Bach, Commoner, and Paintings

I’ve been busy reading some wonderful Chinese writers’ blogs lately. One of them has the pen name “organpiano”, who specializes in classical music. Here is one of her numerous comments on Bach. Her writing style is very flowery, I’m trying to match it in my translation but I’m sure it doesn’t do the original justice. 🙁

在我疲惫或浮躁的时候,巴赫常常及时降临。他一生反复吟咏对上帝的虔诚。在他的音乐面前,“高雅”之类的形容显得无力而做作。 以世俗的耳朵,我听到的是一个普通人的向往,又朴素又执着,又庄重又快乐。奇怪,“向往”一词容易让人焦急,巴赫却使我立刻静下来。他坐在洒满月光的教堂里,坚定地等待清晨,心无尘滓。谁也不怀疑,他会等来阳光。在《d 小调古钢琴与弦乐协奏曲》(BWV1052 ) 中,无论主题变幻出巴罗克建筑的飞升感还是安详如梦,拨弦古钢琴 一直在下方奏着不倦的数字低音。我专注于古钢琴清澈见底的声音, 觉得它是一弯从雪山奔向云天尽头的浅浅溪流,沿途滴到我心中一小匙水。它怀着无休的热情聆听寂寞的回声,已经鸣响几百年了。我观察它的神色,从中看到了自己的渴望。我们立刻有了血脉之缘。

Whenever I’m exhausted or flustered, Bach often arrived right in time. He spent his entire life singing praises of devotion to God. In front of his music, adjective such as “elegant” appears to be hapless and pretentious. As a commoner, I heard another commoner’s desire, simple and persistent, dignified and happy. Strange, the word “desire” usually makes one anxious, but Bach always quiets me down. He sits in a church bathed in moonlight, quietly waiting for dawn. No one doubts him, the sunlight would receive him as he has firmly believed. In Harpsichord Concerto in D minor BWV1052, no matter how the melody winding through the elevation of Baroque architecture or peaceful dreams, the harpsichord steadily producing figured bass tirelessly in the background. I focus on that crystal clear sound of harpsichord, which was like a shallow creek rushing down the snowy peak towards the horizon, and it left a spoonful of water in my heart along its way. Carrying the endless passion, listening for the lonely echoes, this crystal sound had existed throughout the centuries. I observed its expression, and saw my own desire in it. Suddenly, we are connected.
–organpiano, My Classical(in Chinese)

Her emphasizes on Bach’s commoner point of view fascinated me. Once I found myself in the National Museum of Art of Catalunya. An exhibit of earlier Christian wall painting was on display. Religious paintings didn’t interest me at all, but it was near the end of my stay, and I’d run out of touristy places to go. It turned out to be a pleasant surprise. They were Catalan mural paintings and cave paintings from eleventh-thirteenth centuries. Jesus there looked a lot more humane and humble than His glorious Italian Renaissance counterparts. The coloring was lively and the figures looked chubby and expressive. They didn’t look divine or indifferent. They cry, they laugh, they anger, and they frown.

It was not touristy season, and I was almost the only visitor. In that empty gallery, surrounded by the echoing of my footstep, I felt for the first time in my life (probably the last, too) touched by Jesus on the wall. They were beautiful and alive.

I wonder if that is how “organpiano” feels toward Bach?