Monday, November 15, 2010

Johann Pachelbel - Canon in D Major

How Johann Sebastian Bach changed the world.

Part 1 of the music in review for November hinted at Bach’s influence on music to come after him, the most apparent piece of music that is credit to Bach though he never actually aided in its creation directly is the “Ave Maria,” by French composure Charles Gounod. Though creating this majestic masterpiece Gounod was very humble and stated that Bach should be equally credited for the song since Gounod himself had based the song heavily off of Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier.” To this day if you search for the song “Ave Maria” it is still credited to both men though the “Well-Tempered Clavier,” was written over a century before the “Ave Maria.”

More profound of an impact by Bach was through fellow German composure Johann Pachelbel’s who wrote music in the same time frame as Bach. Pachelbel is most famous for the “Canon in D,” which you already know, whether you know it or not. The thing to note here is that the “Canon in D,” is very deliberately similar to Bach’s “Air For G-String.” While I am unsure of the details I gather Pachelbel and Bach were friends, because there is a clear parallel in song writing here.

Now the “Canon in D” is one of the most important songs ever, and I’ll tell you way, the Canon method. The Canon method is the very simple idea that every rhythmic instrument in a song should be introduced into the harmony individually and systematically. In other words, one instrument plays and is joined slowly by a second, than a third is introduced, then a fourth, and so on. This seems like very basic song writing doesn’t it? But someone had to do it first, and from the history books of music people seemed convinced that that first song to do this was Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” As you listen to “Canon in D,” performed by the London Symphonic Orchestra, you should be able to hear that no instrument ever deviates from its simple pattern, the depth of the song comes solely from the variety of instruments coming together.

While I’m talking about influences I mentioned in the part 1 of this music in review that Russian powerhouse music composure Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky was influenced by Bach’s work, well I must point out that Tchaikovsky’s “Canon in C,” is very similar to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” which is very similar to Bach’s “Air for G-String.” This should paint a picture of the kind of community this kind of music houses. Also just to remind you of how important this music is, back in the first half of the twentieth century people were convinced that Tchaikovsky was the epoch of music and that mankind had surely reached a finally climax is the art of music. This must have been considered true until Led Zeppelin came around and became the greatest thing since Tchaikovsky, and I am not joking when I compare Zeppelin to the classics.

So to summarize Pachelbel’s “Canon in D,” you should notice the famous canon method, as well as its similarities to “Air For G-String.” Bach changed the world perhaps more so than anyone ever in music and that is no small accolade.

Until next month, keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly


One day I’m totally going to buy one of these shirts;

Friday, November 5, 2010

Johann Sabastian Bach - Air for G String

Every month it feels like I’m playing catch up. There are lots of good things happening with music lately yet there is an even greater inventory of amazing music from the past that I would like to talk about. So I’ve decided that from now until the end of 2011 Colin Kelly’s music in review is a double feature.

Since it is the vast history of music that creates the greatest mountain of discussion for me to engage in I will start from a very early point this month. Let’s talk about Bach.

Johann Sebastian Bach was born in Germany in 1685, meaning his music predates the other two titans of classic music Beethoven and Mozart but nearly a hundred years, and that makes sense given his strong influence on music on a whole.

My brother Niall once told me about a study that tested the stimulation music had on your brain, the idea being that music that stimulated you the most caused the greatest positive intellectual influence on you. They tested classical music only, because they were clearly trying to suggest good music had good influences on you and didn’t want something stupid thrown in to muddy the results. Of all the composures they tested on the minds of the listeners Bach’s music blew away his peers by stimulating the brain far more so than anyone else. What does this mean? Probably nothing, but it is an interesting study regardless.

The thing I have always found fascinating about Bach is that he is referenced so often for so many pieces of work that post date his death, from Gound to Tchaikovsky, Bach influenced nearly every classical musician who came afterward, more so than even the great Mozart and Beethoven. He even has influence on music now of days that we completely take for granted, but that is part two of this month’s review.

I have the habit of downloading lots of music and listen to it gradually over time as it pops up on random on my mp3 player at home, and while it was several years ago now, I remember Bach’s “Air For G-String,” playing for the first time on my computer like it was yesterday. I remember making it about one minute into the song and asking myself “is this Mozart?” who I am very fond of, and upon discovering it was Bach I grew a deep appreciate for the man. That is the thing about classical music it is a complicated music of details. There is so much going on in those precious classics between the instruments that it take a keen ear or a learned appreciation for the music to properly enjoy, it’s like fine wine or scotch which may taste strong or unpleasant at first but once you accustom yourself to the taste you feel a full array of flavour with each sip. Classical music works this way, you hear it and your mind slowly picks out the subtle connections each note shares with each other, and each second your ear is filled with an array of beautiful sound.

So enjoy “Air For G-String,” it is a song that gave birth to thousands of songs thereafter.

Keep on rocking in the free world.

- Colin Kelly