Our work is so new in terms of the philosophical idea and its implementation, dear friends, that a considerable time must pass before what we create is not even understood, but taken into account. I want to remind our new caring friends and sponsors, who have joined our community not so long ago, about the method and idea of the "Living Consciousness" series. And also to present a text literary edited by our active supporter Todd Harris about the forthcoming completely reimagined Well-Tempered Clavier.
About the series Music as Living Consciousness.
Awareness brings truth to performing music and knowledge to its listener. Because every piece of great music contains within it the coding of its creator’s soul and mind, its proper performance becomes a living biography. The musician must innately understand every phrase and take responsibility for every tone presented to the listener.
This is my Aware approach to music. My life experience has brought sensibility to consciousness in music—a sense of the composer’s Awareness encoded within any great music. It has become my mission to decode this information and to share this knowledge, so that listeners may experience the joy of meeting a greatly creative human, a composer, even though time and space may not have physically allowed it.
Through much study and philosophical consideration, I have learned that it is impossible to accomplish this goal when relying solely upon intuition brought by Tradition. In past performances, I always cared about the music I played, but now I am focused on becoming truly aware of its content.
Armed with this new awareness, I have, in recent years, studied and recorded several composers’ masterworks. including Liszt’s great B minor Sonata, Mussorgsky’s “Pictures,” Schumann’s Symphonic Etudes, and others, with more to come. But this present album shares what I learned studying, experiencing, and playing the first volume of Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier—the WTC—and what it is like to become truly “Aware” of it, and of its creator. In short, I want listeners to experience the True Bach, as I have.
When I began to study the texts of the first volume of Johann Sebastian Bach’s The Well-Tempered Clavier (WTC), I never expected the dramatic discoveries that awaited me. These provided a fundamental understanding of the material, and of the amazing mind behind its creation. After delving comprehensively into an analysis of the scores, Bach’s intensely technical clavier algorithms, and the goals he associated with their mastery, became clear. Day by day, my work transformed my familiarity with all the Preludes and Fugues into their mastery. This process brought with it a clarity to my understanding of their patterns, technical tasks, Bach’s compositional method, and the motivations and inspiration that prompted Bach to create the WTC cycle in the first place. After six months of intensive work on the texts, it became clear to me that Bach apparently did not choose to utilize all the compositional keys of the tempered system for the sole simplistic goal of creating a novelty.
Rather, he wanted to provide the musician with a set of “texts”—Prelude and Fugue pairings—that exhibited the very essence of possibility. These texts would constitute a method for transmitting his mastery of keyboard technique to others in a convenient form: pairs of Prelude and associated Fugues that, when properly learned and played, would demonstrate to musician and listener alike the possible ranges of keyboard performance.
Taken at large, examination of the entire WTC cycle yields a proper view of Bach’s goal—to persistently train the musician through clear and precise manual finger exercises. By using every key, Bach educates with his amazing array of dynamic and difficult pieces, each beautifully informative both to musician and music listener.
Their embodiment of radically innovative and masterfully designed technical algorithms makes them perfect tools to develop a musician’s physiology. Bach trains the musician’s physiology like no other composer before or since.
He develops the perfect independence of each finger of both hands, the fastest possible reaction, the complete parity of the right and left hands, and the training of the vestibular apparatus. In each Prelude and Fugue, Bach builds certain techniques in chains, connecting them with small "bridges" into a single musical stream. He imbeds these technical constructions into accessible, easily audible musical forms. In fact, the more I mastered the WTC texts, the clearer to me became the meaning of the inscription upon the title page of Bach’s autographed score: "For the benefit and use of the musical youth striving for the study, as well as for the special pastime of those who have already succeeded in such teaching.” This parting dedication was characteristic of Bach, the man—a clear annunciation of an eloquent thought through a seemingly simple and utilitarian statement.
This enunciated his dual goals for the WTC: to function as a learning tool for both keyboard students and teachers alike. By playing the texts of the WTC at a slow pace, one accomplishes the "striving for the teaching of musical youth.” These same texts, played at a faster tempo, present boundless virtuosity, crystal clear polyphony, and intelligibility of simple and charming various melodies "...for the special pastime of those who have already succeeded in such teaching.” And therein lies the adaptive musical genius of the WTC: even as it entertains both clavier students and masters, it captivates their listeners too. The WTC IS Bach…invested with all his empirical virtuosic keyboard experience, his rich imagination, and his unique insight into the future of human physiology. He created a tool to help a person enhance their capabilities physiologically; to embrace their best virtuosity; to fully understand the physiological challenges, the potential possibilities, and the characteristics of any keyboard instrument—from the ancient clavichord, to the modern synthesizer.
