Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Kind Kappellmeister 7/29/09

When Bach and Beethoven and all those guys were doing their thing, it was an absolute pinnacle of our consciousness, and ever since then we've been re-exploring different avenues of it.

Maynard Keenan
Tune your fiddle and have a seat.
If you are reading this you are probably not a fan of classical music. Most people aren't. But whether you prefer jazz, rock, folk, new age, easy listening or whatever your choice, you should know that if your favorite musician had formal training in a music academy or college department he or she had to analyze Bach chorals as part of the training.

Johann Sebastian Bach was the organist and music director of his very large church. Bach was a Lutheran. He composed, rehearsed and conducted a cantata every week to commemorate what the Sunday service was about. These cantatas were written for orchestra, chorus and usually solo singers. In between he managed to write an enormous amount of music. It was calculated that if a modern day musician sat down with a ball point pen, in good lighting and worked a 40 hour week it would take him many decades just to copy out what Bach wrote. And Bach did it with a quill pen, an inkwell, by candle light in a house full of his children.

Haydn, Mozart, Beethoven, Schubert and many others were inspired composers. I have a different feeling about Bach. Bach wasn't inspired. Bach WAS music. Music flowed out of him like breath. It was a divine exhalation. And that's why every true musician needs to know it.

I used to know a folk singer who graduated with a Bachelors degree in music. For her honors thesis she did an analysis of the Bach B minor Mass, a formidable task for any music student. It's a personal thing I know, but I happen to believe that the B minor Mass is the greatest piece of music ever written.

Far from my intent is to proselytize and try to make a classical music lover out of you, if you don't want to be. But if you don't listen to anything else you should listen to the amazing opening chorus of the Bach Mass It lasts 10 to 12 minutes depending on the conductor. It starts with a few basic chords and then begins a slow stately fugue for orchestra and chorus. During it the chorus sings only two words, Kerie Eleison, the opening two words of the Mass. It is a work of pure genius.

It's true that ever since Bach composers and musicians have been trying to re-explore and recapture that genius, to reinvent that wheel, to regain that amazing level of consciousness that brought such music to the world. And some have succeeded. Bach is always there to show us the way.

DB - Vagabond Journeys
Join me for a happy Wednesday.
PS: Whenever I write on classical music people seem to find out about it ahead of time and all head for the hills. Hence, no readers, no comments.


a corgi said...

I like a bit of classical music, DB. My husband has a deeper appreciation for it, I believe, due to his talents as a guitarist (who does play some classical pieces). that was interesting about Bach; truly a genius he was! Now I'm going to hunt up in our CDs what we have for classical music; makes me want to hear some this fine morning :)


Arlene (AJ) said...

I've always enjoyed all music. An interesting write about Bach, indeed a genius. Love your readings, we learn so much. Thanks DB.

Bucko (a.k.a., Ken) said...

I had a spell where I was into classical music, but now for the most part, I do not purposely listen.

Beth said...

That's mostly what I play on the piano, and the simple Bach pieces I play are some of the most joyful. They are generally light, airy, and flowing, and a joy to play (if I can get my fingers to work fast enough!). Hugs, Beth

Bonnie Bonsai said...

I don't know how to eloquently express my appreciation of classical music. Though I have no formal education in music I love the floating tempo of the symphonic orchestra that plays them. To me classical is considered music from heaven. Relaxing, comforting and the kind that transport me to the world I have never been before as if I was born in that era. God knows where I get this exhilarating oftentimes exaggerating emotion. I am an emotional person. Classical music allows me to be the way I am without inhibition. In high school, I used to be in the choir mass. Kyrie Eleison is one of the songs we sang. Bach is known for his exuberant masterpieces.