Learning Bach

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Moments of success are rare:
arpeggio-dances, impossible harmonies,
the sound as simple as the wind
yet execution like a fear -
fingers always forgetting how,
only ever stumbling on
success. Evasive moments of
perfect beauty capture souls
yet pass with sudden fumbles and
flustering confusion when
the movement of the hands cannot
so perfectly attune the spheres
as in the neat, transcribed intent.
Still, when all's aligned,
however brief, the sound
sings and motions, like
silence, like heart,
mouth, deed and life in tune,
the dance exact.
The joy remains.

4 thoughts on “Learning Bach

  1. Wow! Thank you for sharing that.

    Years of studious application to “Jesu, Joy of Man’s Desiring” never yielded anything sounding so good from my hands, although at times I did get glimpses of the true intended beauty of this piece. You beautifully captured the difficulty in your poem.

    What a lot of people do not realize is that Bach always wove salvation themes into his music, either glimpses of the beauty and perfections of heaven, or warnings of hell and the judgments to come. I love the way that God draws people to Himself through Bach’s truly evangelical compositions. There are a couple of beautifully interlocked themes in Bach’s “Sheep May Safely Graze”. The first one is either significantly shortened, or deleted altogether in many of the presentations you can find online, and years ago, I might have agreed with that because at first it made no sense. The composition itself is less than six minutes long, yet the first (eternal) minute and a half are entirely devoted to a grand processional that at first seems entirely disconnected with the main theme of the song, the “sheep may safely graze” part that is so beautiful and enticing. But then I realized that it was a very important message: when we realize that God is the great (and only) King, then we can rest in His overlordship, and then, and only then can His sheep safely graze. And in heaven, we will finally be able to do this as He intended in the very beginning.

    1. Bach is amazingly complex, isn’t he? I only began to grasp this through my wife who is a Baroque musician. So many layers of spiritual truth even in seemingly secular pieces of music. Quite a deep source of treasure to mine.

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