I recall a course, during my time at SMU, taught by David R. Davidson. At the end of “Choral Literature,” I wrote my paper about the B Minor Mass, by Johann Sebastian Bach (listen to one of my favorite choral songs in the entire repertoire of choral music, “Sanctus” from the B Minor Mass).
The reason I did so was simple. After a mere two years of musical studies, I knew the following to be a universal truth:
“There are very few things about life that cannot find their answer within the music of Bach.”
Feeling as though the entire world is against you and there is simply nothing in the discography of Britney Spears that speaks to you? Listen to: “Herr, Unser Herrscher” from the St. John’s Passion. You don’t need to understand German. Just listen.
Feeling euphoric because the man you love just fell to one knee and it wasn’t because he dropped something? Listen to: “Magnificat” from the Magnificat. Bach will rejoice with you the way he rejoiced when his 20 children (yep, you read it correctly) were born.
Road rage a problem for ya? Listen to: “Sheep may safely graze” and try to imagine yourself away from the concrete and idiots and on a pasture somewhere.
Work conundrum or, ha ha, did your child ask you why “because” is a real answer? Listen to something you’ve heard a million times: “Air” from the Orchestral Suite #3. There is so much wisdom in this piece of music that we listen to, no, we CLING to it today.
In times of strife. In times of celebration. When we mourn, we reach for Bach to hold us in his arms. How many weddings have you attended and heard “Jesu, Joy of Man’s…” sorry, I feel asleep for a minute. No, seriously. It’s a beautiful piece (I still think “Laudamus Te” is much more exciting. I mean, GET INVOLVED!)
There’s nothing cliché about Bach and he’s not merely “old school.” There’s life and vitality and newness of vision. This man had triumphs and a strong faith, but he suffered during his lifetime. A lot. He lost his first wife. Those 20 kids? He lost 10 of them before they reached adulthood. He walked over 300 miles to attend school and he walked hundreds of miles to hear concerts (blisters much?). Bach was in the pokey! He lost his hearing and he lost his vision (the surgery to save the latter, ultimately killed him). Bach feels your pain. He gets you, Bro.
Spend 40 days or a month going through the Goldberg Variations. If you listen to the Brandenberg Concerti and you are not changed, I think you don’t need a better listening device, you need a pacemaker.
A music library without Bach is like Monet’s palette without the color yellow. Put a few pieces in your library and listen to them. Start now. Click on this (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x9Sbk3E8-ws) and disappear for a moment.