If you’ve ever learned classical piano, you probably tried to play one of Bach’s Inventions. The composer wrote fifteen pieces containing the most important fifteen keys in order to teach his son the fundamentals of piano and composition. Today, they remain some of the most popular pieces of piano music. Acclaimed jazz pianist Dan Tepfer recently revisited his childhood music books seeing them in a way he’d never realized as a student: the Inventions are much more than novice piano works.
For Tepfer, each of the Inventions not only highlight masterful command over harmony and counterpoint, but also contain moving character arcs that resemble the hero’s journey. A character is introduced at home in place of safety in act I. And then they are thrust into chaos and must overcome unsurmountable challenges in Act II. Finally, in Act III, our hero overcomes their final battle and returns home transformed by the journey. Once Tepfer heard this character arc, he started to apply it to his own free improv.
Through studying Bach, Tepfer conceived a new album: Inventions / Reinventions. In this project Tepfer fills in the missing keys from the Bach to complete all twenty four keys (there are twelve major and twelve minor keys) while updating the music with modern improvisation. In this conversation Tepfer walks co-host Charlie Harding through his process of playing Bach and applying it to jazz improv.
Listen to Dan Tepfer’s Inventions / Reinventions on StorySound Records
Listen to Into It with Sam Sanders on Fair Use
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