Wednesday, February 02, 2011

J.S. Bach: Total Badass

Well, I guess I'll just keep posting even if nobody else is.

I've been listening to a lot of Bach recently...for whatever reason, he's a composer that I've never delved into very deeply before. I think when I was younger I was turned off by how orderly (and thus conservative) he sounded, but listening to him now it's exactly the order and precision that I'm especially astounded by. There's something almost contemporary in the deliberateness of his structure, something which fell out of fashion with some of the great European composers who followed him. There's no mistaking a Bach composition for the lyricism of Mozart or the mysticism of Beethoven; the structure is always right out in front in Bach, like he's communing with the laws of mathematics.

Plus, sometimes he gets astonishingly weird. Check out the below clip, especially the harpsichord breakdown that starts around the 50 second mark. If I didn't know it was Bach, I might have thought Phillip Glass or Frank Zappa wrote it in the 1970s:

In some ways it gets even weirder in the following movement.

Also, just to point it out, these particular clips come from his concerto for four fucking harpsichords. Maybe that was more common than I realize, but on the surface I have to say it sounds kind of insane. It sounds like a Trey Anastasio side project or something: "Dude, on Trey's latest album, he's ditching that guy who only plays the washboard, and is bringing on four harpsichord players! I hope they do 'The Squirming Coil!'"


Eric said...

Please keep posting - esp. on more esoteric stuff like this! One of these days I'll get it together to post about all the various things I've been listening to / thinking about.

texplush said...

i'll believe it when i see it, eric.

drischord said...

Yeah, Bach is the man. A total genius-- and almost completely unknown in his lifetime. And while he's certainly rhythmically conservative, harmonically he was anything but. You'll find just about every conceivable chord buried into one of his fugues.

I believe one mark of genius is being able to play within established rules, and still manage to be completely revolutionary. The two composers who best fit this description are Bach and Shostakovich.

drischord said...

And thus it's probably no surprise that Bach was Shostakovich's favorite composer. He made his students analyze everything the guy wrote and he himself wrote multiple pieces in homage to Bach.