Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Great Bach

• In an age when virtuosic musicianship was the norm, his feet could play the organ pedals better than most keyboardists could play with their hands.
• His hands, feet and fingers could play independent melodies.
• Bach's hand could stretch 12 notes; he could trill with the thumb and forefinger while playing a melody with the remaining three fingers.
• Independent melodies -- polyphony -- if composed well will weave perfectly in harmony like braided hair or an M.C. Escher woodcut.
• Bach once said: "The ultimate end and aim of thoroughbass should only be the glorification of God and the recreation of the mind. Where these are not kept in view there can be no real music -- only infernal jingling and bellowing." And he was only talking about the left hand -- thoroughbass, a convention of voice doubling and using the progressive structure of chords to guide the emotions. Bluesmen also mastered this.
• Beethoven said of Bach: "His name should have been Sea." The word "bach" in German means "brook."
• Mozart in his maturity visited a Bach library in Leipzig, spread manuscripts all over the floor, pored over them for hours, and at last said: "Now here is someone I can learn from."
• Bach's "Mass in B-minor" is considered by some to be the greatest artistic achievement in Western civilization. Catholics and Protestants equally share in its richness. Bach was a great reconciler, borrowing ideas from all over Europe during his time.
• G.F. Handel, Domenico Scarlatti and J.S. Bach were all born in 1685.

J.S. Bach was the Muddy Waters of his time. The man crossed lines that had never been crossed. He'd walk into church and compose a mass as he played it. The ultimate improviser, for sure.

Don't forget his 26 children, from how many women? Musta had a lot on his mind. No cable tv I guess.

Definitely one of the most prolific and complete musicians of the last millenium.
Actually, JSB had 20 children: 7 by his first wife, who died; and 13 by his second wife.

But, yes, he was prolific in more ways than one.
20? I stand corrected. Well, 20 is still a hard number to hit. Now you know why he composed as much as he did. He probably figured one of two things.
1. If he's compulsively working, he can't have too many kids.
2. If he's gonna have a full stable, he's gotta feed them.

Thank goodness the good Lord gave him the monumental talent he did. Otherwise, he'd have had 60 kids and probably been an accordion player or a sausage maker
I think Bach's first wife died while giving birth. And, I read somewhere that half of his kids died in infancy.

Bach's generation gave us the people whose contemporaries founded America. This was the Age of Reason and Enlightenment. The Dark Ages were long gone; the Renaissance had burned brightly and heralded the coming age. Now the great thinkers Bach, Handel, Scarlatti, Monteverdi, Descartes, Rousseau, Voltaire, Adams, Jefferson et al would hold sway and leave their indelible mark on history.
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