Wednesday, February 12, 2014

Musical Offering by Bach

I mentioned the other day that I read odd books.  Someone asked how they come to me.  I am not too sure but they seems to sit around and wait even after I leave them in a corner for a while.

I realized most have some tangential historical background or are totally unusual sort of topic. Most books that I read head me on an adventure and some new bit of knowledge is squeezed out.  A word, a  concept, a vague reference to some sort of event.  I often stop to "look up" (pre-google term) what ever peeks my interest. 

This time it was the Royal Theme.  Those of you who have forgotten your Prussian history from the mid-18th century, Fredrick the Great commanded JS.Bach to his court to perform.  Bach was at the end of his life and Fredrick was in the middle of his.  Fredrick loved music and art and Voltaire.  (His father collected Giants but he let them loose). So one night after two days in a carriage, he handed Bach a line of music. Bach was known for his ability to do improvisations from a given theme.  This piece was very difficult and complicated but Bach managed to produce a Fugue  (another word for round sort of like Row Row Row Your Boat).  When asked to do six lines he said he was too tired. 

He went home and then produced what was called the Musical Offering.  A long piece of music based on the theme full of fugues and cannons and other such musical offerings.  All the music stuff always confuses me but I found something that really makes sense.  A moving picture of how the fugue works.  It is worth watching.

So I think I have my mom's endless curiosity.  I think it keeps us young if like Bach we take the notes that are given to us and make beautiful music out of it.   Even when we have been in the carriage way too long and we are tired in ways we never knew were possible.

 (Evening in the Palace of Reason, James R. Gaines. )

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