Saturday, March 22, 2014

Poems about J.S. Bach: Playlist for March 21, 2014


Bach in the DC Subway

By  David Lee Garrison  


As an experiment,


The Washington Post


asked a concert violinist—


wearing jeans, tennis shoes,


and a baseball cap—


to stand near a trash can


at rush hour in the subway


and play Bach


on a Stradivarius.


Partita No. 2 in D Minor


called out to commuters


like an ocean to waves,


sang to the station


about why we should bother


to live. 


A thousand people


streamed by.  Seven of them


paused for a minute or so


and thirty-two dollars floated


into the open violin case.


A café hostess who drifted


over to the open door


each time she was free


said later that Bach


gave her peace,


and all the children,


all of them,


waded into the music


as if it were water,


listening until they had to be


rescued by parents


who had somewhere else to go.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC:  Chaconne, from Violin Partita No. 3 by J.S. Bach


The Aftertaste of Bitterness
By John F. Deane

The roof slopes steeply:
I am listening to Bach, the St John Passion: I live,
the pleasures of love enjoying, and thou
art dying. How the attic space
has grown luxurious with the music, oboe

d'amore, a thunder-storm, a dulcet
rending of the heart in sorrow; and I fill,
if only for a moment, with
transcendental energy. Clouds
through the skylight window shift, reform,

there falls a huge knocking on the glass
from the opened sky. Peter's
ham-fisted attempt at violence, the swung
sword; then the music of healing, the forgiving
hand. And what is truth? I'm drawn away

by mating-shouts of pheasants
In the high grass outside. Bach's slow chorales
lift the soul, through time, out
beyond time, till the music tells how death
is the perfect state of innocence.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: St. John Passion (Part 1 excerpts) by J.S. Bach


At a Bach Concert   by Adrienne Rich


Coming by evening through the wintry city
We said that art is out of love with life.
Here we approach a love that is not pity.

This antique discipline, tenderly severe,
Renews belief in love yet masters feeling,
Asking of us a grace in what we bear.

Form is the ultimate gift that love can offer -
The vital union of necessity
With all that we desire, all that we suffer.

A too-compassionate art is half an art.
Only such proud restraining purity
Restores the else-betrayed, too-human heart.
REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Keyboard Concerto in A by J.S. Bach


If Bach had been a beekeeper
By Charles Tomlinson

If Bach had been a beekeeper
he would have heard
all those notes
suspended above one another
in the air of his ear
as the differentiated swarm returning
to the exact hive
and place in the hive,
topping up the cells
with the honey of C major,
food for the listening generations,
key to their comfort
and solace of their distress
as they return and return
to those counterpointed levels
of hovering wings where
movement is dance
and the air itself
a scented garden

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Prelude & Fugue in C Major, from WTC I by J.S. Bach

The Stillness of the World before Bach
By Lars Gustafsson
There must have been a world before
the Trio Sonata in D, a world before the A minor Partita,
but what kind of a world?
A Europe of vast empty spaces, unresounding,
everywhere unawakened instruments
where the Musical Offering, the Well-tempered Clavier
never passed across the keys.
Isolated churches
where the soprano-line of the Passion
never in helpless love twined round
the gentler movements of the flute,
broad soft landscapes
where nothing breaks the stillness
but old woodcutters' axes,
the healthy barking of strong dogs in winter
and, like a bell, skates biting into fresh ice;
the swallows whirring through summer air,
the shell resounding at the child's ear
and nowhere Bach nowhere Bach
the world in a skater's silence before Bach.

REFLECTIVE MUSIC: Violin Sonata in A minor by J.S. Bach


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