humor, music

Captain Counterpoint at Age 332

Typing just [Enter] key into the Search box makes it easy to browse WordPress blogs like this one.   Here, the [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.

Yes, this post is a few days late for JS Bach’s birthday.  After 332 years, a few days late is timely enough.

E-mail from WQXR (sent 2017-03-23) alerted me a recent post on the WQXR Blog by James Bennett, II.  Bennett’s Here’s a ‘Happy Birthday’ Fit for Bach gives Bach a great nickname and birthday tribute.  Here is a short excerpt, along with an image that fits the nickname.

Giovanni Dettori reimagined the birthday song … .  His treatment of the hit tune is a 91-bar fugue-fest that proves that no melody is too simple to become something much more complex.  We’d like to bet that Bach, Captain Counterpoint himself, would be partial to this arrangement … .


Apart from an ending that sounds like something from the Haydn/Mozart era, Dettori’s fugue is a delightful reworking of the familiar ditty as a Big Fugue-ing Deal in true baroque style to celebrate Bach’s birthday.

haiku, humor, music

From Suite 3 by JSB

Typing just [Enter] key into the Search box makes it easy to browse WordPress blogs like this one.   Here, the [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.

Movement #2 in the Orchestral Suite #3 may be the most famous and beloved of all the airs Bach wrote, and deservedly so.  While any piece of music with a simply flowing melodic line can be called an air, this one by Bach is especially airy.

soap-bubbles
From Suite 3 by JSB

Bubbles in Bach’s Air:
I cannot grab them, so I
sing with silent joy.
haiku, humor, math, music

Riff on a Faulkner Quote

Typing just [Enter] key into the Search box makes it easy to browse WordPress blogs like this one.   Here, the [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.

The story of my upbeat reinterpretation of a Faulkner quote starts in my kitchen.

The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.

A somber interpretation of this quote comes naturally.

  • The foul stain on America from slavery persists.
  • A mysterious burden is passed down from each generation to the next (as in a post on Na trioblóidí that I found to be simultaneously intriguing, funny, and disturbing).
  • Original Sin.

And so on.

Like many classics, the Faulkner quote can be reinterpreted later, w/o superceding the original intent.  As a quick example of such reinterpretation, consider JS Bach’s Two-Part Invention #11.  It is very quick indeed (about a minute long) and was originally written for solo harpsichord.  Click here to hear it arranged for banjo and marimba, on one track from a Grammy-winning CD, where banjo virtuoso Béla Fleck and friends reinterpret 19 short classical pieces.  We will return to music shortly.

The story of my upbeat reinterpretation starts a few years ago.  Tired of having the air in my kitchen be warmer and wetter than elsewhere in the house, I bought a window fan: 2 small quiet fans in 1 housing, meant to be squeezed between sash and sill for blowing air in or out of a window.  I mounted the fan in a doorless doorway, so as to blow air from the dining room into the kitchen.  It does help.  A tall person would need to stoop when passing thru; I do not.

kitchenfan_900x473

To mount the fan, I drilled holes in the fan housing and drove screws thru the housing into wooden supports (cut from scrap lumber) that I attached to the upper corners of the doorway.  I chuckled at the thought that relating horizontal and vertical lengths (along the doorway) to diagonal lengths (of cut lumber) was yet another small consulting gig for Pythagoras.

kitchenfanmount_900x675

Hmmm.  I did not think of Pythagoras as an ancient dead Greek.  I thought of him as an eminent older colleague (long since retired) who is doing quite well for his age and still has consulting gigs.  The past is not past.

Will our civilization endure until I am as old as Pythagoras is now?  (Not w/o some major course corrections.)  Suppose it does.  I doubt that I will have many more consulting gigs.  But Pythagoras will.  Bach’s music will still be cherished and reinterpreted, along with that of other great composers, from Hildegard to Hovhaness and beyond.  Sometimes it is good that the past is not past.

Ad honorem: Hildegard of Bingen, 1098-1179

Mystic visions or
migraine headaches? Whatever.
Her music lives on!
humor, math

Like a Good Priest

I did not have pen in hand when a bemused radio announcer commented after playing Bach’s 4th Brandenburg recently, so the following quote may not be perfectly exact. It is very very close.

How can anything so complicated and so mathematical be so beautiful?

Imagine a priest who hears one of the great settings of the Mass (or a tour of a Gothic cathedral) followed by

How can anything so complicated and so religious be so beautiful?

That is essentially how I felt. With considerable effort, one could make enough dissonant noise to be as grating as the remark. Scratch a chalkboard with the fingernails of one hand. Bang on the cracks between a few piano keys with the fingers of the other. Step on a cat’s tail and fart loudly. Doing all that would suffice.

Amiens_Rose_Window_640x480

A good priest would redirect any shock or anger at the remark into sorrow and pity for the wayward soul of a heathen who meant no harm. In this one respect anyway, I try to be like a good priest (or a good imam).

Selimiye_Mosque_640x427

Image Sources

Photos were downloaded from Wiki Commons and are used under Creative Commons licenses.