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Toccata and Fugue in D Minor

Johann Sebastian Bach may or may not have written his organ masterpiece, Toccata and Fugue in D Minor in 1704.  All we know for sure is that the combined efforts of Johannes Ringk, who saved it in manuscript form in the 1830’s, and Felix Mendelssohn who performed it and made it a hit you could dance to during the Bach Revival in 1840 made it possible to still hear its sublime music today.  Okay, maybe not dance to exactly…  But without the two of them, the piece might have been lost to us in obscurity.

The Toccata part is a composition that uses fast fingerings and a sprightly beat to make happy hippie type music that is really quite trippy.   The Fugue part (pronounced Fyoog, not Fuggwee which I learned to my horror in grade school music class) is a part where one part of the tune echoes another part of the tune and one part becomes the other part and then reflects it all back again.  I know that’s needlessly confusing, but at least I know what I mean.  That is not always a given when I am writing quickly like a Toccata.

I have posted two different versions for you to listen to in this musical metaphor nonsensical posticle… err… Popsicle… err… maybe just post.  One is the kinda creepy organ version like you might find in a Hammer Films monster movie in the 1970’s.  The other is the light and fluffy violin version from Disney’s Fantasia.  I don’t really expect you to listen to both, but listening to one or the other would at least give you a tonal hint about what the ever-loving foolishness I am writing in this post is really all about.

You see, I find sober thoughts in this 313-year-old piece of music that I apply to the arc of my life to give it meaning in musical measure.

Toccata and Fugue

This is the Paffooney of this piece, a picture of my wife in her cartoon panda incarnation, along with the panda persona of my number two son.  The background of this Paffooney is the actual Ringk manuscript that allowed Bach’s masterwork not to be lost for all time.

My life was always a musical composition, though I never really learned piano other than to pick out favorite tunes by ear.  But the Bach Toccata and Fugue begins thusly;

The Toccata begins with a single-voice flourish in the upper ranges of the keyboard, doubled at the octave. It then spirals toward the bottom, where a diminished seventh chord appears (which actually implies a dominant chord with a minor 9th against a tonic pedal), built one note at a time. This resolves into a D major chord.

I interpret that in prose thusly;

Life was bright and full of promise when I was a child… men going to the moon, me learning to draw and paint, and being smarter than the average child to the point of being hated for my smart-asserry and tortured accordingly.  I was sexually assaulted by an older boy and spiraled towards the bottom where I was diminished for a time and mired in a seventh chord of depression and despair.  But that resolved into a D major chord when the realization dawned that I could teach and help others to learn the music of life.

And then the Fugue begins in earnest.  I set the melody and led my students to repeat and reflect it back again.  Over and over, rising like a storm and skipping like a happy child through the tulips that blossom as the showers pass.  Winding and unwinding in equal measure, my life progressed to a creaky old age.  But the notes of regret in the conclusion are few.  The reflections of happinesses gained are legion.  I have lived a life I do not regret.  I may not have my music saved in the same way Johann Sebastian did, but I am proud of the whole of it.  And whether by organ or by violin, it will translate to the next life, and will continue to repeat.  What more can a doofus who thinks teaching and drawing and telling stories are a form of music ask for from life?

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Yes, I Throw a Moose or Two

I thought that this silly poem needed to be re-posted because school is ending.  The need for silliness is absolutely imperative.  I also need to throw a few mooses… er… moosei… er… meese?  How do you pluralize the word moose?

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Life is as Hard as Bowling with a Moose (A Poem)

Life is like Moose Bowling,
Because…
In order to knock over all the pins,
And win…
You have to learn HOW TO THROW A MOOSE!

 

As the days count down, I have had to exercise my moose-throwing muscles more and more.  Today I have five days left in my teaching career.  So many precious kids I have to give up and never see again…  So many teachers will tell you that every year the kids are getting worse and worse, and their attitudes are turning more sour, disrespectful, and violent.  But those teachers don’t know the secret.  You have to throw a moose or two at the problem.  Real discipline is hard work.  Harder than demanding that kids sit in rows and be silent… heads down and pens scratching away.  You have to actually talk to kids and learn who they are… what they feel is important… what their problems are, and what they want you to do about them.   You have to be honest, give them a hook or two to draw them into the whole learning thing.  You have to actually care. 

 

So, I do.  I care.  And I let them talk.  It’s a moose that has to be tossed.

 

The comment was made this morning that you have to keep them working right up until the end of the year.  Doing no formal lessons in class is actually a lot harder and more risky than continuing to plod through the textbook.  But in five more days there are no more classes, no more books, no more teachers’ dirty looks… school’s out forever.   I haven’t done any lessons since two weeks ago.  Grades are in the gradebook.  I have been showing kids my favorite movies.  Especially movies from the eighties.  (Truthfully, I have not been well enough to actually teach.  My body aches and I can’t breathe very well)  I have been talking to kids about those movies… what they think about them, and what they think about life in general.  Kids are telling me they are worried about my poor health.  They say they are interested in my books and my writing, even though they don’t actually read just for pleasure and will never buy what I write… or even look at this blog.  They tell me about their troubles, their hopes and dreams, their most significant relationships, and they tell me that they will miss me next year.  Five days… will I make it through without breaking into tears?  No, I won’t.  I may not even try.  That’s one moose too heavy to throw.

 

But I have no regrets.  I have touched more than two thousand five hundred lives (a pretty close estimate… I don’t have a good enough memory to actually count.)  They have touched my life in return.  No other thing I could have done with my life would ever mean as much.  Doctors save lives, but teachers shape real people.  So what does it all mean?  I mean, really?  It means I have thrown a lot of mooses… er… moosei… er… well, you know what I mean.  And if my arms are growing weary, then it is for a very good reason.

 

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