I did some unintentional time travelling yesterday.
I was testing out a new audio cable, and decided to connect it to my audio receiver.
On a whim, I decided to try it with an LP. I randomly grabbed a record from a section of the shelf I knew would yield some favorite, and put on my headphones.
As the needle settled into the groove, I settled into my armchair. The sound was fine. In fact, it was superb.
I had picked out an album of Bach organ works that I’ve had since I was a teenager. I found myself sitting in the same position I would have been in then: seated diagonally, head nestled in the wing of the armchair, leg draped over the armrest, dangling, foot keeping time. Like then, I closed my eyes and absorbed the sound of what my mother would call “staring into space music.”
Back then the world was still a mostly unknown place to me. Germany, where Bach was from, was a far-off land where they spoke a language I didn’t understand. I was sure I’d never get there. People didn’t just go to Europe. Not the folks I knew, anyway.
Then, and now, the music made me think of the soaring stained-glass windows of cathedrals that I’d seen in books. If I opened my eyes back then, outside my window I saw soaring green trees, or the tracery of bare branches, or autumn leaves forming their own stained-glass pattern. At dusk, the view was marred by the light of a small gas station sign beyond the woods that seemed so far off then, though it was only a mile away.
I wasn’t sure what I’d end up doing, but I was looking forward to stepping out into that great big world and starting the adventure. As there was no internet at the time, and “blogger” would have sounded like some made-up nonsense word, well, how could I have known?
And then, the reverie was broken; an LP side only lasts so long. And I was back to the future, now my present.
And how unexpectedly glorious that future had been. Once I learned to drive, I passed that gas station regularly, though I didn’t recognize it and make the connection at first. The world grew. I learned to speak German, and have been to Germany a couple of times, though not yet to any of Bach’s towns.
And as I had listened to Bach in my current comfortable chair, I realized I understood more of what was happening, there were more “I see what you did there” moments. I now have access to sheet music, to see for myself—and now everyone does. And if you’ve got an internet connection, you can listen online to Bach works for organ, cello and more for free without annoying pops or crackles from the record (though they’re so familiar now I find them somewhat endearing).
I don’t know where Bach will take you, but I believe it will be a wonderful journey.
Here is the Toccata in F Major (BWV 540) played by Diane Bish. Some folks will say this is played too fast, but I love it, it’s exciting!
List of Bach Freebies
Spotify users: someone has made curated playlists for all of Bach’s works. Read about it here.
Spotify users: if you want to hear the Hänssler Classic complete set of Bach recordings (under the direction of Helmuth Rilling), read about it here.
Sheet music and, for some pieces, MIDI or mp3 files http://imslp.org/wiki/Category:Bach,_Johann_Sebastian
Open Well-Tempered Clavier https://musescore.com/opengoldberg/sets/openwtc
Open Goldberg Variations https://musescore.com/opengoldberg/goldberg-variations
Image attribution: Recursive clocks in a snail-shell pattern. Photo Time Travel Haikus 5-7-5 by CityGypsy11, Flickr.com, Creative Commons CC-BY-NC 2.0. Click here for source page.