Ich Habe Genug
("I've Had It Up to Here, Jack!")
FROM: Dr. Phage
RE: J S Bach & The Glory TrainPersonally, I can't pick out a favorite amongst the innumerable Bach cantatas. I've long been partial to #152 "Tritt Auf den Glaubensbahn" (Get on the Glory Train), which was Bach's entry into the bluegrass gospel style, in the manner of the Clinch Mountain Boys. Then there is #80 "Ein Feste Burg Ist Unser Gott" (A Fat Hamburger is Good for Us) and #13 "Meine Seufzer, meine Tränen" (My Seltzer Is on the Train). But we mustn't overlook #29 "Wir Danken Dir Gott" (We Dump You Good), #56 "Ich Will den Kreuztab Gerne Tragen" (I Will Pick Up the Last Tab), #178 "Wo Gott der Herr Nicht Bei Uns Hält" (How Good Is that Hairdo in the Window) and #231 "Sei Lob und Preis mit Ehren" (Your Lobster Is Too Pricey).
When I think about J S Bach, one thought that comes into my head is: how could his sons like Carl Philip Emmanuel and Wilhelm Friedemann possibly have had the nerve to write music themselves? Could it be that they just didn't understand the supernatural uvre that their Pop had created? Some of the other Bach boys must have realized that the old man had far, far outdone anything they could manage, and took up careers outside of music. For example, CPA Bach took up accounting, LLC Bach went into counterfeiting, and CFO Bach went to San Quentin.
I liked your comment on Bach's counterpoint. You are right that Bach's multiple independent lines produce a particular richness, like the way the greatest literature operates simultaneously on multiple levels. For me, the movement of the multiple musical lines is absolutely hypnotic. This reaches its most powerful effect of all when Bach's greatest fugues work their way to their conclusion: the multiple lines seem to come together and finally converge with the inevitability of the tide coming in. It is stupendous.
Then, in the suites and sonatas for solo violin and solo cello, the old Master does an even more remarkable conjuring trick: he makes a single line sound like multiple lines. Then there are the places where Bach anticipates things far in the future. The cantatas are full of tone painting, like undulating accompaniments when the text mentions the sea, and so on. [To be fair, other Baroque composers, especially the French, liked to do the same kind of thing.]
Then there is Bach's absolute mastery of the key system, including some themes in the Well Tempered Clavichord which use all 12 notes of the chromatic scale - - - the 12 tone row that SchÃ¶nbrgr thought he had invented 180 years late.
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BTW, you may notice some odd misspellings here and there, like that of SchÃƒÂ¶nberg above. It is not me, slipping into spelling dementia. It is the demented new computer program I now have to use to access good old ALPINE, the Email platform I prefer. They UPGRADED the connector to a new, barely usable one which throws a fit when confronted with the alt-code European symbols, and which regularly melts down altogether.
These problems will be over, of course, when they eliminate Alpine, that fine text-only Email platform, altogether, and make its continued use a criminal offense, the next step after UPGRADING. Alpine will then join the Smith-Corona PWP Word Processor, the GEO Prism car, the payphone, the swag lamp, the combination radio/CD player, the pencil sharpener, and all those other devices that were just too simple and too sensible for our brave new world of high-speed continuous obsolescence. Don't get me started on all this. Oh, right - - - you have got me started....
Unlike you, I haven't found my voice disappearing yet, but recently I began to have occasional trouble with . . . swallowing, of all things! Certain kinds of dry food occasionally cause me to gag. Just the other night, I had only a few bites of our delicious roast lamb before the food started to jam up on the way down. My son Aaron had to finish my plate. Is my diet headed in the direction of soups and porridges? Aaron and I plan to go to a Chinese place for lunch tomorrow, where he will enjoy pot-stickers, but I may have to stick with congee. Interesting word that, congee. If living on congee is to be my fate, will I become more congeenial?--- Dr. PhageGo to the
that inspired this letter