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March 18, 2006
Vol. VI, No. 5


"Caution: Approach with Reverence"
This past Sunday I played Bach's Prelude and Fugue in B Minor (BWV 544) for the postlude. It is such an extraordinary experience to play this composition.

When I start to play and those notes come out, Bach's notes, I am instantly somewhere else. I am transformed. I am no longer a physical being but a spirit, energy impulse. It's like I am drinking pure life force, pure music. I don't care why Bach wrote this piece of music or when or who influenced him. It's all. It's all about channeling this unique voice in the universe. I do the best I can, sometimes better than others, but it always leaves me a better person, feeling like I've connected with the source of all things.

The quality of experience when playing even just this one composition is so far beyond anything I experience when playing other composers. It's no wonder I tend to put Bach on a pedestal.

Not everyone feels that way though. There are people who spend a great deal of time and effort trying to trivialize Bach. I'm not sure why but I guess they just don't get him or his music. Even if they were able to diminish the man, it wouldn't necessarily diminish his music. In fact, I don't believe that's even possible.

The nearest thing I guess I could compare it to is something like critiquing the grammatical structure of The Lord's Prayer. Hey, if that's the kind of thing that's important to you then life is definitely passing you by.

I like that analogy because playing the B Minor feels a bit like prayer. To play those note combinations and hear the music emerge from the pipes in all its purity and perfection is pure bliss. In that context, discussing the music in terms of harmonic structure or influences seems downright demeaning to the composition, verging on sacrilegious.

In the Herman Hesse book "Siddhartha," the main character encounters the enlightened Buddha and comes to the realization that enlightenment can't be achieved by following the teachings and rituals passed on by a teacher, no matter how great. Enlightenment can't be taught. Each person must find and follow his or her own path to enlightenment.

So if some people don't get Bach, I guess the lesson to learn is that some horses just won't drink.

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