Drew McManus of Adaptistration posted a hilarious video excerpt this week from a Steve Martin comedy special, Steve Martin’s Best Show Ever (1981). In the sketch, the brilliant and talented Martin struggles to find a way to incorporate a performance of a Bartók string quartet into his comedy special. Hilarity ensues.
If you take anything away from that clip, I hope it’s this: we’ll be better off with relevancy when we stop trying so hard and just learn how to laugh at ourselves.
I don’t like a lot of old music. Mozart, Brahms, et al. don’t really whet my whistle, tickle my fancy, float my boat, or light my fire. Having said that, I’ve always had a bit of a thing for Bach. I think counterpoint is just about the coolest dang thing any musician ever thought of, and nobody’s ever done it better than Johann. That’s why I was so excited when I read about Don Freund (composer and professor at Indiana University) putting a series of lectures on YouTube called “Composition Lessons from J. S. Bach.”
They seem to be geared toward an audience that may not have a thorough technical understanding of the music already, but there is a lot of compelling information in them. Freund runs through a significant chunk of the first book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier, pointing out anything that he finds particularly interesting. That’s really a lot of what composers do when they listen to music, though. “Hey that sounds neat. I’ll take some of that.” Here’s a couple of the videos Freund has posted: part of the introduction, and part of the discussion of the C-sharp minor fugue. I encourage you to check out more of them on his YouTube channel.