Relearning Classical Music

During the past year I have made a concerted effort to play more music on a regular basis. Though I enjoy playing and learning traditional jigs and reels, my passion is in learning, and currently relearning, Baroque and Renaissance pieces that I’ve transcribed for the dulcimer.

The two pieces at the top of my list were the Sarabande and Double from the Sonata in B Minor by J.S. Bach for unaccompanied violin. These had been learned many years ago but had long been forgotten. The score I found had old marking for suggested hammering patterns (similar to fingering patterns for piano or guitar) from the first time I learned the pieces. However, it was practically like starting over. Each piece took about a month to learn while working on it a few days each week between work and family time.

While the process was slow and gradual it was also meditative. As I immersed myself into the music and the instrument my sense of time faded. Both learning and now playing each of these pieces is my form of meditation and relaxation. Though it is necessary to play these difficult pieces on a regular basis to keep them in my mind and muscle memory, each time playing them reveals a new way to express a phase or passage; it is almost never rote.

For me learning and playing music by Bach is far more profound than listening to his music. Becoming intimate with a piece through the slow learning process gives me the feeling of getting into the mind of this genius of a composer. There is jazz in the chord structures. The dissonances resolve in unexpected and unconventional manners. There is a divineness presence in his music to which I have been granted privilege through the learning process. Yes, this is my meditation.