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  • Writer's pictureDavid

Bach: Goldberg Variations

Glenn Gould is a fascinating guy, look him up. He’s most renowned for a recording he made of J.S. Bach’s Goldberg Variations. In this context, you can think of “variations” as many different versions of a single song. The first track is the song and all the other tracks are remixes. A lot of Bach’s work is like this, variations on a theme!

Listening to Bach requires concentration. It’s also a good way to practice concentrating. Mr. Gould’s playing is exciting, and does a lot to highlight the mathematical beauty of Bach’s writing. Now that all of you have hands on experience of what it takes to play the piano, Gould’s playing should be almost offensive, and I mean that in a good way!

Questions to answer in your response:

1. I mentioned mathematical beauty in Bach’s writing…What makes it mathematically beautiful? Extra credit: Maybe it isn’t?

2. Do you like this music? Explain why.

3. Try practicing your concentration. Listen to the way the lines move toward each other and away from each other, together and apart. How long can you focus on it before getting tired? I sometimes try to listen to the entire piece in one sitting, but rarely make it all the way.

4. Search YouTube for more recordings of the Goldberg Variations. There are many different interpretations of this work. Can you find a bad one? What makes it bad?

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