Words & Stuff

ff: Tempos Fugue It

(8 February 1998)

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The fugue, as a musical form, is looser than the canon; less canonical, one might say. The following piece is meant to be spoken aloud in parallel, in two voices; each line on the left is spoken in synch with the corresponding line on the right. The line breaks mostly exist to improve Web formatting and to help in keeping the parts synchronized.

"( )" indicates either a one-line pause (if on a line by itself) or a one-beat pause (if part of a text line); in either case, it's a gap in one part while the other voice speaks.

Pronunciation: "fugue" is one syllable, /fjug/; "fuguing" is two syllables, /'fju gIN/; "fugu" is two syllables, /'fu gu/.

Fugue for Two
voice 1voice 2
We just got back from music class
and now we're fuguing.
( )
( )
The state of fugue reverses con-
sciousness, they say. ( )
We just got back from music class
and now we're fuguing.
(Far and fugue, and foreign few, and fugu, eh?) Music lends a state of altered consciousness;
And life, they say, reverses entropy. ( ) In music all of life is found reflected.
In states of fugue, one speaks and
acts exactly as if conscious,
Reflect on fugues, but not by
holding music to a mirror,
But one is not conscious,
( )
( )
Even temporarily,
One is un-conscious,
( )
( )
Uneven-tempoed,
And has no memory of actions after waking For rests in music mirror gaps in consciousness ( )
From the fugue state. Of the fugue state.
As life comes forth from nothing-
ness, reversing entropy,
Like drugs, like poison, music
enters through my waiting ears
So memory reborn from fugue,
reverses consciousness.
And through my ears is borne again
to my unconscious mind.
I had a friend named Jon, I had a friend named Joe,
Quite musically inclined; he played the violin. Who started to experience these states of fugue.
And in a way, was also a magician: And in these states, became a fine musician;
For every now and then, his
consciousness would disappear.
He played the violin, a
very virtuoso. ( )
In less than lucid moments,
he would sometimes write me notes.
In his more lucid moments,
he could never play a note.
( ) Statements of his state of mind:
fugue statements.
I asked him once what he thought this
fugue state meant,
His fugues began to overshadow
all his normal life;
He said he thought it mirrored something
missing in his life.
His other self took over more and more,
and when we met ( )
"I need a rest," he told me once, "and this
is how I get it.
I'd ask him gently, "Who are you today?" "The music gnaws at me, from day to day."
He's working out a timeshare system now. His life's reversed, all topsy-turvy now,
The two of him have signed up for a class, ( )
He speaks for both himself and for his other,
and when I saw him last, he told me this: in half-coherent mutterings like this:
"We just got back from music class
and now we're fuguing." ( )
( ) "Fuguing are we now, a class
of music got from Bach;
( ) "Just we."

Thanks to David Van Stone and Jim Moskowitz for inventing the spoken improvised fugue game that inspired this; also to the cast of Too Much Light Makes the Baby Go Blind for showing what two speaking voices in counterpoint can do; and to Douglas R. Hofstadter for the fugue-echoing dialogues in Gödel, Escher, Bach.


Jed Hartman <logophilia@kith.org>