Johann Sebastian Bach
"Dear Mr Bach,
Wittgenstein said: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof one must be silent."
I say: "Whereof one cannot speak, thereof Bach composes."
Words might be inadequate when it comes to what I am trying to say but I want to tell you a story nonetheless:
I have been meaning to tell you this for a while now. Truth to be told it's been 23 years.
I was born to a baroque musician who loves moving. She would find a new apartment every other year. Places and people around me kept changing but your music stayed. There is nothing making me feel as at home as a flute and a harpsichord playing one of your sonatas next door.
When I was little I had four audio drama cassettes called "discovering composers". They introduced Handel, Beethoven, Mozart and you to me. I learned about how you moved Leipzig and when you married Anna Magdalena. I remember very little of the other composer's life stories but I still know every sentence from your cassette and every piece played in it by heart. You impressed the five year old me in a way nothing else managed to. I felt there was something in your music, something I couldn't properly articulate- but I knew it was deep.
When I was 12 I stood in front of your grave at Thomaskirche Leipzig, shivering. I silently spoke with you. Remember? I told you things like "I'm your biggest fan." My friends cried over receiving Britney Spears' autograph while I couldn't believe I was 10 feet away from your bones. I thought my state was similar to what Jesus' birth place visitors experience. I realized: I felt the same way about you that I did about god. My mind said: "This is wrong. There is only one god." My heart didn't care. And sent a prayer to you. I told you everything I struggled with, I was thankful for and how deeply touched I felt by your music. It was hard for me to find words while standing in the greatest awe I'd ever known.
At 16 someone gave me Morimur. I listened to the Ciacona transcription (s. video below) and finally found words for what I'd felt all along: Your genius is integrating extremely sophisticated structures with deep emotionality, permeated by infinity. I leaned back in my chair. Now I had it all figured out. Right?
When I turned 19 I got the opportunity to play one of the solo parts in your violin double concerto. It was hard not to cry on stage. I was walking on air. It will be one of the moments i'll flash back to before I die, I am sure.
Now I am 23. I just moved into a new apartment. Guess what was the first thing I did? Play some of your music. Make this place a piece of home. Just like every city I visit. If the weather allows it I will sit down somewhere outside and busk. What will I play? A Bach partita (s.video below).
Other people may call me crazy, I don't care. Actually, no music maven ever has called my Bach fascination crazy. Even my jazz friends' eyes widen when I say your name. I think it is because of what I have been experiencing, finding and lacking words for all my life. It's what made me gasp for breath in countless concerts and come up with the these that playing your music of all composers releases the biggest amount of serotonin in a musician's brain. Because whenever I sit on a foreign pavement and put down the violin after finishing the last chord the air has gotten lighter. I have become more spacious and the world around me has turned into plain beauty. I see people's smiles, I feel their hearts and I hear music everywhere. Life flows through me. Your music triggers my deepest emotions, it touches a serene place within me. This place shines chrystal clear, bright and fine while your notes move my most inner being. They release everything I have been holding on to. Tears run down my face. Finally you reconnect me with infinity- playing your notes is meditation.
11 years after standing at your grave my attitude towards religion and spirituality has changed. Nowadays I think that every person carries God inside. And that seeing God in a lot of things is wonderful. Also I have realized you were human after all. But I am still confident that your music is a divine creation. Thank you for leaving it. Thank you for finding musical ways of saying everything there is to say in life- and everything there are no words for.