So, you want to write a fugue?
You've got the urge to write a fugue.
You've got the nerve to write a fugue.
So go ahead and write a fugue that we can sing.
"So You Want to Write a Fugue" is a fugue about writing fugues (yes, it's meta) by Glenn Gould. It appeared in the television special The Anatomy of Fugue, which aired on the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation in 1963. It is scored for four voices (SATB) and accompaniment by either string quartet or piano.
The fugue, which has a running time of just over five minutes, remains popular; you can purchase the choral score online. In one of French musician and filmmaker Bruno Monsaingeon's documentaries about him, Gould discusses having written the fugue for the documentary 11 years after the fact. It's clear that he still got a kick out of it.
The fugue mentions Johann Sebastian Bach and quotes from his Brandenburg Concerto No. 2, as well as from the prelude of Wagner's Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg. It was heavily influenced by Bach's Art of Fugue. Certain parts of the piece contain direct correlations between the lyrics and the musical structure, such as when the singers mention canon inversions, augmentation and stretto. ("Not since Sir John Steiner has there been a stretti like that," he quips.)
You can listen to the fugue here and watch Gould discuss it here.
(Disclaimer: I love this thing. A lot.)
We're going to write a fugue!
We're going to write a good one!
We're going to write a fugue right now!