On Bach

Bach’s music remains nowadays as strong a model of musical perfection as it ever has, maybe even more given today’s heightened historical awareness, which provides a more reliable appraisal of its merit within the context of Bach’s own day. Musicians of later eras have gratefully acknowledged their debt to his authority. It’s now more than 250 years since he passed away, but his overall stature in the canon of Western musical art continues to grow, and his popularity with the listening public holds firm.

Popularity alone, however, is no measure of worth or greatness. At the time I write this, a rap album containing songs with such ennobling titles as Puke and Big Weenie is high on the charts. However, I will venture to propose that the Mass in B Minor will be a treasured achievement of Western culture long after Big Weenie has faded away. (In fact, for all I know, Big Weenie could already be considered hopelessly quaint by rap cognoscenti.) If that be elitism, so be it.

An attempt to fathom Bach’s greatness using words is rather like trying to appreciate the Mona Lisa by running one’s hands over it. Let Bach’s music stand advocate for his greatness, and let the babble of commentary recede into the background. Decide for yourself. There are no prerequisites or qualifications: your job is just to listen attentively, and Bach will take care of the rest.

Assorted Writings on General Topics

These are essays and studies that I have created for a variety of purposes—teaching, lecture notes, my own amusement, etc.


These are descriptive analyses, with only a touch of Schenkerian ideas, dating back to the early 1990s.


General topics, from a variety of sources.

Program Notes

These are program notes that I can legally publish here on the site.

On the Ring

My latest self-improvement project has been to increase my familiarity with Wagner’s Der Ring des Nibelungen. After a preliminary fortification with a stack of learned studies, I deemed myself ready to experience a performance of Das Rheingold on DVD.

My flight of discovery crashed and burned within minutes. No matter how toney the Jungian analysis or erudite the commentary, sooner or later the curtain must come up, at which point the honeymoon is over. Wagner’s epochal masterpiece is revealed as: 1) three fish-costumed women pantomiming swimming, 2) a porcine fellow in a frog suit clambering over a stack of papier-maché rocks, and 3) a tasteless quarter-hour watching the frog-fellow putting the make (unsuccessfully) on the fish-ladies.