In his 1997 book Genius Ignored about 7 great cultural figures including Bach, author Lucius Furius writes: “The idea [until the mid-19th century] that Bach would not only be remembered hundreds of years later but would be considered the greatest of all Western composers was unthinkable.”
Bach’s music is original NOT because of any new techniques, forms or ways of expressing our emotions that he created. Rather, it is original because he took every genre that came before him -- cantatas, passions, keyboard suites, preludes & fugues, organ works, masses, and beyond -- and brought them to a level of freshness, succinctness, and, dare we say perfection, that the world had never heard before.
Bach’s music is astonishingly economical. He takes one small motif or idea and spends an entire movement just playing around with that one idea. Bach’s music stands as the epitome of absolute music; it cannot be explained by human stories -- it can only be understood as a play of musical ideas. In this class we will listen to music from the Goldberg Variations, Brandenburg Concertos, and the Mass in B minor, and talk about what makes this music as perfect as perfect can be.
About the Instructor: Barney Johnson is a professional classical composer, originally from New Jersey. Currently pursuing advanced compositional studies at the Schola Cantorum in Paris, he has had performances of his music at the National Opera Center , the Tenri Cultural Institute and Symphony Space (all in NYC) and has taught music appreciation at several U.S. colleges.
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