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The journey back to Bach

Wisdom is an attribute I don’t associate with other composers

I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it, but have I listened to it since?
I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it, but have I listened to it since?

I have often considered myself to be a most awful philistine when it comes to musical taste. That is to say, I have a general misunderstanding of music. I know what I like but I know not why. I do not have a natural inclination to the nuts and bolts of music. I might be tempted to say that I’m not interested in the nuts and bolts of anything but that isn’t the case. I dare you to ask me how to swing a golf club. You’ll get an entire hardware store full of nuts and bolts. Although, I do base everything on feel as opposed to technical feedback.


I can look to my lack of musical education at an early age to perhaps explain this. Like many in my generation, the movie Amadeus had a profound and, in my case, lasting impact. After seeing it around the age of 16 or 17, I went over to our dormant upright piano and began to compose. I hunted and pecked out a little tune and gave it some harmonies that I liked. I showed my opus to the choir teacher who inadvertently laughed out loud at the sight of it. After apologizing, she recommended I take her music theory class since I had no concept of something called a key signature.


I took the class and struggled. I took music theory in college and struggled. Halfway through my second year of theory I dropped my music major and took up the much more useful philosophy major. That is where I have remained—a philosophy major who listens to music and sings in the choir.


My taste in music did not evolve in the structured manner of a student studying an instrument. It evolved based on what I happened to like at the moment and what operas had a chorus I could sing in. I went from Mozart to Tchaikovsky to Beethoven to Handel to Schubert to Mahler to Puccini to Bruckner, to Wagner, to Victoria to Verdi to Borodin, to Brahms but never truly to Bach, until now, 35 years later.


Of course, I knew and liked Bach’s popular pieces such as Air on the G StringJesu Joy of Man’s DesiringSheep May Safely Graze, and that one Cello Suite that gets played all the time for anything and everything. It was also impossible to avoid Bach while on the choir circuit. 


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Video:

Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude




I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it but have I listened to it since? No, and it wasn’t because I was busy listening to the St. Mathew’s Passion. I have always respected Bach but I’ve never felt Bach in the same way I have other composers. 


As the fires of youth begin to wane, I begin to feel the wisdom of Bach’s music. Wisdom is an attribute I don’t associate with other composers and I believe The Art of the Fugue has something to teach me that isn’t necessarily the fugue.


Video:

Bach - The Art of Fugue in D minor BWV 1080





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I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it, but have I listened to it since?
I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it, but have I listened to it since?

I have often considered myself to be a most awful philistine when it comes to musical taste. That is to say, I have a general misunderstanding of music. I know what I like but I know not why. I do not have a natural inclination to the nuts and bolts of music. I might be tempted to say that I’m not interested in the nuts and bolts of anything but that isn’t the case. I dare you to ask me how to swing a golf club. You’ll get an entire hardware store full of nuts and bolts. Although, I do base everything on feel as opposed to technical feedback.


I can look to my lack of musical education at an early age to perhaps explain this. Like many in my generation, the movie Amadeus had a profound and, in my case, lasting impact. After seeing it around the age of 16 or 17, I went over to our dormant upright piano and began to compose. I hunted and pecked out a little tune and gave it some harmonies that I liked. I showed my opus to the choir teacher who inadvertently laughed out loud at the sight of it. After apologizing, she recommended I take her music theory class since I had no concept of something called a key signature.


I took the class and struggled. I took music theory in college and struggled. Halfway through my second year of theory I dropped my music major and took up the much more useful philosophy major. That is where I have remained—a philosophy major who listens to music and sings in the choir.


My taste in music did not evolve in the structured manner of a student studying an instrument. It evolved based on what I happened to like at the moment and what operas had a chorus I could sing in. I went from Mozart to Tchaikovsky to Beethoven to Handel to Schubert to Mahler to Puccini to Bruckner, to Wagner, to Victoria to Verdi to Borodin, to Brahms but never truly to Bach, until now, 35 years later.


Of course, I knew and liked Bach’s popular pieces such as Air on the G StringJesu Joy of Man’s DesiringSheep May Safely Graze, and that one Cello Suite that gets played all the time for anything and everything. It was also impossible to avoid Bach while on the choir circuit. 


Sponsored
Sponsored
Video:

Yo-Yo Ma - Bach: Cello Suite No. 1 in G Major, Prélude




I went and heard Jeremy Denk perform The Goldberg Variations and I liked it but have I listened to it since? No, and it wasn’t because I was busy listening to the St. Mathew’s Passion. I have always respected Bach but I’ve never felt Bach in the same way I have other composers. 


As the fires of youth begin to wane, I begin to feel the wisdom of Bach’s music. Wisdom is an attribute I don’t associate with other composers and I believe The Art of the Fugue has something to teach me that isn’t necessarily the fugue.


Video:

Bach - The Art of Fugue in D minor BWV 1080





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Sponsored
Here's something you might be interested in.
Submit a free classified
or view all
Previous article

Buzzing after Wagner's Walküre in San Diego

One of the best concerts I've experienced in San Diego
Next Article

San Diego politicians' mixed motives on marijuana

Why did three Roque de la Fuente kids give money to Tony Atkins?
Comments
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