So I'm embarking on a project. Projects are important: something to make you feel as if you're locomoting through life rather than merely drifting along. Unfortunately, I'm too chickenshit to attempt projects of actual utility (forming a musical group, penning a literary novel, composting) so I've been forced to fall back on useless projects (hammering out two insipid romance novels, Master's thesis).
Trouble is, I finished the second romance novel last week, and I'm tired of writing them. There's only so many synonyms for smolder, after all, and my characters have a distressing tendency to get it on.
No, I'm ready for something new. Something thorny, pointless, and Sisyphean. Yes, my friends, I'm ready for Bach.
1) When my favorite college coffee shop/music store closed down my senior year, I bought a cup of coffee and the Urtext of Bach's Inventions and Sinfonia for keyboard, this latter purchase being the kind of talismanic gesture people make when very frightened or very hopeful, like spitting when you hear the devil's name.
2) As of Friday, there is a small 1970s Rodgers electronic organ with full pedalboard in my dining room. This is not my fault.
3) Although I am a musician, I am not a keyboard player. My keyboard experience is as follows:
a) Age 6. Six months of desultory study with embittered graduate student on electric keyboard above local music store. I did not practice. Repertoire: Go Tell Aunt Rhodie.
b) Age 17-18 About a year and a half of piano study, w. heavy emphasis on theory, with very talkative harpsichordist. I practiced indifferently. Repertoire: Bach Prelude in F Minor, learned laboriously over six months, still the only piece I can play.
c) Age 18-19. Played short chordal patterns on piano for sullen keyboard monitors in an attempt to pass Music Theory. Success! Repertoire: I vi IV V I.
d) Age 22. Realized I had better dispatch undergraduate keyboard requirement. Conned a friend into teaching me organ, and thereafter spent every lesson gossiping shamelessly about other organists. No actual learning accomplished. Profoundly suspicions of pedalboard. My friend never teaches again, later moves to Sweden. Repertoire: Snark.
e) Age 24-25. Lit on brilliant plan to take two semesters of basso continuo as best way to obtain Performer Diploma without doing any actual work, plus enable self to accompany small, inept students w. out. shelling out for accompanist. Success! However, still cannot actually play keyboard. Repertoire: accompaniment for Go Tell Aunt Rhodie.
All of which leads me inexorably to the first statement of the theme of the post, in which I announce my intention to learn all 12 Bach 2-part inventions on the electronic organ. Rules:
1) I have until December 31, 2009 to learn all 12 pieces, but I can start now.
2) I will use only the first manual. I will not use the pedalboard unless I accidentally step on it while climbing on and off the electronic organ.
3) I am allowed to abandon the project if I like. It's my party; I can cry if I want to.
4) By "learn" I mean be able to play smoothly without stopping, even if my tempo for all inventions remains along of the lines of "dirge." Playing Bach agonizingly slowly on the electronic organ is historically informed insofar as a really bad keyboard player in the time of Bach, who had access only to an electronic organ which had traveled from the 1970s in a time machine, would play Bach agonizingly slowly on the electronic organ. Take that, Donnington.
5) I will not spill water on the electronic organ.
Wish me luck! I will be posting updates periodically. On to invention number 1, the C Major, better known as easiest keyboard piece in the world. Can I sight read it? No.