Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Classical Blog: JS Bach

Ready for another dose of high minded, cultured snobbery?
Too bad you're going to have to deal with it anyway.

Personally I haven't got that into classical music that was written prior to 1900. For the most part it doesn't do much for me. There's a couple exceptions of course. And I'm sure I'll get into more at some point.
There is one pre-twentieth century composer that is nearly impossible to discount and pretty difficult to dislike (Unless your La Monte Young). He is chronologically the first of "The Three B's". His approach to writing music was the basis for what became standard practice in western classical music up until the twentieth century. His influence is still heard in most music made today, metal is no exception. Everything from commonly used chord progressions to the way instruments are tuned can be traced back to this funny lookin guy...

Not to confused with this chubby rocker...

But it didn't start that way...

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in 1685 into a German family that was full of musicians. Bach's father was director of the town musicians and his uncles were all professional musicians as well. The Bach's were musicians for generations prior to Johann and continued to be for generations after. Johann's father taught him to play the violin and harpsichord and one of his uncles introduced him to the organ. He would go on to write this on the instrument...

In the 18th century being a musician was not an extremely lucrative career. You had to either work for some rich ass-hole in a castle or for the church. You didn't write the music you wanted to hear. You wrote the music your boss wanted to hear. You were more or less a servant. Bach worked for both the upper-class and the church throughout his life.
During Bach's lifetime he was known better for shredding on keyboards then writing music. He wasn't well known outside of Germany and after his death he slipped into obscurity. For a while at least. While his name was known by some composers it was almost one-hundred years after his death, in 1750, before he was widely recognized to be a genius. As a result many of his compositions were not preserved and have been lost. There are stories of Bach's scores being used to wrap meat at a market years after his death since he was considered an outdated composer and preserving his music was not a high priority.
He remained a relatively obscure composer, only known to a few other composers, until the 19th century when he became more widely recognized. He is now recognized by many as one of the greatest composers of all time. His melodic and harmonic tendencies are now taught as the "correct" way to compose. His scores are studied by kids all over the world in entry level music theory courses.

There are several pieces by Bach that you will most likely recognize. The first movement of his Cello Suite No. 1 is an example. This is performed by classical performer super star, Yo Yo Ma and features some of his legendary bow chugging (I had to work it in somewhere right?).

Download here.
Purchase here.

I'm also including this disc of his early compositions for harpsichord. This is some face melting shreddage. Personally I think the instrument is pretty rad sounding as well.

Download here.
Purchase here.

A quick side note... Harmonia Mundi, the label who released the above, is excellent. If any of you are curious or getting interested in classical music, you can trust these guys. Classical music can be overwhelming. There are often several different recordings of any given piece and it can be hard to tell which to listen to. There are more then a few recordings of people butchering good music floating around. These guys hold a high standard for the performance, interpretation, and recording quality of everything they put out. There are very few labels that have such consistent quality so I thought it was worth mentioning.


Shelby Cobras said...

Doode clazzical music goes hella good with mad 420 bongloadz.

Manslaughter said...

How the fuck would you know stoner poser? Actually, you probably get higher than I do just sitting in the same room as your gf.

Shelby Cobras said...

Whatevs bro I've SPILLED more weed than you've ever even SEEN. Maaaad 420 Marina Bradley Nowell white boy dreadz Humboldt Wookiee skillz up in here. I'm so baked RIGHT NOW that my captcha code is "BAKED".

Mister Booze said...

Bach once walked 800 miles to see Buxtehude play the organ. That is dedication to the craft. I once went to Bachfest, where for the commemoration of the 250th anniversary of his death 24 hours of his music was played. I remember passing out at 4 am to some organ fugues.

I love his art of the fugue arranged for string quartet. Hit me up if you need a copy.

Helm said...

I love J.S. Bach, the depth of his music is endless but it's still very immediate and makes me feel like a god exists. Great post, researched and fittingly reverent.

Oh our puny metal realm, Bach has been covered extensively, but none has done as good a job as the mighty Cirith Ungol: