I am making these midi files (J S Bach's Art of The Variation, commonly known as the 'Goldberg Variations') available now (rather than later) because I have reached a point of diminishing returns in their editing. That is, theoretically the pieces can always come closer still to the way I think they ought to be interpreted--but not by so much that it justifies my spending all that much more effort on it. Although it was fun while it lasted, it's time to work on something else now.

       COPYRIGHT NOTICE: Copyright (P) 1998 Mr. S. D. Rodrian

Although any transcription of Bach's music is by definition in the Public Domain, these 'interpretations' ARE copyrighted as performances (especially as this version of Bach's famous work is my own edition):

This music may not be reproduced by any means without the expressed written permission of S. D. Rodrian... with the one exception that these Midi files may be freely distributed through the WWW as long as they are not modified in any way.

As a point of departure you must understand that I use the SoundBlaster AWE32 card (on a P.120 PC): This card comes with digitally sampled instruments. [I use Master Tracks Pro.]

On other software (provided the hardware is capable of digitally-sampled instruments), if you don't know how to avoid the FM banks of computer-generated instruments try the Midi Mapper (which might have been properly programmed with your card's wave table instruments).

These files are set to a minimum 'stereo' pan. The following set of 'controls' instructions are for the AWE32 card, but users of other cards may deduce the effect I'm after from them...

for the CREATIVE MIXER: set the Treble, Bass, and MIDI Volumes to their loudest possible settings. Then set MAIN VOLUME to play at your own particular comfort level. NOTE that the note 'velocities' in these files are set to the loudest possible setting (whenever and wherever possible).
Set all right/left 'balances' as close as possible to the center.

for the AWE32 CONTROL PANEL: Use the Qsound (not Reverb and Chorus).

for the BOB (break-out box): Make sure all the controller 'boxes' (under the M's) are unchecked... Save this setting to the default.bob file if need be: When any box is 'checked' it interferes with the controller information sent by the midi files for proper playback.

MP3 versions of these files are available at:
http://mp3s.sdrodrian.com   or:


Part One of The Art of The Variation

Part Two of The Art of The Variation

Click HERE to get both midis in R-GOLD.ZIP


J.S.Bach's Art of The Variation (commonly known as The Goldberg Variations) is a set of 30 pieces using an Aria movement both as point of departure and as its ultimate destination. The basic figured bass (sic) has additional significance as the theme, but not as far as this little note is concerned.)

The character of this Aria, although its notes are identical in both cases, should be quite different in each of the two renderings (one as its opening movement, and the other as its concluding movement).

This brings me to my approach of this interpretation: It's easy to speak of whatever great piece of music one is listening to at any given moment is the greatest. But even objectively I find it difficult to imagine a greater work for the keyboard than this one--not by any other composer, and not even by Bach himself. And I'm not talking technically; rather, I mean poetically: The breadth and scope of human emotions one encounters here is truly amazing.

Using the Midi Piano or any hammering keyboard instead of a 'strumming' (plucking) one drives the 'performance' to a degree of dramatic expression not possible in Bach's time (outside of stringed instruments or the organ) even on the German harpsichord. This midi interpretation ('performance') is unique in other ways: I only include those ornamentations which do not rob the 'piano' of its dramatic character (no 'cuteness' here). Which, of course, is the 'Romantic atrocities' purists and other absolutist cranks demand that you and I (and not merely them) forego--But YOU be the judge of what YOU like... This 'performance' is everywhere strictly dictated by the contents of the score rather than by what traditionally has been handed down as the manner in which these musical forms have been played in ages long dead and gone.

Because my emphasis is always content over form, I do not much care to name the pieces 'fugues, canons, etc.' (If you don't believe me take a quick look at the fanciful titles I gave the movements!) This is what the music means to me: However interesting, it would be presumptive of me to create a presentation of what this work means to somebody else. In any case, we already have access to dozens of performances of this work as it conforms to what academicians and other musical anthropologists believe is the 'correct' tradition (with probably more to come): In other words. this is the only chance you're likely to get to listen to a 'performance' like this one.

Another point of uniqueness about this interpretation is the uncompromising way in which I treat the work as a true unity, instead of merely a collection of related pieces: For me Variation 16 is an overture, and Variation 15 an overwhelmingly beautiful concluding movement. Thusly my interpretation is designed to play in two continuous stretches. For this reason my work comes in two very large midi files... which will probably take a huge amount of time to load into a sequencer (r-gold-b.mid takes me two and a half minutes to load on a Pentium 120, so if your computer is slower it may take six times as long or more). The good news is that the program Ensemble MIDI which comes bundled with the SoundBlaster AWE32 card plays the files immediately in both my Pentium 120 as well as on my old 486/66. If Ensemble Midi gives you an 'out of memory' error you might have to use a sequencer after all.

Played individually, each variation takes off literally from silence and then proceeds to still another ANTICIPATED silence. This means that silences themselves frame the nature and character of each piece. But conceived as an unbroken whole, and played without interruption throughout the way it's done here... the character of each variation is framed by how the preceding piece was played, and it then sets up the manner in which it is most natural for the variation that follows it to be played. (With a midi recording, the experiment to perform is to listen to a given variation in the context in which it is placed and then to listen to it again, this time just by itself: As the computer does not 'know' it's playing the same piece in two different contexts, it will not make the adjustments a human player performing the same experiment will invariably find it impossible NOT to make.)

This will immediately show you why to understand the unity of this music requires listening to it in two uninterrupted segments: The only interruption coming between the 15th and 16th variations (with the opening Aria executed like a proper introduction and its reiteration at the end played in the manner of a finale...

Music is a language, after all. In fact THE most basic language of all (most animals use it) and, like all languages, its logic--the way it is understood--is based on a standardized grammar, usage... sentences, paragraphs, and phrases most of all. Remember how trying it was to listen to President Carter placing pauses in the middle of his phrases? Well, it is just as trying to listen to a performance in which the interpreter does not have a strong grasp of the unity (integrity) of even the tiniest of his musical phrases, let alone long musical passages. The difference between the good musician and 'the rest' is, after the matter of technique has been settled (by years & years of practice or by having a computer take care of the technique as in this midi 'performance')... is that the good musician understands and interprets the logical phrases within the longer musical passages, since conventional musical notation is always only an approximation of the 'real' music it records within it.

There is a huge amount of ornamentation in baroque music and the Goldberg Variations have more of it than you can discover from just looking at the printed notation or even by a casual listening: This is because baroque ornamentation seldom becomes distractive. Unlike Classical ornamentation, which is often simply an out-and-out aside, baroque ornamentation (and most especially of all in the music of Bach, who is both the focal point of the baroque as well as its culmination), baroque ornamentation is almost always integrated into its content in the same manner that gargoyles and little angels are an integral part of baroque architecture.



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