Thanks for the melodies

Posted: August 25, 2021 in Miscellany, Winnipeg
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JS Bach in 1746

This afternoon, while bicycling to Winnipeg’s Assiniboine Park, I was listening on my smartphone to a recording by John Williams – Bach: The Four Lute Suites (delighting would be more a more accurate description), when I decided to try and imagine, if not calculate, the number of people I had to thank for the musical experience I was having. While doing so I was reminded of Carl Sagan who famously quipped that if you wanted to make an apple pie from scratch you would first have to invent the universe. Not wanting to credit everything and everyone that has happened since the Big Bang, I decided to put some boundaries around where to place my gratitude.

So, let’s begin with thank-yous to the parents of Johann Sebastian Bach and John Williams. Had they not found each other and raised such musically accomplished offspring, the world (and my music collection) would be much poorer.

But wait, there’s more. In no particular order:

  • the countless musicians, scribes and publishers who maintained the sheet music of Bach’s prodigious output down through the centuries (to say nothing of the inventors of the paper, ink and pens that made this physical record possible)
  • the inventors and makers of the musical instruments for which Bach composed (organs, harpsichords, lutes, etc) and of course all who were involved in the production of the raw materials that these instruments were fashioned from
  • the inventors of the numerous technologies that were necessary to allow the recording of the album in 1986 and subsequent reissues
  • The manufacturers of said technologies, and the producers of the raw materials from which these tools were fashioned; there must be hundreds of thousands involved here
  • the inventors and maintainers of the Android operating system (again too numerous to count), the software that plays my music and my smartphone which, I am told, has at least 300 parts, each of which must be dug from the earth, refined and transformed into electronic components, assembled in a Taiwanese factory and shipped across the world to my door; countless thousands of people here to thank, as you can imagine

I’m sure that I’m leaving out many, many more categories and hence thousands of people, but by now you get the point — I have many people to thank, across time and space, for the joy that this music brings. We are dependent upon one another in ways we can only dimly imagine. (Oh darn, I forgot to thank the multitudes for the bicycle I was riding, the road upon which I travelled and the folks who had the foresight to place a park at the end of it. Another day!)

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