bach & brain rule #5

I met with my boss yesterday and talked with her about possibly doing two bach cantata movements on two specific Sundays this summer. I presented her a list of 12 possibilities and then proceeded to recommend two.  All 12 were culled from previous careful study of indices and the music itself and have some connection to the gospel of the day.


July19, 2009 Proper 11 B    Cantata 155 mov 2 for Tenor, Alto, Bassoon obligatto
I think the words of this movement possibly relate to the way Jesus goes away from the crowds at the beginning of the gospel to a deserted place but returns to teach and heal them at the time he chooses



Aria (Duetto) [Alto, tenor]


Fagotto, Continuo


Du musst glauben, du musst hoffen,
You must believe, you must hope
Du musst gottgelassen sein!
You must be calm before God!
Jesus weiß die rechten Stunden,
Jesus knows the right time
Dich mit Hilfe zu erfreun.
to make you rejoice with his help,
Wenn die trübe Zeit verschwunden,
when the troubled times have vanished
Steht sein ganzes Herz dir offen.
His whole heart will be open to you.

Aug 9, 2009 Proper 14 year B 
Cantata 84 mov 3 Sop, Oboe, Violin, continuo
 This Sunday is one of the five 6th chapter of John gospel readings about Jesus as the bread of life…. you can see the connection.



Aria [Soprano]


Oboe, Violino, Continuo


Ich esse mit Freuden mein weniges Brot
I eat with joy my little piece of bread
Und gönne dem Nächsten von Herzen das Seine.
And from my heart do not begrudge my neighbour what is his.
Ein ruhig Gewissen, ein fröhlicher Geist,
A quiet conscience, a cheerful spirit,
Ein dankbares Herze, das lobet und preist,
a thankful heart,that praises and extols,
vermehret den Segen, verzuckert die Not.
Make blessings greater, make troubles sweet.


We will do them in German with translations in the bulletin. Now I have to invite talented parishioners to learn and perform them. Ay, there’s the rub.

I am feeling cynical about that this morning.

Last night’s choir rehearsal was typically discouraging in attendence for May. 4 missing sopranos (that’s all of them) and 2 missing altos (leaving 2). One of the 2 tenors remarked later that we are not the choir we used to be. That’s right. Ah for the good old days when people actually showed up. Fuck it. 

Of course I try not to allow my discouragement to color the way I rehearse and we had a good rehearsal despite the fact that half the choir didn’t show. The usual stuff I guess.

I did find time to read another chapter in John Medina’s book, “Brain Rules: 12 principles for surviving and thriving at work, home and school.”

It was about principle or rule #5: “Short-term memory: Repeat to Remember.”

I was struck by this notion:

referring to the work of Hermann Ebbinghaus who scientifically tested and monitored his own ability to remember, Medina writes: He “…showed that one could increase the life span of a memory simply by repeating the informationin timed intervals. The more repetition cycles a given memory experienced, the more likely it was to persist in his mind. We now know that the space between repetitions is the critical component for transforming temporary memories into more persistent forms. Spaced learning is greatly superior to massed learning.  [emphasis added]

This concurs with my own observations as a learner and a teacher. My current choir has a history of pulling stuff together at the last minute and doing an adequate job. This reinforces the fact that some of them feel that rehearsals are not all that critical since they have so much faith in their own ability to pull it together at the last minute. Also I continue to hear musicians in my church say they are not willing to come to weekly rehearsals. But one of the reasons I persist in attempting to get people to rehearse is my own experience of Medinas rule five, especially the “spaced learning” idea. 

I sometimes tell people what I think McCoy Tyner (top rate jazz pianist) might have said to his students: that it is better to practice 15 minutes every day than 45 minutes every other day. It is the spacing that allows the brain to learn better or at least that’s my own experience and the one I encourage other learners to consider.

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