I concluded that the best way to describe Bach’s technical miracle is this: the WTC consists of polyphonic musical structures created to fully develop a person’s cognitive and physiological capabilities. After a year of work on the cycle, I succeeded in “the special pastime,” as greater mastery of the material gradually revealed to me the great pedagogical merits of this cycle. My fingers gained extraordinary flexibility, lightness, and complete independence—all with a much greater strength than before. Playing the Preludes and Fugues became a physiological pleasure, in addition to, but separate from, my experience of their beautiful musical forms. I came to realize that Bach's compositional method for the WTC is completely mathematical. Injecting myself, or any human, into its performance would detract from the innovations of its truly abstract nature: it is a set of almost geometric templates designed to inspire without inhibition and to maximize the virtuosity of a musician upon any instrument.
The strict "musical geometry" of the WTC should, in theory, make it immune to the influences posed by the fashions of any particular time. Unfortunately, during the past three centuries of WTC performance, musicians’ fingers have raced away from the original contexts of the score, injecting “interpretation” into their playing. They revoiced Bach's texts with the language of their respective eras. First came the starkly classical eighteenth century approach. This was followed by the nineteenth century’s infusion of romance and feelings during Bach’s Romantic Era revival. Finally, we saw the arrival of the conditional periods of modernity, belle epoques, and post-modernity, which introduced a panoply of progressive ideas into the mix. But this gradual intrusive infusion of overtly historical influences into the WTC directly opposes the mathematical nature of its composition.
In order to maximally express the great technical brilliance of the WTC, to properly achieve its goals, there must be respect given to the texts and a rejection of any individual interpretation during performance. This includes the proper choice of tempo, as only properly chosen tempos provide graphic clarity to the geometric lines of the Preludes and Fugues. The WTC Prelude-Fugue pairings have become lifelong companions for musician and listener alike: the musician acquires polish in his technique by mastering the virtuosic, and the listener is charmed by the captivating melodies within the music.
Neither becomes bored because the music appeals to the body and the soul. Bach’s harmonic rules align the melodic rhythm to the natural, instinctual expectations of our own awareness. The Preludes and Fugues are algorithmically and contextually symbiotic, each keeping to its own purpose, but always written as one integral to the other: Prelude to Fugue—both coordinated in their thematic construction, in their technical demands, and in their tempos. The more deeply one studies and becomes familiar with the WTC, the clearer this relationship becomes. I found that each part of the Prelude and Fugue pairings constitutes one whole “musical organism.” Therefore, technically and compositionally, it is best to perform both parts of each Prelude-Fugue pairing at the same tempo. The WTC, like all of Bach’s music, transcends any definition of “era”—his music so attracts performers and listeners because it has an order, direction, and purposeful logic that is akin to mathematics.
But it transcends mere formulation: it is alive in its own “cosmos,” it is sprinkled with imagination and wonder, and, as Bach himself said, it is “derived from God—I just press the keys.” Bach’s modesty shows in his choice of title words for the work. The Well-Tempered Clavier succinctly characterizes both the composition and his modest view of it. Clearly, he could not have imagined how influential his “Applied Masterwork” would become to later Masters of the medium, or how foundational it would be to the very craft of Classical western music.
What really makes Bach’s gift to the world so special, so unique, and so powerfully influential, is its grounding in his best intuition: the WTC delivers his innate understanding both of what develops the musician, and of what quenches the human mind’s thirst for regulation and order—uniquely “tempered” sound combinations resolutely pleasing and beautiful to hear. And with the notion of “tempered,” we arrive at our closing thought. My own experience with the WTC proved transformational.
The raw, exuberant performance of the scores in my youth evolved into my presently rich understanding of Bach: the man, his soul, and the mind behind the score. After many months of work, I now possess an awareness of The Well-Tempered Clavier. More importantly, I learned, lived, and became Aware of its creator’s clarity of design and purpose to the point that I could finally share its magnificent purity with others in a way that is uncorrupted by time: the WTC literally gave me the tools to better express human nature. By decoding Bach’s musical-mathematical cognitive structures, I realized the true living Bach, and, in the process, I became a more Well-Tempered Man. But the real miracle of the WTC is that it can make anyone more “Well-Tempered”—if only they take the time to listen, to learn, and to become truly Aware of it. I hope that this album further awakens your Awareness of Bach and lets you meet the amazing man I have come to know.
Video: "Cross Fugue" C Sharp Minor in pace N1 (not the Ma