March 18, 2003
Vol. III, No. 9
"The Phantom Tollbooth"
In "The Phantom Tollbooth," the main character, a young boy named Milo, is bored with everything. He is going through life completely uninterested and disengaged. One day he comes home from school to find a tollbooth in his room, complete with tokens to pay the toll. With nothing better to do, he passes through the tollbooth, embarking on a whimsical journey through an imaginary world.
While rehearsing this past Sunday afternoon, I realized that for me, each Bach piece is like a phantom tollbooth. More specifically, the Prelude and Fugue in D Minor (BWV 539) I was learning and thoroughly enjoying was a gateway into another world. Completely enveloped in the recreation of this piece of music, I felt like I was inside old Bach's head.
Forget about the theoretical analysis of bars 8 and 9, they are so much more. It's like Bach is saying, "That bar was so much fun, I'd like to play it again. But look how much fun it is to play it down a step!" Function? Who cares? Fun, period!
Bars 22-25 are perfect, musically complex, each voice a separate entity yet integral to the whole. How did he come up with this stuff? Who cares? It's just fun to play! And you just know Bach had fun playing it. Hard to believe he originally wrote this piece for violin. It lays so naturally in the fingers and feet, it's as if it was made for the organ.
I know these revelations don't sound like much in writing but trust me, when you're playing and they pop out at you, they are magic! Of course, there's a toll to pay to enter the world of Bach's head. You have to learn one of his pieces. Sorry, you can't just listen to a recording. Sure, you can pick up on some of the magic that way but Bach's pieces have to be played to give up their secrets. And the great thing is, the more you play, the more you discover.
So throw out the TV, forget the movies, give up your books. Playing a piece by Bach is all the entertainment you'll ever need to be happy. And fortunately, there are plenty of tollbooths from which to choose. To quote Dr. Seuss, "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
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Added are the two books I mentioned in today's Rampage, "The Phantom Tollbooth" and "Oh, the Places You'll Go!"
Added are two recent articles about organists.
Have a great week!
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