Monday, November 12, 2007

Bach is Saved, cont.

Closed off that post before getting to the 'Bach' part of it.  Apologies.  I do have this nasty tendency to sit down at the computer around 7:00 or 8:00PM and then discover, thirty minutes later, that it's 6:00AM.  Dangdest thing.

But on to Bach's rescue.  A very, very belated thanks goes to the indomitable Mr. Denk for
his beautiful Bach Allemande donated to cyber-posterity last May, by way of Mr. D's own birthday celebration. OF COURSE there will be critics and grumps griping about this, that, & etc.; but if anybody ever wonders why some of us still carry such a torch for the old buzzard, just go listen to Jeremy translate him, for a bit. (It's best if you don't sit there with the score, playing Piano Teacher. Just listen. It's real Bach, a.k.a. Heaven's right here, not over there...)

Why some of us would feel such a kinship for one whose language is of an era so alien to our own as J.S. Bach's, is beyond the scope of this paper. Mr. Denk does a delightful job, in the posts prior to his MP3 offering, of illustrating Bach's music in terms that more contemporary sensibilities can relate to...but I confess that I've never modernized Bach internally, so much. I'm sure that our differing teachers influenced us a great deal, and mine--a Hungarian--was a man of few words. He did wax poetic one day, however, after discovering that I was the school's first Master's candidate since pre-1950 to have chosen Bach, rather than Beethoven, for my oral exams. He said:

"Vidz Beethoven, you are in the boat on the ocean. You ri-idingk each wave, is very excitement. But vidz Bach, you are bird flyingk OVER the ocean. You SEE ALLL of the waves, yah?"

Anyway, Beethoven wouldn't even have happened, but for Bach.

I must also confess here, before launching into other aural tirades, that although I never tried to embark on a concert career, I have one of those freakish sorts of ear (dulling with age), which may also account for the affinity with Bach's contrapuntal work. When I went to do my entrance audition at the Royal Academy of Music, they made you sightread and ear-test, as well as perform. After the ear-test--during which two stodgy gentlemen made me stand looking out o
f a window while they plunked various tones and intervals on the piano...and during which they kept increasing the dose until they were splaying great ghastly clusters of tones all over the keyboard and ordering me to name the lowest, highest, middle, all, intervals between, etc.--I turned around to see two formerly ruddy, Establishment Brits sitting there frozen into salt pillars, pasty white and staring at me in stark horror. It had been too easy for me.

The beefier of the two finally cleared his throat, then drawled in his perfect Queen's English, "Ahwell...I see why you don't sightread veddih well..."

The only time I ever threw a student out of my studio occurred years ago, in the name of old J.S. The student was a talented, likeable 14-year-old hotshot with well-heeled, arrogant, totally screwed-up parents--the kind who assume that if they can say, "Ya-ahhss, Bertie has to be to piano at a quarter-to," then they're Irreproachably Upperline Parents and all Hell's okay for the rest. 'Bertie' was blasting through a 2-part Invention in his usual GaaJustGetThisOverWithI HateIt fashion, when I asked him to establish a pulse in one of his a-rhythmic passages. The kid picked up where I pointed, then with hostile vehemence >SLAMMED< down on the first beat of the next measure. It had the impact of a bullet shattering glass...

Now, angers come in a variety of hues, I suppose. Some manifest in a bright rainbow of shouts. Some in deep purple wells of tears. Some smolder like greenish-ochre ooze. I rarely express anger toward my students, as there are usually much more efficient ways of dealing with 'misbehavior.' But there is one hue of anger over which I have little control, and almost never have reason to try to control, because it occurs so rarely. Like platinum, it might best be described as White.

And so it was, that poor Bertie suddenly looked up and inhaled a quick
gasp, upon discovering a strange, slow HISSS erupting next to him, spitting in stage-whispers, "Don't...EVER...HIT...Bach!!" The next sound to puncture the tender psyche of our gaping, now-ashen gangsta-prodigy, was a sonic sizzling that white-roared, "GET...OUT!!"

Poor Bertie gawked at the searing, white-hot finger stretched before his nose, aimed like a lightning rod at the door. And then in a desperate fumble, he grabbed his books and bolted so fast that he forgot to scoop up his designer gangsta jacket, on the way out.

Seconds later, I stood up stupidly, asking, "Uh...what was that?" I'd always really liked Bertie, if not his haughty parents.

Had it been anyone other than Bach whom our hapless hooligan had targeted for drive-by practice, I'm certain that Bertie would have continued to bolster his parents' sense of upscale righteousness, and to waste his normally amiable teacher's time, all the way into the merry mists of oblivion and the state penitentiary.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

Bach is Saved by the Blogs

After a few heartwarming days of playing Piano Teacher again, I awoke this morning to the whisper of rain in my ear (bed's in a loft) and an irresistable urge to see if Mr. Jeremy at think denk had added any new entries to his insufferably entertaining blog. (Check out No Time for Barney's.) Far better a read than the Sunday funnies. I'd swear the guy is Laurence Sterne reincarnate. I haven't laughed so hard at any writer's stratospheric flights of verbal virtuosity since the day I turned a page in Tristram Shandy, to find that its author had rudely erupted into Greek.

But so MUCH there is to learn, now! I found Denk through a piece by Alex Ross in The New Yorker (Oct.22, 2007) and from there-on-out it's been a veritable orgy of discovery via weblogs unearthed. Prior to discovering Ross & Denk, I had developed a severe reaction even to typing the word 'music' for any searches relating to music. 'Music,' like 'marriage,' has now been redifined. It has become a techno-toy, assessed for value by its decibel capacity, technological gimmickry, packaging, and marketability to various hearing-impaired constituencies. Under "Classical" you can find things like Wagner's Ring, "The World's Most Beautiful Classics," and possibly Jerry Lee Lewis.

Once, while trying to take an online survey, I made the mistake of clicking 'yes' when asked if I had bought any music during the past week. The next screen wanted to know what music I had bought, and gave a list of selections from which to choose. The only selections offered were CDs, DVDs, downloads etc., so I flunked out and got kicked off. Printed scores weren't even considered to be 'music' by the survey company.

Thus the relief of Ross, Denk & Co. Thank you, gentlemen. You do the World of the Still Hearing a truly great service.