• fugue •
Part of Speech: Noun
Meaning: 1. (Music) A musical structure in which a theme is extended and developed mainly by imitative counterpoint (combining two distinct lines) in different voices. 2. (Psychology) A state of altered consciousness in which a person wanders away from their present life and begins a new one. After recovery, there is no memory of the fugue episode.
Notes: In the summer of 2005, an 80-page draft of Ludwig von Beethoven's Grosse Fugue for Piano for Four Hands, written in Beethoven's own hand, was discovered in a drawer at a Philadelphia seminary. It was quickly sold for $1.9 million to an anonymous buyer. You can hear the new piece at the NPR website. Fugal is the adjective, fugally, the adverb, and Bach was a better fuguist, composer of fugues, than was Beethoven.
In Play: There is little you can say about fugues; it is best to listen to them. Bach probably wrote the best. There is room to play with the psychological sense of this word: "Every time anything goes wrong in the office, Arthur seems to be off on a fugue and can't remember anything about the problem when he returns."
Word History: Today's Good Word was taken pretty much 'as is' from French, which got it from Latin fuga "flight". The Latin verb was fugere "to flee", closely related to Greek feugein "to flee". The Latin verb is also the origin of our word fugitive. You might have heard the Latin verb in the phrase tempus fugit, close in meaning to English "time flies", as in "Time flies like an arrow; fruit flies like an apple."
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