>Bach and the Waterbottle Fugue


Johann Sebastian Bach loved his god. He dedicated every Sunday to him, and every Sunday for three years wrote a cantata. A cantata is a medium length narrative piece of music with vocals and orchestral suites. He was a master, logged in his 10,000 hours, and could sit down and write a three hour piece of music as if he were taking a shit. Not in any way to reduce his cantatas; I use that metaphor to compare the excretion of his soul to the excretion of the body, a regulated overflowing of emotion and passion. But it is his fugues that are really spectacular. And what is most spectacular is the self-referencing nature of his fugues – for in the composition, he became literally inspired, as his soul took refuge in the music and he became dissociated from his environment, his personality, wholly subject to the nature of his creation, so that his soul became interwoven with his music with a slight pause in between. Then, on the level of the music itself, the weaving nature of those contrapuntal lines is so mathematically perfect that it is impossible to doubt his genius.

As I sit here writing these lines, trying to create a fugue of my own, it is summertime, and though it is not humid today, I have my fan blowing so that the wind washes over my face while asleep – it blows at my bed, and next to my bed is a sidetable. On the sidetable is an empty water bottle, that, amazingly enough, continues to rock back and forth from the way the fan blows. This rocking has not ceased for hours, it lasted all through the night while I dreamed of horses and nightingales and subways. It is incredible that the water bottle does not roll around in its rocking, to move away from the wind, that it does not circle like a top and fall over eventually, but instead rocks on its center, situated in a contrapuntal position, in balance with itself and the wind from the fan. And this to me is spectacular. I’ve come to notice that the rocking increases in amplitude in a cyclical way, like a sine graph, so that it rocks faster and harder, then slows almost to a standstill, rocking the while, then speeds up again,  rocking more violently, following the rules of nature, in its valleys and its troughs.

By Daniel Ryan Adler

Daniel Adler writes fiction and nonfiction and is finishing his MFA at University of South Carolina.

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