Saturday, October 14, 2006

The Sound of God Thinking

I recently came across a quote claiming that listening to Bach is like listening to God think.Who dares to doubt it?


la petite bête... said...

Was that one lobbed toward La Bete? I think so. Response: well, yes/no.

Yes: Bach is magnificent, in both his mathematical complexity and emotionalism. He also wrote six cello suites.

No: He wrote for the Harpsichord, the keyboard of the dark one. And he was into organ compositions. Shudder.

General comment: Bach is a delight to listen too, but a bear to play.

Father Barry said...

I prefer to describe Bach's music as the sound of God laughing. (Or crying, if we're talking about St. Matthew's Passion.) But I understand most people want to put down Mozart on the whole "God laughing" issue. I guess I'm just a rebel.

To say that it's God thinking tends to overemphasize the "technical and mathematical" aspects of Bach's music, at the expense of his ability to be profoundly emotional.

And I must pick a small bone with le petite bete. Though it is impossible to deny that Bach did write for the harpsichord, I think it's nearly impossible to find someone whose works translate from harpsichord to piano more completely. He wrote for "the keyboard" more than anything else.

(Oh, and the saxaphone is the true instrument of the dark one.)

Hansonius said...

By the "dark one" do you mean William Jefferson Clinton?

Father Barry said...

Hansonius said: By the "dark one" do you mean William Jefferson Clinton?

That's not exactly who I meant, but I'm not displeased with the connection, either.

la petite bête... said...

Don't be hatin'* the saxophone. Anyway, my bone against Bach is that he disliked the piano and claimed that it would never gain popularity.

*Sadly, the Jamie Kennedy film "Malibu's Most Wanted" has influenced my speech.

la petite bête... said...

Excepting the emotional aspects of Bach, I present the following thesis: Bach is the sound of Aristotle thinking.

famulus_veritatis said...

P. Bete--

I happen to know that a certain conversation about Bach and Aristotle made it into a letter of recommendation that was written for you recently.

I had approached you with my Bach-Aristotle thesis last spring; you rightly corrected me, I think, by pointing specifically to the "St. Matthew Passion" as evidence of a dramatic and unified vision, rather than a topical-analytical one.

Pater Barry clearly thinks of the same Bach: the composer of Passions and Cantatas, not the Contrapuntalist Fugue Artist.

Both are right.

The organ works are strong stuff, like dark chicken in a really rich wine sauce, or a potent cup of fine, fresh coffee. I love it. And I like the organ stuff, too.

Father Barry said...

The analogy that I've always found most helpful is this one: "J.S. Bach is the St. Thomas of classical music."

Like Thomas, he compiled and condenced into its essence everything that had come before him. And like Thomas, he laid the groundwork for everyone who came after him.

Oh, and he's like St. Thomas in this way, as well: No one, before or after, has mastered that particular discipline at that level. And I'm not holding my breath that anyone else will come along and do it any time soon. On either front.

St. Thomas and Bach. They stand alone.

(And yes, I love the organ stuff.)

mccaleb said...

what's this, Magister? You just take off and abandon us to the Fink? Without so much as a warning?

Humbug, I say.

You missed such a grand discussion. AND a simply exhilirating fire drill.

Hansonius said...

No one is ever abandoned when they remain in the hands of Fink.

alishia said...

You have abandoned us to the land of no updates. Why for? Nothing jaunty to say?

mccaleb said...

Magister bereft of witticisms? Hanson without Hansoniana?

Surely not.

mccaleb said...

you could always tell us about Billy...

mccaleb said...

*obnoxious, high-pitched voice with which you imitate me so well*
oh, bother.

(I realize, of course, that I'm being completely hypocritical in annoying you for lack of updates when I myself haven't touched my blog for a few light years...but still.)