Fugue

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Definition

A contrapuntal piece based on a theme (subject) announced in one voice part alone, then imitated by other voices in close succession. Listen to the excerpt from the Fugue in C Major for Organ by J S Bach. The subject is quite distinctive and can be clearly heard entering, each time lower than the entry before. In a fugue, the second time the melody enters it is called the answer as it enters at a different pitch, usually the dominant of the original key, for example the first note of the subject would be C and the first note of the answer would be G. As the answer plays, the first part continues with the countersubject above. The subject then appears again, as the original part enters free fugue. The table below helps show this structure.

Fugue structure
Voice 1 Subject Countersubject Free fugue Free fugue
Voice 2 Answer Countersubject Free fugue
Voice 3 Subject Countersubject
Voice 4 Answer

Examples


Watch as this animation shows the different voices and how they interact.


Fugue in C Major by J S Bach - starts at 5 minutes and 20 seconds in.


Fugue based on 'Bad Romance' by Lady Gaga

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