So randomly, the moment I click on WordPress to write another episode of complete drivel that no-one reads, Bach’s toccata in C minor randomly plays on my ‘Braintree Away’ Playlist. Sounds rather odd? Yes, but Tuesday just gone myself and my parents went on a coach to a small Essex town called Braintree to watch our beloved Dover Athletic play football. We lost 1-0 and in the second half we were given a masterclass in how to waste time by the hosts. So, I needed some music for the journey and compiled a list of about 90 tracks, a lot of Bach, but some Radiohead and Divine Comedy, too. Yet don’t panic because today we beat a good Macclesfield side 2-1 and kept our spot of third in the league, two points behind the leaders Forest Green Rovers.
Anyhow, I ended the last part with a performance of what is probably the greatest piece of music ever conceived. The solo violin chaconne in D minor is really beyond comprehension for any language to justify. It is not of this world. So was JS Bach some kind of alien planted here by something from the future or something vastly more intelligent than ourselves, but not quite able to compose music it would like? No, I highly doubt Bach is an alien plant or even an alien, no evidence you see. Drat, say all the UFO fantasists. No, Bach just happened to be a lone sperm that made it to the egg first, and through some complicated genetic makeup and milieu managed to become the greatest musician that ever lived. Now back to the chaconne in D minor. Did he hear the main theme in his head first or did he just happen upon it while playing around with some other ideas on the clavier, say? Well it obviously didn’t send him out of his mind like it would have done Brahms.
Today I became the owner of a biography of Bach and as I always seem to do, I looked at the last sentence and this is what it said:
“Truly, Bach links us with the universe.” Klause Eidam The True Life of J.S.Bach.
That is such a beautifully simple yet elegant explanation of Bach and his music. I always thought Beethoven was the greatest and spent a lot of my teenage years (before IMSLP) buying cheap copies of his piano sonatas from a local music shop with my meagre pocket/paper round money. Well as long as I had enough to buy a sonata or two and get into football I was happy. There was a hardback edition of Bach’s Well Tempered Clavier sitting proudly on the shelf above the cheap sonatas still wrapped in plastic to keep the dust off it. I think it was about £50 so I could only dream of being able to buy it. Now I have all of the WTCs thanks to IMSLP but they are bloody difficult to play, but what masterpieces. Still, I thought Beethoven was the grandmaster and greatest musician to have ever graced the planet. Now he is in second place. Bach is like a ceiling that only people like Beethoven or Mozart can dream of getting near or above. Yet you cannot, no-one can. Bach trumps his competitors time and time again. I used to bawl my eyes out when I listened to the last movement of Mozart’s Jupiter Symphony, same with Beethoven’s third, seventh, and ninth symphonies. Then a couple of years ago I found myself in tears walking across a supermarket car park while listening to to Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto in G major. I have always wondered why music triggers this. Is it the way a composer develops a theme so incredibly that something in your head cannot comprehend and tells the eyes to release the water? As a way of trying to come to terms with what our underdeveloped brains can’t cope with. An outlet say?
Without JS Bach music wouldn’t have progressed the way it did. Handel may have stepped up the the plate but he didn’t have the umph to do what a Bach would do. Vivaldi is a pleasure to listen to but too repetitive to be the bedrock of classical music, and the same with Scarlatti, Purcell came too early, and Telemann all the while the most prolific of composers was nowhere near good enough to provide the next generation with the correct techniques and harmonies. So it was just lucky that JS Bach did exist really.
I haven’t written anything for a few days, but I did read that JS Bach’s music sort of disappeared and wasn’t the flavour of the month until Mendelssohn rediscovered the great master in the 19th century. Yet I read that Beethoven quotes the masterfulness of Bach and if you look carefully there are many similarities in there music. Beethoven isn’t afraid to be bombastic and powerful and you can hear the link with Bach especially in the harmonies. At the moment I am listening to Bach’s partitas for keyboard. They are worthy pieces I would say nearly on par with the toccatas yet they don’t quite have the bite, but needless to say they are masterpieces and the intertwining are a joy to hear and play. There is so much going on in these partitas and I expect the more I listen to them the higher they will go in my estimation.
Some pieces by Bach can take several listenings to really understand and appreciate what is going on. I, you, we, must persevere. I think it is to do with neural pathways in the brain. When listening to a piece by Bach for the first time the brain cannot take it all in, especially if you are listening to his secular keyboard or solo instrument pieces. So keep at it and eventually the brain will have a Bach pathway that may induce more serotonin or dopamine to flow just for his music. That would be really interesting if that were true; surely it must be. The brain is trying to contend with something written around 300 years ago. That is a true test of time. I wonder, at any point in his life, Bach pondered what would happen to his music beyond his lifetime.
Well that’s part III done. Thanks for getting this far all none of you! Haha! I think I will just keep this going.