Really, there is no explanation for Johann Sebastian Bach. “” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit
gratitude pours forth continuously, of that there can no longer be any serious doubt. and if at any time hereafter i should resume my old crestfallen habits, it’ll be entirely on account of muscle memory, nothing more than an athlete’s nervous tick, absentmindedly picking at old scabs, a little shade to recover from overexposures to light—but always, always, the absent thing comes back home, making the long arc back to its hut to sit, laugh-shaken on his doorsill…
But that’s enough; I shall write no more from the underground… “”fyodor dostoevsky, Notes From Underground
in the meantime, it’s september. back to bach. damn sebastian, bach at it again (sorry, i can’t help it). back to this stretch of four months between september and december wherein the music sounds better than in any other time of year. so much that even the cheap din of christmas music is made more profound by all the attendant moodiness of december. the TSO, RCM, and COC all open up shop this month—from this perspective, my life is simply amazing.
it’s no minor-league decision to find the perfect entry into the season, the most appropriate musical introduction to the fall. and, unlike my usual self, i think i knocked it out of the park: these brandenburg concertos are music for september, par excellence. ‘In memory, everything plays out to music.’ are words by british filmmaker terence davies that i return to at every opportunity—indeed, my last few septembers have been mere fodder for music of this sort…and as such, i remember them better.
For the Fifth Concerto, Bach calls for a Traversierre, the new cross-flute, and forerunner to today’s orchestral flute. But Bach’s modernism does not cease there; for perhaps the first time in history, the lowly harpsichord is raised from its continuo subservience to become a soloist, together with the violin. “” r.j. dearling, notes for the recording
the harpsichord is a terrible and marvelous instrument, cherry sweet: it’s the sound the city makes at around 3pm, no more no less. if you really want to appreciate silence: learn how to play the harpsichord. (the harpsichord: what it sounds like when you’re talking, but so too is everyone else in your audience.)
truth is i’ve been misidentifying the harpsichord as some sort of high-strung organ. there’s something mesmerizing about it, it’s a supremely meditative instrument—you don’t even have to close your eyes.
it’s this eyes-wide-open kind of transcendence that is characteristic of these three concertos. and yes indeed, the silence thereafter all that harpsichord is special, sublime even. it’s the feeling that everything has been said.
i’m reading a very unusual french book: unusual because it’s french and yet it leaves very little for the imagination. the author says too much. but he makes up for it, especially with decidedly clairvoyant asides such as this:
There’s nothing terrible inside us or on earth or possibly in heaven itself except what hasn’t been said yet. We won’t be easy in our minds until everything has been said once and for all, then we’ll fall silent and no longer be afraid of keeping still. That will be the day. “” ferdinand céline, Journey to the End of the Night
last week i was nearly braggadocious about my talent for timing in regards to music, and perhaps it’s well founded—these brandenburg concertos would be, except for at a barely audible volume, absolutely intolerable in june or july…
Heliodor Recording. Printed in Canada // Johann Sebastian Bach (1685–1750) Brandenburg Concertos #2,3& //
Group of the Schola // Cantorum Basiliensis // Conducted by August Wenizinger //
Brandenburg Concerto #2 in F. BMV 1047: Allegro (brisk speed), Andante (moderately slow), Allegro assai (very fast tempo)
Brandenburg Concerto #3 in G, BMV 1048: Allegro, Adagio (slow), Allegro
Brandenburg Concerto #5 in D, BMV 1050: Allegro, Affettuoso (tender, fairly slow), Allegro
After “too stubbornly forcing the issue of his dismissal,” Bach found himself clapped in jail for a month before he could move on. [...] Then there was his street brawl with an orchestral player whom he had called a “nanny-goat bassoonist.“” jan swafford, Language of the Spirit
(our dear Nietzsche)———it’s the most beautiful thing that’s ever been said about music and the month of october; i’ve mentioned it here on several occasions—well then, once more:
I will say another word for the choicest ears: what i really want from music is that be cheerful and profound, like an afternoon in October. “” Friedrich Nietzsche, Ecce Homo
we still have quite a ways to go till that october afternoon—meanwhile, it’s september, and the third movement of the third brandenburg concerto is the most cheerful and profound stretch of music i know.
He should not be named Bach [which in German means “brook”] but rather ocean! “” beethoven on bach
(in a time lapse)———the weather has been lousy this week. the bananas and gourds too are lousy and stunted. we’re in that in-betweenness wherein one walks around with a sweater and shorts. there should be music too for the period between seasons. (the most marvelous thing about the book 15 Dogs by andre alexis is that it takes place in toronto. aside from that, it is also a wildly imaginative exposition into the more plausible experiences of life from a dog’s perspective. their conception of seasons, for example, is a spectrum much more nuanced than ours, taking into account the minute details that span the time in-between the four seasons.
ludocivo einaudi’s Divenire would be my choice of music for the mini-season between august and late september. it has, simultaneously, a quickening of pace and a deepening of hues—in one word: autumn.