J. S. Bach, from Nils Poertner

November 8, 2021 |

JS Bach was once asked why he wrote so much music.

His answer:
1. "To the glory of God" (not sure whether he meant it, nevermind)
2. To amuse himself.

Maybe some like this piece here as well:

Bach - Concerto in D minor BWV 596 - Van Doeselaar | Netherlands Bach Society

In the first notes of the Concerto in D minor, performed by Leo van Doeselaar for All of Bach, it is immediately clear that this is not the usual Bach. This piece is an organ version of a concerto for two violins and orchestra from Antonio Vivaldi’s L’Estro Armonico. Vivaldi’s music was popular throughout Europe and Germany was no exception. During his years at the court in Weimar, Bach made a series of arrangements of Italian concerto music for organ and harpsichord, including six concertos by Vivaldi.

Gyve Bones adds:

From 20 arguments for the existence of God, from Prof. Peter Kreeft, Department of Philosophy, Boston College:

17. The Argument from Aesthetic Experience

There is the music of Johann Sebastian Bach.
Therefore there must be a God.

You either see this one or you don't.

Alston Mabry writes:

There is a scene in Professor T (Antwerp version) where T is talking to his cellmate and says very sadly something like, "Is there a God?". And his cellmate says something like, "There is Bach. Bach is God." And T smiles and says "Yes, Bach is God."

Peter Saint-Andre offers:

A quote from Pablo Casals:

For the past eighty years I have started each day in the same manner. It is not a mechanical routine but something essential to my daily life. I go to the piano, and I play two preludes and fugues of Bach. I cannot think of doing otherwise. It is a sort of benediction on the house. But that is not its only meaning for me. It is a rediscovery of the world of which I have the joy of being a part. It fills me with awareness of the wonder of life, with a feeling of the incredible marvel of being a human being. The music is never the same for me, never. Each day it is something new, fantastic and unbelievable. That is Bach, like nature, a miracle!

Nils Poertner responds:

that's great. I always try to listen in the moment - whatever works for ppl - life works a bit by invitation anyway. one can't force stuff. a basic sense of joy and harmony is certainly missing in our era (the media, the drama etc outside).

Jeffrey Hirsch recalls:

An English professor whose class I was in asked the question why people write poetry. Answer: Because they have to. Similar reason why Bach wrote so much music. Because he had to.

Richard Owen wonders:

Does Bach have an Onlyfans? I can't see it in the search.

Laurence Glazier suggests:

There are free versions of Sibelius. May I recommend the pleasures of composing now available to all?

Richard Owen admits:

Thank you Laurence, an answer from a real musician of note I think? I should therefore disclose, because you are a decent and proper individual of good character and standing… my question was touched with satire. Google Onlyfans via google news, and you might learn something about the debasement of our culture.

Nils Poertner makes a connection:

btw…I always wondered whether one could re-train a musician becoming good trader? Why? Coz good musicians (of any style) tend to enjoy the process of learning - and are the complete opposite of end-gainers. perhaps they are not interested in financial markets enough- otherwise it would be an interesting project. any idea?

Duncan Coker writes:

I am not in the class or universe of LG in terms of composing, but I do write country songs as a hobby. One thing I have found useful is, often I have to throw something away that I thought was good, a melody, a lyric and start from scratch. The more easily and quickly I scrap an idea, the easier it is to start over. You can't force it. This is true for trading.

James Lackey expands:

Dunc is not gonna get mad at me because we never argue. However sure we can force it and to add to the comment of "those people". As if a career makes a man!?)@“”

Anyways path dependence omg I sound like the geek I am. Ok in a sport or music the pleasure has to be the process of practicing or doing it every damn day. As parents we teach this as in brush your hair teeth good girl boy kiddo! The pleasure of rewriting written words must be higher than start from scratch or least effort kicks in no?

I do not care if she likes my poems. I love them. I’m not sure if it’s a coin toss but I can’t fathom whether I like the poems I wrote in one blast or over 6 hours weeks days or? Good is good and great is better than 6 years ago and awesome is when she says so.

I wrote an awful poem once. Many bad but awful because you can hear the blood hit the floor. I gave it to a song writer buddy and he said damn that’s awesome. I said write a song. He said no man you never write over another mans blood sweat or tears.

In trading the get the joke one liners or 5 lots are cute and won’t hurt anyone much can’t kill you but will never inspire romance. The all in big line can and will get you the one, the forever girl or death one way or the other every 7 years death to the marriage of business and of the romantic life.

