Yes, Bach is the only artist who makes a convincing case, to me, for the existence of God, or for the mind of God, which would have to have the qualities of a Bach fugue, infinitely complex and at the same time incredibly clear and perspicuous. Someone in a book on the Well-Tempered Clavier made the point that you never hear the same Bach fugue twice; there are too many paths through the music. On the other hand, any path will do. Unlike the contrapuntal forays of his contemporaries, Buxtehude or Pachelbel, for example, Bach's fugues never seem merely to noodle. There is always a crystal clear theme or variation (subject or episode, in fugue-speak) guiding the ear through the complexity. And yet the complexity and inventiveness is such that the ear can't grasp it all at once in any single hearing, and so, far from experiencing satiety, the ear hungers for a re-hearing. Thus the infinite and the finite, the abstract and the concrete, the whole and the detail, exist in harmonious but dynamic simultaneity in his music, as in a perfect aesthetic world, a Heaven of the musical imagination.
Friday, January 07, 2011
Bach Almost Persuades Me to Be a Christian
Speaking of Arthur, it was his birthday the other day, so I sent him a link to this interview with the author of a book on Bach's cello suites. He's been a DJ for a classical music program on a local independent radio station before, and he's forgotten more about classical music than you and I will ever know, so it's always interesting to hear what he has to say: