I return to Bach, in a sometimes mad, often chaotic, and fortunately tuneful world. Who was this supposedly contented father with his family of musical children? What kind of children did he raise that left his widow, their mother Mary Magdelena to abject poverty after he died. Surely, he could not have been so selfless, loving and simple a person. Perhaps, genius that he was, totally absorbed in his music, he raised children who resented him, who secretly resented his genius even while the rich princes and patrons and the public applauded and enriched them.
The power of music derives from the singular fact that you hear music in “isolation.” When you look with your eyes, you encounter a complex field of vision filled with a multitude of objects of different sizes and colors, which I term the “camouflage effect.” When you listen to music, you hear the particular selection that you are listening to and nothing, or almost nothing else. The world around us appears to our eyes as a vast jungle filled with a thousand or a thousand thousand different kinds of trees, vines, creepers, chaos. The world of music is a mountain top, ringing in the clear air above the tempests below, where, alone, and in the dark, you hear the sough of the wind, the slide of glaciers, or the cry of a high flying bird–a crane perhaps.
Bach’s music transcends an illusion of reality created from five billion years of evolution from a whirling burning ball born from vast clouds of dust to a green planet, humans, and the beauty of Gaia, the earth mother. Music takes us into the cathedrals of Bach’s mind where great chords and eloquent chorales create paradise. What is holy is the art surpasses imagination and creates a holy cosmic stage for the great orchestra of the universe to perform music that surpasseth understanding.
Outside my studio the sky is clearest blue. I think of many years of pleasure listening to Bach’s last, unfinished work, the Art of the Fugue. After thirty-five years and more of listening (it took ten years for me to hear the work as melody and architectonic grandeur) it remains ever fresh. The work grows more beautiful, like the sounds of the sea, the patter of rain, the murmur of the wind, ranks of cloudscapes and rainbows, a snow capped mountain range soaring into the heavens. Bach is of nature as nature is of Bach. The artist and the web of nature are distinct antipodes of a universal sameness — evolutionary poles that stretch across a cosmos of thought and action — the world entire. The Art of the Fugue plays in my heaven. Eternally.