I occasionally have ideas for small-medium sized projects; these have recently taken the form of DIY recordings accompanied by some writings. I’m sure these plans and ideas will refine and/or shift over time, but right now, my goal is to compile my thoughts in a relatively systematic way. Here’s what I’m currently working on:
The Bach Project
My acquired tastes: coffee, wine, e.e. cummings, Bach.
While I have long been familiar with Bach’s music, my interest has waxed and waned over the years. I remember being immediately attracted to several of his pieces when I was a beginner piano student — his Minuet in G minor from the Notebook of Anna Magdelena* was particularly enticing to me. Then as an adolescent, my affinity towards this music faded. I found it to be too rigid, with too many stylistic constraints, and (like most adolescents) was attracted to more virtuosic, showy music. As I progressed further into my musical studies, Bach was not my favorite repertoire to play, but I enjoyed it and found that I “got” it more easily than many of my peers. It wasn’t until I was out of an academic context that a real affinity began to develop. Not having to worry about presenting a “balanced” repertoire to anyone (or any institution), I decided it would be a good time to tackle the Goldberg Variations, which had been hanging out on my bucket list. I discovered that Bach’s music sustains my attention in a way other music doesn’t. It often requires more upfront effort to learn than other composers’ music, but in return, I don’t grow tired of it.
Eventually, I wanted to share some of the music I was learning. The pandemic provided a unique set of conditions, so I decided to do an online project. Beyond simple recordings, I wanted to include my perspectives on what I am working on. I love hearing others articulate their metacognition about their work/craft/art, and thought this would be a good spot to explain my own thoughts as well. At the moment, I am working on twelve preludes and fugues from the Well-Tempered Clavier, Book 2. Six have already been recorded as Part I, and I am working on recording the other six as Part II. This project may evolve to include more of Bach’s keyboard works, or I could go in a completely different direction. Stay tuned and find out, right along with me.
Each recording will be accompanied with some ideas regarding the work — analysis, things to listen for, the music’s narrative, the learning process — I’ll write what comes most readily to mind. I don’t have any grand, overarching idea for the project other than this is music that I both like to play and have some thoughts about. Additionally, as I am heading into an academically-oriented PhD Musicology program (as opposed to a performance-oriented DMA program), I am hoping to establish some mechanism that will keep me motivated to play while also allowing for some flexibility to accommodate the peaks and valleys of that workload.
My hope is that this project is fun for me, interesting for you, and provides some insights about these pieces in such a way that makes Bach’s music engaging and approachable, particularly if you don’t quite get what all the hype is about. Or if you already love Bach and you just want to hear my thoughts as I wax poetically about this all, that’s fine too!
*Ironically, not written by Bach, just in the Notebook