Thursday, April 3, 2008

Pachelbel's Canon

Johann Pachelbel wrote what may be the most famous canon in history, the Canon in D. It's an absolutely lovely piece of music that I think is a terrible example of a canon because it doesn't sound like a canon. It doesn't sound like a canon because there's no syncopation in the subject. If you look at the score you'll see that the canonic imitation is ocurring strictly on every downbeat. While it is canonic imitation, it just sounds like a developing chord progression, rather than a contrapuntal composition. Furthermore, there are no variations added - no inversion, no augmentation, no diminution, etc. I am certain that when most people listen to this piece they are missing the essence of what a canon is. As evidence, consider There are countless videos of drummers "playing the Canon in D." All of them are, in fact, playing along with the Canon in D and none of them are actually playing a canon. Furthermore, there are lots of guitar players playing the melody of the Canon in D and I would be willing to bet that few of them actually understand why it's called a canon in the first place. I am not a scholar of Pachelbel, but I do know that Mr. P understood what a canon is. After all, he wrote more than a hundred fugues. I wish that all the folks claiming to be "playing the Canon in D" actually knew what a canon is.

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