The Mindless Blathering of a Starving Musician

I am, as the name would suggest, a humble starving musician...just trying to make it out of high school in a little slum of the world known as Downers Grove, IL. Read if you want, but feel free not to...after all, it's just the Mindless Blathering of a Starving Musician.

3.27.2006

The Genius of Bach

Every musician in the world has, at one time or another, come into contact with the works of J.S. (Johann Sebastian) Bach. This German composer, father of classical music as we know it, was, quite plainly, a genius. Those of you that are musicians reading this are probably rolling your eyes and thinking "old news!" to yourselves. But I just think that often we over look Bach as the true genius that he is. I mean, take a look at his fugues. The flawless and seamless integrations of counterpoint and sequences. The tasteful use of tonicizations and modulations, all using imitative melodies. Pure genius. All the part-writing guidelines taught in theory courses around the world, created by Bach. Simply, genius. I don't need to waste your time anymore ranting on this, I just wanted to state my opinion on how I feel he is underrated and overlooked as the true genius he is. To close, I provide some examples of lovely and ingenious Bach pieces.
  • Toccata and Fugue in D Minor (yes, the famous one)--take special note of the fugue and the way he plays with the theme, modulating and incorporating thirds/sixths.
  • Concerto for Two Violins in D Minor--listen to the harpsichord figured-bass improvisation in the first movement, and just enjoy the lush melody of the second movement...listen for the theme being played with.
  • any of the concerti for 2, 3, or 4 harpsichords (some are based on his violin concert)--listen for the counterpoint and cooperation/interraction of the multiple harpsichords.
  • Prelude No. 1 from "The Well Tempered Clavier, Book 1"--listen to the same pattern being tonicized and molded to express the building mood/intensity of the piece.
  • Prelude No. 20 from "The Well Tempered Clavier, Book 2"--the first half, repeated is a complex "winding up" melody. The second half, is the exact reverse..."unwinding" melody.
  • Little Fugue in G Minor--again, listen to the flawless counterpoint.
  • "A Mighty Fortress Is Our God" Organ Chorale--no ingenious counterpoint here, just listen as Bach uses the power of the pipe organ to really create the theme of the piece (title).
  • "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring"--listen to the modulation to the minor and seamless integration back into the major.
  • many more, will be posted as soon as I remember them/clarify title. Expect: lute pieces, orchestral suites, and more preludes/fugues from the "WTC" books.

2.18.2006

I Pose this First...

Now for my new blog's first poser to all of you...

In music, we have what is known as a pentatonic scale. [Musicians feel free to skip over this paragraph, non-musicians should read on.] For those of you that don't know what that is, it's a 6 note (as opposed to the normal 8 note) scale played on all the black keys...the major scale starting/ending on C#/Db. That's basically all you need to know. Now that you have the technical qualities of this scale, you need the history behind it...

The Pentatonic Scale is the FIRST scale ever in music. Before modern notation, and, of course, before this new 'Kodaly' approach...even before Bach or Medieval music. It has been used for, quite literally, thousands of years and during these many, many years ancient cultures and civilizations have shared this scale. Not literal 'sharing,' but it has been used by many ancient cultures, often concurrently, all over the world.

Some examples include:
  • Viking (Norsk),
  • Ancient Orient (China, Japan, etc.),
  • Native American,
  • African,
  • Ancient Greco-Roman Civilization, and
  • Ancient Egypt

My question to you all is: why? How is it possible for all these cultures to use the same scale ALL around the world, more or less concurrently? I've heard theories such as a bird that sings in the pentatonic scale that migrates around the world. But what bird could possibly survive in the dry heat of Africa that also survives in the bitter cold of Norway? Other theories I have considered are equally impossible and some even more lucrative. My mentor has made it his life's mission to figure out the answer...I aim to help him (see, he's rather old and I want him to feel fulfilled before he croaks). So if any of you out there, maybe an ethnomusicologist or music history professor and the like, can help me...please enlighten me. We can make this a discussion, of sorts. I believe the answer is not a clean-cut one. I believe we need to do a lot of extrapolating and even more interpreting to decipher this ancient "code."

Anyway, I believe I've wasted enough of your time...so I'll shut-up now. I hope this has provided you with something to ponder upon and perhaps distract you from your otherwise (possibly, but not necessarily) dull and dreadful lives. (That's meant in the most sensitive and positive way possible).

2.17.2006

Welcome!

Welcome to my blog. I hope this enlightens you a bit on the thought process(es) of musicians, particularly genius ones--like me! Okay, so maybe I'm not quite as humble as I claim to be, but that is the musician way. After all, if a hornist didn't toot his own horn, he wouldn't be playing at all! And etc. Thanks for reading this, if you indeed ARE reading this...more soon!



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