an echo of the unique piece and sound oddly acquainted.
Josh Goleman/Shore Fireplace Media
Along with his new Two-Half Innovations, Tepfer’s improvisations are within the 9 keys not coated by Bach’s cycle. Out of the 24 potential main and minor keys, Bach solely composed these workout routines in 15 of essentially the most generally used keys. However Tepfer is fast to insist that nothing is lacking from the unique compositions.
“I do not imagine these gaps must be stuffed in any respect. I by no means wish to enhance on what Bach has written. I feel it could be silly to take action,” Tepfer says. As a substitute, he provides, “I out of the blue realized that Bach had left open a window for me to answer him in.”
This interview was performed by Sacha Pfeiffer, produced by Barry Gordemer and edited by Olivia Hampton. To listen to the published model of this story, use the audio participant on the prime of this web page.