J.S. Bach's music is appreciated by all keyboardists, and not always because of its beauty or genius. His work is very cerebral, and obviously engineered to require intense concentration. The intertwining themes, voices, and melodies wreak havoc on your stream of thought; two, three, and sometimes four voices may be trading off between both hands, usually for multiple page-lengths. It is some of the best training any pianist, organist, or any other keyboardist can have, and all of the best composers (see: Beethoven, Mozart, Chopin, Rachmaninov) have been influenced by him.

It should be noted that all (not just some, not the majority, but all) the greatest virtuoso pianists have absorbed as much Bach as they possibly could. Any experienced musician will recommend that students and aspiring keyboardists have a daily Bach session whether they particularly like his music or not. The resulting improvements in technique and interpretation are more than worth it. Not to mention the show-off rights: nothing shows superior intellect like being able to play a three- or four-part Fugue.
I think I agree with Ryouga's intentions, but I must beg to differ with his thesis: I don't believe that J.S. Bach's music specifically, and baroque, or polyphonic music in general, is intellectual, cerebral, or non-emotional.

I would agree, however, that in the sense of say, Beethoven, Chopin, or some modern rock and roll composer, Bach is a little more distant. I would even go so far as to say there is an aesthetic distance in his work, the consequence of polyphony.

Maybe it is an intelligence, in the sense of multiple intelligences, so we might be talking the same thing, though in the common understanding of the word, any appeal to passion would be barred. And I believe Bach to be very passionate.

When I have mastered a fugue, there is a certain intellectual process I have operated, to be sure, but it is my body that does the work. And if my body did the work without listening, and without feeling, what kind of music would that be.

I am aware of my fingers working there, and the polyphony there, and the passion it arouses in me. They are not the same; but one could not be without the other.

Too many people feel Bach is sterile intellect; it seems to me the opposite must be true. I feel there comes a time when passion is so intense, so overwhelming, when it must be kept at a distance, for fear of drowning. I feel Bach caught the trick of doing this.

And the irony in it, is that whenever one does this, a new passion arises, a neverending spring.

The obvious technical difficulty in Bach could be one reason to study his music, and many people (like my Mum) find listening to Bach's keyboard works to be a rather boring affair. However, I think that as someone who has played Bach, the technical difficulty is something which is to be overcome as with any piece of music, and only when you can play a fugue blindfolded will the true emotion and spirit of the music begin to affect you.

This is why I found starting to play Bach so very boring. It wasn't until I had arduously learnt a piece that I understood that this music is truly greater than the sum of its parts. The intertwining lines appear at first to be rather sterile, but the combination of them and the feeling of playing them as a whole rather than separately is quite indescribable.

Actually, one of the great things playing Bach teaches you is a sublime feeling for rhythm. OK, this might sound paradoxical. If you hear the words "feel" or "rhythm", you might think of jazz, of latin music, of rock, maybe of Carl Orff, but chances are you don't associate the flowing, linear music of Bach.

Rhythm is essential to it, though. The slow stylus fantasticus parts in the toccatas, for example, are near impossible to execute well if you don't feel that beat kicking up your spine that tells you how to time those figurations of hemisemidemiquavers so they fit and sound like something people actually like to listen to.

It has been said that Bach invented jazz. Of course that's ridiculous -- no single person ever invented jazz, not even Jelly Roll Morton, no matter how often he claimed it, and certainly nobody invented jazz before 1800. But it's true that, for example, certain preludes from the Well-Tempered Clavier, especially those with repetitive patterns undergoing chord progressions (such as the nos. 1, 2 and 6 from WTC I), carry a groove. You could have a drummer play a swing beat to these without having to modify the feel for the beat to fit. (Jacques Loussier has made quite a buck from the inherently jazziness of Bach, by the way.)

Let me conclude: Bach is good for you, maybe in more ways than you can imagine. I would never have thought that my jazz comping and my Bach playing would have benefited from each other, but they did.

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