June 30, 2002
Vol. II, No. 24
"To Work Is Inhuman, To Create Divine"
Senior year of high school, my friends and I were mortified when our peers suggested our class song should be "Beer Drinkers and Hell Raisers" by ZZ Top. With a few years of perspective, I'm thinking maybe it was an idea ahead of its time. I've already covered beer here so I'm thinking now it may be time for the other.
Speaking of an idea whose time has come, this week I was introduced to the writings of Bob Black. In 1985, Mr. Black wrote an inspiring manifesto entitled "The Abolition of Work." Oh, if only it were so.
Unfortunately, work, work, work, it's all about work. Bach worked hard. Or did he? Was he working or was he simply having a good time being creative? Mr. Black would say Bach was enjoying productive, skilled labor that exercised his physical and intellectual capacities. Sounds like heaven to me but what of the debate about whether Bach's music was divinely inspired or simply a by-product of his earthly pursuits as a career musician?
For instance, after Jan Koster explored Bach's cantata output, he concluded that religion inspiration probably didn't play as prominent a role as generally thought in Bach's composing.
In contrast, the research of Dr. Thomas R. Rossin uses Bach's Calov Bible to show that Bach's music was indeed divinely inspired.
I think where both sides of this debate fall short is that they presume it's possible to ever know what is in the heart and mind of a person, least of all someone who has been dead for nearly 252 years (as of July 28). We can no more know what was in Bach's mind than someone can know what is in our own mind (Thank goodness!).
The answer to this debate won't be found by retracing Bach's footsteps, deciphering his scribblings in a Bible, or even by dissecting his music nine ways to Sunday. The answer can only be found by listening to Bach's music. The fact that his music connects in so many ways with so many people reveals its origin. It's like looking at the Grand Canyon or any beautiful sunset. There's a wordless understanding that you're experiencing the highest expression of nature; the beauty and quality of the experience speak for themselves. Within the earthly structure of his life, Bach created a body of work that's capable of touching the heaven in each of us.
There were some rather disturbing items in the July issue of TAO magazine. First up is the alarming rise in the number of prominent organists who have accepted endorsement contracts with digital organ manufacturers. I'm wondering at what percentage of their recitals they are playing digital organs? If it's a high enough percentage, then we should be hearing more about this important trend in our industry. If the percentage is low, then the endorsements simply ring hollow.
Then there's the self-congratulatory, full-page joint ad (page 89) by APOBA and the AGO, fawning over each other, while the AGO president laments in his final address that there hasn't been a Pipe Organ Encounter in every region this year. Meanwhile, he pops up on page 29 to show off his church's new pipe/digital Frankenstein. I don't know about you but it's all a little too Enron-esque for me.
Click this link to read comments and offer your own:
Links of Interest
Images of Bach's Calov Bible:
J.S. Bach and Scripture: Glosses from the Calov Bible Commentary
by Robin A. Leaver (Editor)
Calov Bible from Bach's Library
Have a great week and keep your feet on the earth and your head in the clouds!
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