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;

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