« Ayn Rand and the World She Knew | Main | Happy Passover and Happy Easter to Those Who Celebrate »

Song of the Day #1572

Song of the Day: Ciaconna (from "Partita in D-minor for Violin No. 2"), BMV 1004, is the last part of a five-movement partita (sometimes rendered in its French spelling as "Chaconne," each part corresponding to a dance of the time), written by German composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was born in 1685 on this date, at least according to the Gregorian calendar. One of the greatest composers of all time, Bach wrote music that was definitive of the Baroque period. This work has a special place in my heart, and I was able to track it down with the help of my friend Roger E. Bissell. The intensity of the piece is displayed by violinists Hillary Hahn and the great Itzhak Perlman [YouTube links]. It has also been played by classical guitarists Andres Segovia and Julian Bream [YouTube links]. Ironically, however, I was first made aware of the piece due to an extraordinary video posted on YouTube in memory of jazz guitarist Joe Pass. It was recorded at the Adelaide Festival S.A. (sometime between 1-8 March 1990). It is heard during a seminar that included Spanish flamenco guitarist Paco Pena, blues guitarist Leo Kottke, classical guitarist John Williams (not the film score composer, whose birthday we celebrated last month as part of my annual Film Music February series), and jazz guitarist Joe Pass. Beginning at around 2:15 in the 5:26 minute video, we are reminded that the classical masters were basically improvisers: they came up with a main theme and then "improvised" variations on the theme, which were written down. Guitarist Williams is obviously fascinated by the spontaneous improvisation of the jazz artist, and to illustrate the spontaneity and brilliance of the process, he lays down the basic melodic structure of the Chaconne, and invites Pass to improvise simultaneously over that melody. Pass throws in a few jazz licks that get a chuckle out of the audience, but the whole video provides us with a lesson on the universality of music. Check out the video clip here [YouTube link].