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Forgotify, the Last Frontier: “Kyrie, Gott Vater in Ewigkeit, BWV 669”

Thanks, Bach, for creating the quintessential boring organ music. You genius, you. 

I hate organ music.

Listen here.

Sorry, organists. I can appreciate the hard work you put in to learn this complicated instrument, but outside of funerals and cheesy horror films, I don’t think the organ has any functional applications. Organ music reminds me of my Catholic upbringing, and not in a good way. It actually sounds like the way people nod off in church, when your head falls forward and you jerk yourself awake. That’s organ music in its entirety (according to me, an authority on absolutely nothing).

This piece is part of a larger work, known as the Organ Mass, written for a Lutheran-style service. Bach wrote it for several reasons: for people to play at home and feel inspired by God, to have some nice instrumental organ music for mass, and to show off, because Bach was a slammin’ organist and this music is actually pretty difficult to perform. I could go into details about the compositional style of this piece, but that’s a snoozefest even for us musicologists. Bach wrote much better stuff that didn’t make me want to take a Rip Van Winkle nap.

The usual setting of this piece is vocal, and is essentially this:

Lord, have mercy.

Christ, have mercy.

Lord, have mercy.

WOW, THRILLING.

The woman performing this piece is Alena Vesela, who has been around the organ block a few times, and is generally recognized as one of the authorities on organ technique and style. As I said, this stuff isn’t easy, and I truly commend her on her performance — I just can’t get into organ music.

“But what is the ‘BWV’ number all about?”

In short, it’s a catalogue number. Back in the 1950s a guy named Wolfgang Schmieder catalogued EVERY SINGLE composition by Bach, of which there are over one thousand. Dude was committed, that’s for sure. BWV stands for Bach – Werke – Verzeichnis, and the compositions are grouped by theme, not chronologically. Sometimes new pieces get added, but discredited pieces don’t, which probably makes archivists cry themselves to sleep.

So, dear readers: do you love or loathe organ music?

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