Resolving Tensions between Outer Form and Inner Form in Fugue: A Case Study of J. S. Bach's Fugue in D minor (WTC I)

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Sarah Marlowe


This study offers a comparative analysis of J. S. Bach’s Fugue in D minor, from the Well-Tempered Clavier Book I (WTC I). Detailed examination of multiple divergent readings of the same musical excerpts raises important questions about Schenkerian theory and its application to fugal textures. I suggest that analytical discrepancies arise primarily when voice-leading concerns are not completely disentangled from our deeply rooted views of formal design in fugue. In the end, an over-reliance on the details of outer form risks blocking access to the fugue’s inner form. I identify and resolve significant differences that emerge at the foreground in these readings, later considering how a combined view of formal design (outer form) and tonal structure (inner form) resolves ambiguities and enhances our understanding of the work as a whole.

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