Reservoir of Beauty inside You

Bernard Chazelle, from "Discovering the Cosmology of Bach," On Being with Krista Tippett, November 13, 2014: 

What I find very strange is this. That I think what's magnificent about Bach is that when you listen to this music, and it moves you so much, I mean, it's just a bunch of sound waves crashing into your ear, and you see this emotion bubbling up, you start seeing, tearing up, and saying, Well, what's going on? These are just sounds crashing into my — what's going on in here?  

So, of course, you could say, well, it's just Bach. He's a genius. You know, that's just the way it works. No, not so easy. I have to have the ability in my brain to create that emotion. I mean, all Bach is doing is sending a bunch of sound waves. I have to be able — and when I say I, I mean everybody.

There's something extremely optimistic and really almost dizzying when you hear something, and it moves you so intensely inside. And you realize, but this is you who is being moved. Nobody's forcing this inside you. So in your brain, there must be this reservoir of beauty which most often goes untapped. But if you can find it with the right spotlight, then you discover this amazing consonances, or dissonances, or this amazing narrative – story – inside you.

So I don't want to make this solipsistic. I'm not saying we have our own music and so on. But I still think there's something completely remarkable that we are capable of appreciating this to that level. To me, this surprises me more than, say, a poem or something, because a poem often, you know where it comes from. Because there's a story. You relate to events in your life...

Music, you have no idea – Why am I being moved? It's just a bunch of notes. What's going on? It's like a ghost is taking over. And yet, it's all inside you. And so, I think there's a message for all this, it’s that, all these people out there who have no beauty or so little beauty in their lives, and you think that basically is just everything is ugly, and maybe most of it for them is ugly, that they have to know that there is this possibility, just inside them, there's this enormous gold mine that can be revealed.

And of course, Bach is not the only one. There are others. Everybody has to find their own way.

I really think that it's wrong to say, Well, I'm just a vessel, and the genius out there — well, yeah, but that's too easy.

I think we have to have more self-respect and say that, actually, you know, there's something wonderful inside me. And I think we should be grateful and appreciate that. And give others an opportunity to discover that in themselves.

July 2, 2010 -- Playing Bach's Invention No. 8 in F Major on an old, upright piano in Battery Park. It was one of the sixty pianos scattered around New York City as part of Luke Jerram's "Play Me, I'm Yours" project (www.streetpianos.com).