It’s Been a While

Today is a very sad day. Almost 300 years ago J. S. Bach was composing some of my favorite music — the music I learned to play when I was a child and continued to play into college and beyond. I suppose considering the structure of his music , it is not surprising that I later turned to information systems , which operate oftentimes in highly complex and interdependent patterns very much like the music Bach was composing so long ago.

Today, July 28, in 1750 Bach died, leaving behind him twenty some children, giant organs, and music that, in today’s predominantly electronic medium in particular, still sounds remarkably fresh.

When you listen to much of the music created after Bach, it seems to me, at least, that a great deal of emphasis was placed upon the emotional and the evocative effects of music upon the psyche and the spirit with far less emphasis upon the intellectual.

It cannot be said that the music of Bach lacks emotional content. On the contrary. Simply because a work of art focuses upon the intellectual does not mean the emotional necessarily must be sacrificed. Sometimes, including such times as the renaissance, or the age of enlightenment, the intellectual was considered a paramount pursuit, at least as important, if not undifferentiated from, the spiritual.

The music of Bach relied and was comprised upon traditional and orderly, mostly predictable structures that were, in large part, meant to convey upon the listeners the steadfast and unchanging nature of god. It was the clockwork of the universe exemplified in sound, and usually a grand and overwhelming sound, produced by some of the most grandiose and overwhelming mechanical creations of the period: the pipe organ.

The pipe organ was an engineering masterpiece. Bach was obsessed with creating works that would challenge the physical capabilities of these gargantuan monstrosities that lived in the churches, for the glory of the almighty.

He gathered children, putting them to work as organic little machines to pump, whole groups of them, laboring away for hours at a time, as he played and composed these elaborate intellectual constructions, even developing a notorious reputation for beating the children who could not keep pumping long enough before he could satisfy his passions.

Anyway, his music did not lack passion. Through oftentimes unbelievably complicated and unusual juxtapositions of themes –themes that were both very simple and not altogether unusual –Bach created music that challenged the most disciplined mind to follow while at the same time he brought the listener to a point of almost pure, intellectualized ecstasy.

This was not for everyone.

Well, to the mundane, it appears that Congress might allow oil companies access to the arctic national wildlife refuge after all, if they pass the upcoming budget reconciliation bill. Apparently it contains a provision allowing large sections of the refuge to be used for drilling.

The National resource defense council has put together a web site making it easy to notify your congressional representatives of your displeasure at this possibility, if displeasure it is you feel.

This page also lets you send a pretty picture along with their thoughts.

And lastly, another tedious maneuver by the people who find themselves in power, and are by far the minority were all things known, that Supreme Court nominee offered by President Bush, the young Judge John Roberts, of whom so many people know so little about, and whose ambiguity rivals my most trying lovers, though not quite as interestingly.

The democratic leader of the senate, senator Harry Reid, has pieced together an idea with the help of some other senators to enlist the aid of ” we the people ” to come up with questions for this man during his senate confirmation hearings. It seems that much of our leadership is just as confused as we are regarding his historic interpretive positions and wouldn’t mind some help. If nothing else, the liberal people are concerned that many conservative groups welcome this nomination and hold this man in high regard. Apparently, that to some people is reason enough to resist his lifelong elevation to our highest court. Personally, I know little about this man and would not be unhappy to learn more, which does not seem to be what the white house would like. Thankfully they have decided to cooperate with requests for more information about judge John Roberts past by allowing access to at least some documentation of his past work history.

It seems to me that any time we consider a person for any position it is usually wise to find out all we can about them before hiring them. It seems even more important when this person is being considered for a position from which he cannot be fired and has long term and far reaching consequences for us all.

If you would like to submit questions to Senator Harry Reid and his friends, you can do so at their site:

The Supreme Court has the last word on issues that impact all of our lives. It is the institution that we rely on to uphold fairness and justice and protect American values.

Judge John G. Roberts has been nominated to fill the vacancy left by the retirement of Justice Sandra Day O’Connor. This is a lifetime appointment to the highest court in the land. Americans are curious about where he stands on the issues that will impact their lives like the environment, their right to privacy, corporate and business practices, the education of their children, the health care of their families and their civil rights.

As Senators, we believe it shouldn’t only be Senators that get to ask the questions this time around. We want the American people to have a voice. We want to know what you care about the most. Help us let the Judiciary Committee know the questions that are on every American’s mind.

Thank you for your help!

Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski
Sen. Barbara Boxer
Sen. Patty Murray
Sen. Mary L. Landrieu
Sen. Debbie Stabenow
Sen. Maria Cantwell
Sen. Hillary Clinton