The Friday Fillip

In today’s Fillip temperament is key — a whole lot of keys, as it happens, because it’s about a site that does wonders with the already marvelous Well-Tempered Clavier by J.S. Bach. The site, also called the Well-Tempered Clavier, invites you to chose (from either a scrolling list of key signatures or a keyboard) one of the 24 keys you’d like to explore with Bach. When you click on the chosen key in the list, a small window pops up and the first few bars of the selected prelude and fugue start playing. In the upper right corner of that small popup is a menu item, “play movie.”

This is where the fun begins. Playing the movie takes you to a complex screen where as the piano moves through the music, the score moves in time, and as well you see a synchronized chart that elucidates the themes and variations Bach used. If that’s not enough, you can read comments on either the composition or the performance as you go along.

You’ll need Shockwave installed on your computer to make the magic here, but if you don’t already have it installed, you can download it for free from the Clavier site.

Should all of this tempt you to explore the business of “tempering” a clavier — or any other musical thing, for that matter — there’s a lot of stuff on the internet about tuning, scales, modes and temperament, all having to do with making things sound… well, right. I’ve put up a piece I once wrote for my now defunct blog Xanada that has decent links to sites that will take you further into the mysteries of musical tuning.


  1. And we’re back to Godel, Escher, Bach Braid. Well spotted Simon.