This morning it was one of those flaky Bach melodies. I said to myself, Aha, that’s some obscure canon or something that I only heard once, or only read about in Goedel, Escher, Bach twenty years ago.
I was wrong.
I should have known better; I’m not quite good enough, musically, to be able to remember, in any detail, things I’ve only heard once.
It turns out that what awakened me this morning was a passage from the fourth of the Five Canonic Variations on ‘Vom Himmel Hoch’, BWV 769; I’d been intimately acquainted with these since doing a synthesized version about fifteen years ago.
Remind me sometime to tell you about J.S.Bach. My involvement began when I was around 14.
This has been going on for quite a while now. I’ve had it. So a couple of weeks ago I decided to note down the music that was playing in my head when I awoke each morning. Here’s what I woke up with over a period of two weeks:
- Old MacDonald had a Farm
- Loure, from the French Suite #5 of J.S.Bach
- Jesus Loves the Little Children
- Someone’s in the Kitchen with Dinah
- Billy Joel “I Am an Innocent Man”
- Sounds of Silence — Simon and Garfunkel
- something of Edvard Grieg that I don’t know by name and don’t like very much
- excerpts from the a minor organ fugue, bwv 543, of J.S.Bach
- something of Schubert that I don’t know the name of
- On Top of Old Smoky
- Softly and Tenderly Jesus is Calling
- Cantata #50, “Nun ist das Heil,” of J.S.Bach
- Billy Joel singing “Light as the Breeze” by Leonard Cohen
- Come on Baby Light My Fire — which I really hate.
…and so it went. I have no control over the music in my own head. If it’s not God who puts it there, then who? What? Why?
In the ordinary course of a day I can fill my head with any music I please, at will. In the 70’s I used to play about half of the Well-Tempered Klavier, maybe a dozen of the Goldberg Variations, and so on. Those are still in my musical imagination. Billy Joel and Leonard Cohen and Pete Seeger — sure, don’t need any iTunes tracks, just let’em rip. But what I wake up with? That’s nothing I have any control over.
Where do those Sunday School songs, old altar-call hymns, where do those things come back from? And why? A few have sentimental associations for me; most of them don’t, and I disowned them decades ago. Bad theology.
And don’t get me going on Paul Simon. He and Garfunkel made glorious music with some marvellously incoherent lyrics, and as far as I know the lyrics were entirely Simon’s fault.