Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Happy Birthday, J.S. Bach!

If you go to the Wikipedia biography of Johann Sebastian Bach, you get a very nice media file of a number of his pieces of music:

Chorus of the Christmas Oratorio

Last Movement of the Brandenburg Concerto No. 4

Opening of Singet Den Herrn

Gloria from the Mass in B Minor

Prelude and Fugue No. 20 in A Minor

...and on and on. Bach was such a prolific composer that his output of magnificent music is staggering. When I listen to Bach's instrumental music, it sounds like architecture and math turned into music. It sounds like reason triumphing over the pains and trials of the world. According to musicians, this is because he uses a dense contrapuntal style, which, I suppose sounds to me like bridge struts in tension, or thesis, anti-thesis and synthesis.

Bach was born March 21, 1685 (old style calendar) in Eisenach, Germany. He died July 28, 1750 (new style calendar), in Leipzig, Germany, after moving around ten times, always looking for a better sponsor. He was orphaned himself at 10 (I didn't know that!), and went to live with an older brother. Both his father and his older brother were musicians, and many of his sons went on to be talented composers and musicians. He influenced many other composers with his music, and went on influencing the music world through his sons' music, too.

I like this portrait of J.S. Bach in his youth. The painting you always sees makes him look like a terrible grump, which he may have been by then. But this guy looks like he may be the guy that actually composed That the Sheep May Safely Graze. Thank you Johann!

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