My conversation with Johann Sebastian Bach

2년 전


tl;dr: more thoughts on music as code and messaging and the benefits of a protected, secure environment for its transmission.

A cousin suggested that I watch the documentary, Bach- A Passionate Life as part of my ongoing exploration of the world of music.

When I lived in Germany many moons ago, I visited Bach’s childhood home in Eisenach and the church where he worked in Leipzig.

The documentary gave me a much better understanding of the fundamentals of music.

Bach was a big innovator, so in order to understand what he was doing differently, they had to explain how it was done.

The documentary cause me to ask my piano teacher (I just started and I’m very much a beginner) about the origins of standardized musical composition.

He shared (though I haven’t found a great source yet to confirm) that music sheets as we know it we’re a product of Venice, during its Golden Age.

The piano (also an Italian world) marked an innovation that allowed for volume increases, something the harpsichord did not. Plus, as wealth increased, a piano could be afforded for placement inside a home. The same can not be said of an organ.

That convergence led to wealthy patrons sponsoring composers to create new, non-Church, music. They needed a way to communicate to others how it would sound.

Musical Composition as Code
I speak a few other languages and I’ve learned that, though it’s tedious, one of the best ways to become an accomplished speaker of another language is to learn the grammatical fundamentals.

Music is a language and so, I assumed, that the same would apply.

Now that I know what a bass clef and treble clef are, a measure, and how notes are represented, I am starting to see the structure of the language. Like any other, it’s got rules. Learn the rules and you can start getting comfortable with the language.

One thing I really find interesting is that I am beginning to understand why Dr. Ben Goetzel said that you can learn a lot about programming/code if you understand music.

For one, music is a protocol.

No matter where you are, if you know the language, there is a right way and a wrong way to play a set of instructions (the notes). A “middle C” on a piano in Venice and Shanghai is the same note, even if the piano is slightly different.

So, when Bach puts down a piece of music, he is writing a code for an auditory experience that he knows, no matter what, will be played the same way everywhere. That’s a pretty powerful concept.

When a developer writes code, he (or she) also intendds that it will execute the exact same way everywhere.

Both are protected by the existence of a protocol and both reflect the intention of its creator.

Music as Message
I know there are people who spend their entire lives thinking and studying the works of great composers, so in some respect, it’s silly for me to speculate on the meaning and message behind a given piece of music. The fact is that, I have no idea what Bach was thinking.

However, I do know that Bach had some type of intention in his mind when he wrote the Well-Tempered Klavier and other works. The metaphysical part, the dimension that is outside of time and space, is how the composition and the protocol enable me, sitting here in 2020, to hear the message that is encoded in the notes which Bach wrote hundreds of years ago.

I don’t know exactly what the message is. What is Bach trying to tell me or anyone?

But I feel pretty confident that I am hearing it and it’s up to me to decipher it. It’s pretty to cool to think that when I think “I’m listening to Bach right now” that I am actually listening to Bach right now, as if he were sitting in the room with me.

Protected Creativity
Bach was a very religious person. A believer in God and the Church and he worked for many years in that capacity. He felt a sense of divine inspiration and a burning desire to replicate God as much as possible, something we can all do, through our powers of creation.

I heard it said once that the three most creative endeavors for humans are creating a painting, writing a story, composing music. You can probably put software code on that list as well. Each of those are complete “blank canvases” where we are free to make what we want.

Much of life, and I know I’m getting philosophical here, is about discovering our inner creative and then having the confidence to let that inner creator emerge.

Once we’ve done all of that work, we feel confident in ourselves, in our place in the world. We know that, since each of us is a unique individual, each of us has a unique creative gift to bestow upon the world.

That’s where we have the opportunity to bring our “full selves” to our creative passions, our work. We may or may not care about legacy or posterity, but it doesn’t change the fact that no one like each of us has ever existed before. Nor will again.

So, it would be a meaningful contribution to history, in a small but important way, if the outgrowth of our creative work was protected.

I trust that the music I am hearing today is exactly as Bach composed it, but I don’t know that. For all I know, someone changed a note here or there along the way.

The potential beauty of blockchain, with its protection of rights and platform-risk free environment, is that the creators of the great compositions of tomorrow (software and otherwise) will do their work in an environment that Bach would have loved.

You put your heart and soul into something. You feel like it’s your gift to world.

How many more people would do that if they knew that their message, their creative output, is protected forever?

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