They say you’ll get what you need out of trading the market. I think perhaps that’s what separates us from the other guys. We need we want we just can’t help ourselves, we need everything. We want it all!

Adams Grimes writes:

I do think there are some fairly intense connections between music and successful trading/investing. There are the obvious issues of "sticktuitiveness" and grit… I'm currently working my way through one of the Bach Partitas and spent about 4 hours yesterday on 2 measures of music. (For reference that's probably 4-6 seconds, when performed). That degree of focus on detail is absolutely normal for musicians, but is not normal for most peoples' experience, at least in the modern world.

In markets, we get kicked in the head (if we're lucky) or the balls (or, more likely, both) on a regular basis. Some degree of stubbornness and a willingness to just not give up.

I think there are also some profound tie-ins in terms of pattern recognition. For me, I think this worked both ways… after taking a decade away from music I discovered my "musical brain" and compositional skills were probably better than they were, in some ways, when I was focusing my life around music. (My keyboard technique emphatically DID NOT improve, as that's something that does take a fair amount of maintenance.)

Serious, important, and maybe even interesting epistemological questions lurk here.

It's hard to have a favorite Bach piece… his works are surprisingly even in quality across his output, but let me share one that is at the top of my list. This has always been one of my favorites:

Bach: Trio Sonata in G major BWV 530 - I. Vivace - Koopman
(And, for sounding so simple and transparent, it's a nasty little nightmare to perform!)

Gyve Bones harmonizes:

I first heard this performed in the 1970s by Walter/Wendy Carlos on the “Switched-On Bach” on Moog synthesizer, and it has remained a favorite piece of music since then. There are various settings of the piece for guitar and piano as well. Here is a full symphony rendition… It is a song of gratitude to God for his many blessings.

Bach - Sinfonia from Cantata BWV 29 | Netherlands Bach Society

Peter Saint-Andre responds:

I had a similar experience with one of the Bach Cello Suites last night. There is much effort (both time and concentration) involved in learning these pieces. And he probably just dashed them off!

BTW, many years ago there was a software company that specifically recruited music majors because they were highly trainable for programming. And music majors also scored quite high on the even older IBM Programmer's Aptitude Test.

Adam Grimes comments:

And he probably just dashed them off!

This, for me, is one of the biggest and probably eternally unanswerable questions in music history. I suspect our performance standards today are probably far higher than they were historically. It's possible we have an army of at least highly technically competent instrumentalists who've devoted more time to, say, the Chopin scherzi than he ever did himself. We know that Beethoven's playing of his own pieces was, according to contemporary accounts, thrilling but filled with mistakes. When Czerny (a student of Beethoven) proposed playing Beethoven's pieces from memory, Beethoven replied that it was impossible to get all the details without looking at the score… and then admitted he was incorrect on that assumption.

Reading between the lines of what CPE Bach wrote (the Essay on the True Art… is a must-read) I suspect contemporary performance practice was much more improvisatory and perhaps less detail-oriented than we'd expect. We know many of these Bach cantatas were written, rehearsed, and performed in a week. These performers were not super human… the only thing that makes sense to me is that our performance standards and expectations (which approach technical perfection, due to the advent and growth of recording) might be much higher than in past ages.

But perhaps I'm wrong on that.

Interesting on the programming front. I would think those are two quite different modes of thinking (and knowing the expertise is domain-specific in many cases), but I'm a far better programmer than I should be given my level of actual training in the discipline. Maybe there's something to that.

Peter Saint-Andre writes:

In his book "Baroque Music Today", Nikolaus Harnoncourt notes that before music was recorded, people most likely heard any given piece of music only once and didn't want to keep listening to the same music over and over as we do but instead continually sought out whatever was new. Perhaps there was a sense of discovery as composers explored the potentials of the tonal system; once those potentials were exhausted and composers started to produce extremely chromatic or even atonal music in the 20th century, listeners were turned off by the new and sought refuge in the old (thus Western art music ceased to be a living tradition for most listeners). Thankfully composers like Adam Grimes and Laurence Glazier are bucking that trend!

Laurence Glazier writes:

One would expect coding and music skills to be correlated. A symphony is partly an encoded instruction set, whether performed by a computer or an orchestra. The conductor is the "crystal", the timer that pumps the flow. But oh, so much more, than that.

It would be very hard to combine the music and trading fields. To be attentive to the Muse and the S&P at the same time? Surely both are all-consuming. But trading, with its psychological dimension, of self-awareness and development, is a fine path. Alexander Borodin managed to combine composing with a distinguished career in science, as did Charles Ives in insurance.


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