Contrapunctus V

By coincidence, the Sun is both 400 times larger than our Moon, and 400 times farther away…so it appears just about the same size as the Moon. Because the Moon’s orbit is both elliptical and tilted with respect to Earth’s orbital plane, solar eclipses take a variety of forms. They may be partial, in which the Moon appears to overlie only part of the Sun’s surface, or annular, in which the the Moon is sufficiently far away for its apparent angular diameter to be smaller than the Sun’s, or total, in which the Sun is completely obscured. The “diamond ring” effect shown above is a particularly beautiful moment during a total eclipse, occurring just at the beginning or the end of totality, as the overlapping bodies create incredible beauty. Image credit: William C. Livingston, NSO/AURA/NSF.

Now we move into the second “quartet” of fugues (although this section has only three; for some thoughts about the reason for this see my introductory page on AOF’s structure).

The three fugues in this section are stretto fugues, meaning the subject now will appear not in separate entries, as with the first four fugues, but overlapped with copies of itself. The variant of the main AOF subject used in the stretto fugues is this.

You’ll hear this subject at the start of this fugue in the alto voice, and then you’ll hear an inverted copy of it start in the bass when the alto reaches the third bar, at 0:04. From here and throughout, the subject entries come fast and tightly packed, tumbling over one another like a series of waterfalls. At the very end, the regular and inverted subjects appear in the tightest stretto imaginable: completely overlapped in the alto and bass, with all notes of each subject sounding at the same time. (At the same time, the soprano and tenor trace mirrored accompanying lines.)

There are similarities between the cascading material in this fugue and analogous material in Contrapunctus X, a double fugue in which the essential material of this fugue becomes beautifully encompassed within a more sharply shaped main subject.

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