Johann Sebastian Bach was a master on the organ. The organ can play several notes at once, resulting in chords and so-called polyphony (“many voicedness”). Most of Bach’s solo works are for such a polyphonic instrument.
One of the big exceptions is Bach’s BWV 1013 for flute solo. Even the violin can sound two notes together, but the flute can really only produce one note at a time. Bach’s amazing achievement is that he is able to suggest that there is perhaps more than one note after all: your brain fills in gaps.
In Western Classical Music wind instruments are (nearly) almost monodic, in contrast to the rest of the world, which is host to multitude of different wind instruments with different solutions to this idea, like double flutes, triple oboes, etc. You can read more about my obsession with these instruments and hear a bit what they sound like on the project page devoted to this.
Back to Bach. It was a custom to improvise preludes before a set of pieces would start, to set the mood. Friedrich Dülon even wrote that he performed such a prelude for each single piece in the set, apparently to the acclaim of Bach’s son Carl Phillip Emmanuel himself, at the ripe age of 13 years old…
In this programme I’m combining the above ideas. If Bach would have travelled far outside his country, which ‘organs’ would he have found and would he have thought they resembled his church organ in Germany in any way?
An instrument from different sides of the world is set against a movement of Bach’s genius monodic but yet so polyphonic Flute partita, as a prelude, as a tension for both Bach and (to our ears) foreign music to come out stronger from. Bach sounds different.
A final bonus is an improvised double. The flute partita seems to have a ‘mirror soul’ in the b minor violin partita (BWV 1002). It has the same types of movements in that order, but each movement gets a double. This was a widely-adopted technique and I’ll apply it to Bach’s music.
In this way, Bach’s Partita is the ‘depart(ure)’ for material of a triptych of ethnic mouth organ, Bach movement and my ‘double’.
Live Concert examples from Kloosterkerk Den Haag:
Prelude on Naw from Thailand, based lightly on Bach’s Sarabande with a westernised scale by shading
Fragment BWV 1013 Solo: Sarabande on the Oboe da Caccia