Friday, February 02, 2007

bach AND car assembly line workers

Bach reconceived

As I lay me down to sleep, I somehow recall a conversation with a colleague of mine who had friends that work on an assembly line putting cars together. At the time we had the discussion we were contrasting out lives as graduate students with other people that we know "back home," which is why he brought this particular worker up. What he said is that this worker had a special ability to not only lift and place, but he could; lift, twist and place some component of a car, thus he was more efficient and more valuable and made a lot of money. I began pondering what it would be like to do this repetitive action for years on end.

Then I drifted over to a debate that we had in counterpoint class about the deity status of Bach. (I am of the opinion that he gets over celebrated, don't get me wrong, I respect his work and get a lot from it, but the whole cult of personality is a bit to much). Then I began thinking about how Bach ever did was lift, place and twist 12 notes over the entire course of his life.

Then my mind recalled a piece of information that I picked up along my journey.... "humans have a very hard time repeating any one thing" meaning that, every time you take a step or press a key on your keyboard, you very your motion ever so slightly so as to make it a variation and not a direct repetition.

Then it occurred to me, Bach was very adept at expressing his variations of patterns, that is what his fugues do, they take some cute little melody (and by little I mean to contrast with the long and ornate and far more complex and interesting melodies of Mahler, Wagner and Schoenberg) and he varies these little melodies over and over. At this point my brain drifts back to the auto worker (and the situations in my life where I did something similar to that, such as sweeping the same floor of the Rutgers bookstore, repetitively for 4 months, oh the various paths I choose) and how he must very each placement ever so subtly. Amazing! Unless this person uses mind altering substances (and there are some, I am talking about the ones that don't) to achieve detachment, this worker actively engages in each and every moment, with subtle variations that are so subtle as not to jeopardize the door falling off the car, but still he/she maintains interest. For FOURTY YEARS!!! Bach expresses it well, but we all live it. I guess in my line of work, it is up to me to express it well.

I guess that is part of the answer (the coding of humans) as to why my nephews, who are twins are so similar and different. It is hardwired and it is expressed in what we do while on the planet.