Archetypes - A Thought about the Organ as a Time Machine

The Hauptwerk instrument on which I play pieces from the traditional repertoire and my own music (which I hardly consider in terms of Western classical music) may be regarded as a time machine which brings the sound of ancient instruments and the refinement of the clavichord to the present age. Consequently, a piece like Archetypes can be played in the spirit of ancient organs and the clavichord:

'Time's a strange thing,' Father Crompton said.
'Of course the child wouldn't understand it was all done in the past.'
'St Augustine asked where time came from. He said it came out of the future which didn't exist yet, into the present that had no duration, and went into the past which had ceased to exist. I don't know that we can understand time any better than a child.'

(The End of the Affair, Graham Greene, 1951)


About practising trio sonatas by J.S. Bach

To practise Bach's trio sonatas and consider it as a life-long learning process, it is preferable to memorize each voice independently from beginning to end and also every possible combination of voices. Special attention should be paid to the left hand, which is usually weaker than the right. The following videos demonstrate a systematic way of practising, in which each part becomes an exercise in itself, applied to the Sonata in d minor BWV 527, third movement. These videos have been made with the digitalized sound of the van Dam-organ in the Grote Kerk in Tholen (the Netherlands). Strange as it may sound, I consider the instrument with Hauptwerk software which makes this possible as a 21st century equivalent of the clavichord, the instrument on which Bach and his contemporaries used to practise at home, because of the refinement of touch: every detail of musical expression can be realized.

Left hand solo

Right hand solo

Pedal solo

Left hand + Pedal

Right hand + Pedal

Left hand + Right hand

All three voices


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, all three voices

Finally, the joy of playing the three voices together. The sound is from the sample set "Tholen". I play the left hand on the third manual with flutes 8' and 2', because that voice is generally a little lower than the one for the right hand, so it matches the flutes 8' and 4' on the first manual very well.

Click here for other Bach recordings. 


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, left and right hand

The one-before-last step of practising.

Click here for other Bach recordings. 

J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, right hand and pedal

The sound of the holpijp 8' and the flute d'amour 4' of the organ in Tholen is beautiful, very Empfindsam.

Click here for other Bach recordings.


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, left hand and pedal

The next step in the structured order of practising. It is always good to start with the left hand and give it more time than the the right hand. In addition, it seems that playing with the left hand connects to the right part of the brain, where creativity is settled. Accordingly, I like to begin the day with some of my left hand patterns for contemporary improvisation and composition; it gives a healthy feeling.


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, pedal only

One should be able to play the bass without the arms looking for support on the organ bench, as that would imply that the body is not well-balanced in itself. Therefore, keeping the arms bowed while playing a pedal solo is a good exercise.


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, right hand only

The upcoming posts will, like the previous one, deal with each voice of BWV 527c separately. I intend to use these videos for my research, to demonstrate exercises for the co-ordination which are also relevant for my ways of improvising on rhythmic melodic patterns, in a contemporary style.


J.S. Bach - Sonata BWV 527, third movement, left hand only

It is preferable that one knows and practises every voice of a trio sonata by heart.


J.S. Bach - Es ist gewisslich an der Zeit BWV 755

This chorale prelude is perhaps better known as Nun freut euch, lieben Christen Gemein'. However, I like the other title, because of the hurried impatience of the right hand's part.