I recently caught Angela Hewitt, the “pre-eminent Bach pianist of our time” lay down Bach’s The Goldberg Variations. Check it out.

Bach wrote this piece, consisting of thirty dispariate variations, such that it’s an anthropoligical snapshot of the culture’s of France, Germany, Italy, and the Netherlands during Bach’s time (here around 1741-1742), all rolled into one. But the real trick is that it’s both a mystical and mathematical wonder of modern musical architecture. Yes, classical music is modern music.

With just a bit of reading one can understand how the piece mathematically unfolds as it’s played. The thirty variation’s allow the whole piece to be divisible by three (with 10 canons, i.e. the ‘melody’), but the halfway point is also an important marker in the movement, too, cutting the piece in half, quite noticeably. It’s the original ‘concept album.’

Perhaps the recordings by Glenn Gould (1955, when young & spirited; 1981, when older & insane but noticeably more insightful) best evoke this masterful work. For only a madman of Gould’s talent evokes the spirit necessary to undertake this prodigous, as Gould called it, “community of sentiment.” Like I said, check it out. Dare ya’ to load it onto to your I-Tunes instead of the next ditty by the Decemberists…