Speak for Bach

“When I hear a director speaking glibly of serving the author, of letting a play speak for itself, my suspicions are aroused, because this is the hardest job of all. If you just let a play speak, it may not make a sound. If what you want is for the play to be heard, then you must conjure its sound from it”.

Theatre director Peter Brook mentions this in commenting about the realm of theater. In music, this thought process is something that happens all too often.

There is an insistence on respecting the composer’s wishes. Composers become deities that could smite us mere mortals if we put the wrong words in their mouth. Bach’s music can speak for itself.

In letting Bach speak, does he even make a sound? Sure, the performance can be lovely, but does it lend to Bach’s music being relevant to our lives or simply an anachronistic extravagance for the weekend? A mere hit and run that leaves classical music in the realm of escapist blockbusters.

Maybe we need to speak for Bach. Literally. We should, with the audience, engage in a back and forth dialogue about Bach’s relevance for the 21st century person.

When we go to a recital, we all know what we’re listening to. We all have an idea about how it is performed. Yet it’s the why that is often missed. The why gives a voice to the voiceless. That is what we need to do for our music.

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