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Re: The Bach choral dilemma

I'd expected to see a more definitive response to this on-list by now, but
haven't, so I'd like to address a couple of apparent misconceptions. Now, my
expertise is not in the area of stream segregation, so forgive me if I've
misunderstood the problem. I also haven't heard the piece in question, so my
discussion of it is primarily speculative.

Of course, I don't know if "BWV 363" is a good example of "polyphonic" music
or not (though I have certainly heard good examples of streaming in some Bach
fugues). However, the piece of score reproduced in my copy of Goldsein (6th
ed) is of a Chorale Prelude, not a Chorale. I'm told that the preludes are
not sung, but performed instrumentally, usually by organ. The prelude
introduces the theme that will appear, subsequently, in the chorale. I would
guess that if the same piece were performed by singers, streaming-apart would
be more difficult to accomplish due to numerous cues suggesting a single
stream: for example, I imagine that singers asked to make such large pitch
changes would produce frequency glides at the begining and end of each note.
Modulations and harmonicity in the voice may also play a role. It is possible
that the recording in question, an adaptation of the piece to voice, fails to
capture this aspect of the composition.

On the other hand, the piece Prof. Rousseau describes features only voice; if
the piece cited by Goldstein is a Chorale Prelude and instrumental (and it
doesn't appear from the score that it was intended to be sung), this suggests
that they may be different pieces entirely, which would explain why Prof.
Rousseau and his students do not hear streaming in the piece, and also his
suggestion that the score appears too simple to be the complex piece he's
listening to. He also reports a discrepancy in the tempo: Goldstein states
that streaming occurs when the piece is "played rapidly," which Prof.
Rousseau suggests would be faster than the written tempo. Indeed, if the
streaming effect requires rapidity of performance, and streaming was intended
by the composer, then the written tempo must be rapid. Since the piece
doesn't appear (to Prof. Rousseau) to possess a rapid tempo, I would guess
that we're not talking about the same piece. It sounds to me like Prof.
Rousseau's class may be listening to a Chorale--which we might expect to have
a rather slow tempo and fairly complex structure--and not the Choral Prelude
discussed by Goldstein. It could be that the piece was incorrectly cited in
Goldstein, or perhaps the recoding makes no distinction between the prelude
and the chorale.



G. Christopher Stecker, Ph.D.
cstecker@umich.edu       /    734-764-5167

Central Systems Laboratory, Kresge Hearing Research Institute

University of Michigan Medical Center
1301 East Ann Street / Ann Arbor MI 48109-0506


On Wednesday 22 January 2003 09:03 pm, Luc Rousseau wrote:
> Dear Auditory Listers,
> Listening carefully to BWV 363 (Jesus Christus, unser Heiland), or BWV
> 364 (Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod), I hardly hear it
> streaming, if streaming at all.  Same for my Sensation & Perception
> class.
> A collegue of mine, who owns a huge collection of Baroque music, told me
> that BWV 363 is not a so good instance of polyphonic music.  So why
> Bruce Goldstein presents it as such in his Sensation & Perception
> textbook? (4th ed., 1996, p. 397; 5th ed., 1999, p. 360)
> The author provides a musical notation in Figure 12.11 (p. 360): four
> measures of (what is probably, according to title) BWV 363.  The notes
> clearly stream (VISUALLY, I mean).  I am not a musician, but the musical
> notation seems to me quite simple for a so complex musical piece.  Can
> someone confirm that the notation is the original?
> Goldstein notes: "When this passage is played rapidly, the low notes
> sound as if they are a melody played by one instrument, and the high
> notes sound like a different melody played by another instrument.  This
> effect [...] is an example of auditory stream segregation [...]." (p.
> 360).  First, BWV 363 is refered to as an instrumental piece, while the
> only instrument is the human voice (choral).  The fact that the human
> voice is also a musical instrument should probably be emphasized to
> musically naive students.  Secondly -- and more critically --, why
> whould we have to play it rapidly, while the composer's intent was to
> provide a polyphonic experience at the written tempo?
> An e-mail sent to the author at bruceg+@pitt-edu on Nov. 30, 2001, has
> not been answered yet.
> A legal (30 sec.) excerpt of BWV 363 may probably be made available on
> the Auditory List Home Page, if someone can provide it.  Are more
> salient examples of Baroque polyphony known?
> I have a great respect for Goldstein's S&P textbook, and I hope Auditory
> Listers will provide clues into (what my S&P class and I are now
> refering to as) the Bach choral dilemma.
> Luc Rousseau, Ph.D.
> Assistant Professor
> Department of Psychology
> Laurentian University
> Sudbury, Ontario, Canada