The Phrygian Suite: An Unheard Music by J. S. Bach

Bach’s French Suites have been an integral part of my practice over the years that I have become so accustomed to having the book placed on my music stand at all times. As I was experimenting with inverting the piano keys by using MIDI Keyboard Mapping*, my immediate reaction was to try out Suite No. IV. The book was anyway open on that page and it was a matter of seconds before my mind got blown away with the music that started to come out.

My hands were physically playing the usual notes but the music was like nothing I’ve heard before. It sounded mysterious and haunting and unlike anything Bach has ever written. It was like hearing Bach’s reflection on some ethereal surface. It was like revealing the point by running counter to the counterpoint.

So much has been uncovered about Bach’s hidden genius in his music; the staggering mirror canons found in the Goldberg Variations and how the crab canon of the Musical Offering works on a Mobius Strip are just few examples. However, all of these wonders were architected by Bach himself. What is revealing about the Phrygian Suite is that even though it contains the DNA of Bach’s essence, it is a piece of music written by his reflection and nobody has ever heard it before, including Bach himself.


* MIDI Keyboard Mapping allows rearrangement of MIDI notes in whichever order/pattern wanted. Using reverse keyboard mapping, the piano keyboard becomes completely inverted from high to low and therefore what used to be a major scale becomes a Phrygian scale (the order of half and whole tones become the exact opposite).
For ex: C Major scale is composed of (in steps): whole – whole – half – whole –whole – whole –half.
Going the other way around gives: half – whole – whole – whole – half – whole – whole.
So when you’re physically playing an ascending C major scale, the sound produced is a descending C Phrygian scale.
Needless to say, both hand registers will be inverted as well. Right hand controls the low register and left hand controls the high register.  

- Tarek Yamani

Share the article >>

Stay connected >>