Thema Regis, contd.:

It is not surprising that as agile a mind as Bach's would enjoy verbal puzzles and cryptic delitescent meanings and messages. His acrostics extended to writing a fugue on the letters of his own last name (one of the final pieces he composed, just after he finished his monumental creation, "The Art of the Fugue"). In eighteenth century German musical notation, 'B' designated B Flat while 'H' indicated B Natural in the musical scale. Hence, "B A C H" would be played as:

A curious latent feature of the Musical Offering is the recurrence of the number eight, the count of measures in Frederick's theme. As can be seen in the table of contents shown above, their are eight primary "offerings" with one of them, the second, hierarchically encapsulating another eight. It turns out that their are eight letters in the word "RICERCAR".

Bach's name, if the letters are numbered according to their position in the alphabet, is 2 1 3 8. If we consider that triple and duple times define the scope of rhythmic metres in Baroque music, Bach could be easily enchanted with the interplay of two's and three's, particularly since they occur in his name. Imbedded in that name is the fact that B * (A + C) = H! Eight is, of course, 2 raised to the 3rd power. Also, the sum of the ordinal digits representing the letters in Bach's name is 14, a number which can be expressed as ( 2*3 + 2^3). The sum of the digits in 14 is 5, or (2 + 3).

Moreover, it can be observed that Bach was born on March 21, 1685. In "reducing" this date numerologically to the recursive sum of its digits, (3, 2+1, 1+6+8+5) becomes (3,3,20) or (3+3+2) or eight! Perhaps, since the eighth letter terminates Bach's name, he associated it with his own terminus and apotheosis, or ascent to Himmel (heaven) to join his Heiland (saviour) that actually occurred only three years after he composed the Musikalisches Opfer. Perhaps, hidden in the labyrinths of Bach's massive musical temple, there are other mysterious "eight's." Quaerendo invenietis!

Return to "What's a ricercar?