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24. Prelude and Fugue in B minor from Book 1




I WILL FIND THE FLOW                     Try speaking this in the rhythm of the opening of the Fugue subject!

Imagine being lost in a forest where there is no clear path through from one side to the other. Several different paths appear, at first glance looking much the same as each other. They go in different directions and you do not know which one to follow. You have a map but you cannot find the key to understand the symbols. This is like the first stages of learning one of the difficult Bach fugues. Seeing notes on the page but not hearing the music is like seeing all the paths in the forest but not seeing how they link up with each other.

Gradually through slow repetition more of the landmarks start to make sense – not just the main subject and countersubject but the way that they sound together. With more repetition you start to hear how three strands work together. It is like seeing how three different paths through the forest all start and finish in more or less the same place yet go on very different ly shaped journeys in between.

The satisfaction of learning a fugue is like the satisfaction of understanding connections – between people, places, emotions, physical sensations, abstract ideas. Countless descriptions of mystical experience across different cultures come back to the sense of an enhanced awareness of the connection between all things. To find this while playing a Bach fugue needs a lot of patient groundwork to be done – because you have to be so sure of all the notes first that you are no longer thinking about notes but are really immersed in the music.

Music is flowing – it is not in the dots on the page that represent isolated notes, but in the space between the dots. The space is where the sound flows, where the sounds join together, where the sense of solidity melts into an experience of fluidity.

Music does not inhabit the Newtonian universe that for the most part we imagine we live in. Rather, it inhabits the quantum universe where it is impossible to define time and position simultaneously. It inhabits the mystical universe where all things are connected without the need to see or understand all the pathways in a conventional way

Once you have learnt a fugue well you can enter the quantum mystical universe and enjoy the ever changing flowing connections that it brings to the ear’s attention. You have undertaken the journey from solidity to fluidity, and the vehicle that keeps you on the journey is that of mindfulness, a simple presence in the moment. No holding on, no holding back.

Take this back to the beginning.

Be mindful of the first steps in the forest, the first subject in the fugue.

Stay mindful during the practising process – 

Not trying

Not end-gaining

Just staying present