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1. The MIDI files may be downloaded free of charge from the MIDI files tab at the top of this page.  You may use them for any purpose consistent with the Creative Commons license.  You can learn more about this license at Creative Commons, their website.

The purpose of theBachWorks site is to open this project to public participation under terms which guarantee

The latter point may require some discussion.  There are important differences between 

    1. a MIDI file that merely represents the raw score of a piece of music

    2. a MIDI file that contains all the additional data that makes a performance - the tempo track with rubatos and agogic accents, decelerando and accelerando, the varying parameters for velocity, volume, panning, and other MIDI controls, and

    3. a MIDI file dedicated to controlling a particular studio setup, with its specific synthesizers, processors, mixers, recording gear, and cabling connections.

It may be that only the first sort of MIDI file can be effectively 'free' on the CC model; or it may be that all three kinds can be 'free'.

The BachWorks Files

In the "Bach-Werke Verzeichnis", or BWV, the organ pieces begin with BWV 525 and end with BWV 771. The works for other keyboard instruments begin at BWV 772 and end with BWV 994. So there are 470 numbered works for one kind of keyboard or another.

Some of these are not by Bach. And some indisputably authentic pieces have actually been discovered since 1950, so the Bach Werke Verzeichnis has had to be extended beyond number 1080. Anyway, when you subtract out the doubtful or spurious pieces, you're left with (by my count) 396 works.

Many of these works are themselves collections of separate movements. The Goldberg Variations, for example, are 31 distinct performable things, each with its own tempo and texture; and each of the French and English Suites, and the Partitas, is a collection of from five to ten or more individual dance movements. In the Well-Tempered Clavier, each prelude and fugue pair has a single BWV number; the C major prelude and fugue in WTC I are BWV 846, and the b minor pair in WTC II are BWV 893.

I keep each separate movement in its own file. So how many files will there be when the project is complete? Around 850. The exact number is uncertain because some things, such as the keyboard toccatas, can be broken up several different ways, and I haven't made some of those decisions yet, and somebody else might break them up differently.

Draft, Score, and Performance midifiles

A draft file usually needs some editing to become listenable.  For example, the draft file of a piece in binary form such as one of the Goldberg Variations might start both the A and B sections at measure 1 in the sequence, using tracks 1-4 for section A and tracks 5-8 for section B.  This allows one to defer the decision about repeats; but then that decision, once made, must be carried out in a series of cut/paste edits to put both sections - whether repeated or not - on the same set of tracks.

A draft file doesn't have ornaments.  Those usually go in somewhere in the transition from a score file to a performance.

Even draft files, to the best of my ability, are free of wrong notes.  (But I expect that, as the collection attracts listeners and readers, many errors will be exposed.  Tell me every error you find, or better yet make the correction and be immortalized in the list of contributors to theBachWorks.

A score file is - at the very least - listenable.  It may or may not have ornaments; if it does, they conform roughly to what the printed score prescribes.  As far as reasonably possible, it assigns one voice per track - a two-part invention requires two tracks, a three-part invention requires three, and a six-part fugue requires six tracks.  The tempo track may be - and usually is - constant.  Note start times are quantized; durations may be, or may not.  Velocities are generally constant but needn't be.

A performance file has been edited for musical expressivity.  Such editing may extend to any or all of: note velocities, instrumentation (GM), articulation (i.e. note durations), volume and other standard MIDI control parameters.  The tempo track will usually be densely populated with small changes, measure-by-measure, to produce rubato, agogic accents, phrasing, and of course large-scale cadential rallentandos, decelerandos, and accelerandos.

One important constraint on performance files: they should contain nothing that ties them to particular synthesizers or studio setups.  For files that do, I reserve the term "studio file".  A studio file, instructive as it might be for study, is nearly worthless in distribution unless your studio duplicates the one where the file originated.

File Structure

Each file in theBachWorks collection is a type 1 midi file.  It contains a header, composed of <text> fields, that identifies the work, its author (invariably J.S.Bach), the primary copyright holder, a list of secondary copyright holders, and a revision history.

Track Layout

The single most important principle, for files in theBachWorks collection, is this: one voice per track, with the highest voices first (lowest track number), and conventionally deeper voices assigned to increasing track numbers.

Such an arrangement is pretty obvious for fugues.  It is not so obvious for many of the WTC preludes, and for many of the dance pieces in the suites and partitas it is difficult to uphold.  Nonetheless I uphold it; midi files of complex polyphony in just one or two tracks are not what I do.

I allow minor exceptions, in situations where, for example, a single part expands, in its final measures, to two.  Here, I handle each case on its own merits, and do not try to maintain a rigid rule.  You'll have to examine several files to get the feel of what liberties I allow myself, and which of those I actually take.

Published Editions

For the organ works I've been using the venerable Peters Edition in nine volumes.  The clavier works are mostly based on the Bischof edition (for collections) or the Dover BGA reprints (for isolated works not available in Bischof).

Copyright © Jim Michmerhuizen 2005    Contact