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On Being with Krista Tippett is a public radio project delving into the human side of news stories + issues. Curated + edited by senior editor Trent Gilliss.

We publish guest contributions. We edit long; we scrapbook. We do big ideas + deep meaning. We answer questions.

We've even won a couple of Webbys + a Peabody Award.

"Bach’s music awakens in us a multitude of sensibilities that would lie dormant without it. It reminds us of the aesthetic virtues that live, often hidden, inside each one of us."— Bernard Chazelle

We’ve got Bach on our minds, as we prepare for Krista’s upcoming conversation with computer scientist and Bach aficionado Bernard Chazelle.

This arrangement of Bach’s Chaconne for solo flute performed by Denis Bouriakov of the New York Metropolitan Opera is breathtaking.

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Bach at One in St. Paul’s Chapel

by Trent Gilliss, senior editor

Trinity Baroque Choir practices Bach at St. Paul's ChapelThe Trinity Choir and Baroque Orchestra rehearse in St. Paul’s chapel.

We’re in New York tonight preparing for tonight’s live event with Hendrik Hertzberg, Serene Jones, and Pankaj Mishra. The subject? Reflecting on 9/11 and who we want to become as a people and a society as we think forward about the next decade. The location?

St. Paul’s Chapel near Ground Zero, a centering place of refuge and aid for rescue workers and volunteers.

Performing a sound check, we got a great surprise: the Trinity Choir and the Trinity Baroque Orchestra rehearsing for their daily Bach at One concert. So, this week’s Tuesday evening melody is a bit rawer, an on-the-ground capture of one of the many other events taking place to commemorate the attacks of 9/11. Bach never sounded so right.

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Tuesday Evening Melody: “Aria da Capo” from Glenn Gould 1981 Goldberg Variations

by Nancy Rosenbaum, producer

Glenn GouldThis week’s Tuesday evening melody is inspired by a listener question’s about last week’s show. On the heels of hearing "Autism and Humanity," Chase Fairfax posted this comment on our blog:

"I wonder what the orchestra music was that punctuated this story from time to time."

We think Chase is referring to Glenn Gould’s 1981 version of the “Aria da Capo” of Bach’s Goldberg Variations.

Some of Gould’s biographers have speculated that he may have had Asperger’s syndrome. Gould was sensitive to noise and temperature; he hated the sound of clapping and wore a hat, coat, and gloves, even in warm weather. He was also known for rocking and humming when he played. He stopped giving public concerts at the age of 32.

Gould preferred his 1981 rendition rather than his earlier recording from 1955. According to music critic Tim Page who interviewed Gould about the two versions, the 1981 recording “has a certain sadness and sense of reflectiveness… an autumnal quality.” As it turns out, Gould was in the autumn of his own life as these later recordings were being produced; he died of a stroke at the age of 50, just before the 1981 recording was released.

If you want to compare the two versions, check out the show’s playlist for the 1955 version. Which one do you prefer?

Photo courtesy of Library and Archives Canada.

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Bach’s Bible
Colleen Scheck, Producer

I was a history major, and I love learning history through its physical artifacts. Last summer I visited Gettysburg for the first time. While I was brought to tears standing on its hallowed battlefields, I was also riveted by the stories behind the many Civil War relics there — stories told through well-researched exhibits, and then extended to mini-dramas in my own imagination.

So I was intrigued when I received an e-mail that the personal Bible of Johann Sebastian Bach (a commentary Bible) was going to be on display at a local choral concert. We’ve received suggestions to do a program on Bach and his personal faith — an item on our very big, very long list of show ideas. For now, I wanted to take advantage of the opportunity to see Bach’s Bible up close, hear about its history, and learn what it reveals about his faith.

Dr. Thomas Rossin kindly gave me the opportunity to photograph the Bible and talk to him about it. Rossin did his doctoral work on translating the handwritten notes in Bach’s Bible and tracing its history. He’s the founder and conductor of Exultate Choir and Chamber Orchestra, and he was allowed to take two of the Bible’s three volumes on tour with him to display during Exultate’s recent performances of Bach’s Mass in B Minor (never will all three volumes travel at the same time). He describes how Bach’s Bible has 350 entrances that give evidence to Bach as a person of faith (II Chronicles 5:12-13 “In devotional music, God is always present with His Grace”), and his understanding of those entrances greatly impacts how he approaches performances of Bach’s works.

An aside: the story of Bach’s Bible reminded me of one of my favorite movies, The Red Violin, a fictional story about a 17th-century, hand-crafted violin that travels over three centuries. It includes a beautiful score with violin solos by Joshua Bell.

For a better quality, higher resolution version of this slideshow, view the Flash-based version on our site.

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