Song of the Day: Brandenburg Concerto #2, Movement 1 by Johann Sebastian Bach

I don’t know much about classical music, but I know I love it.

Call me a pleb, but… baroque music sometimes runs together. It doesn’t absorb my attention; it deflects it. Bach is essentially the urtext of Western music, but the fact that we hadn’t invented things like “dynamics” or “cadence” before the mid-18th century makes much of that music somewhere between daunting and boring. Of course, it is also often infinitely expressive, enrapturing in micro while bland in macro.

There are so many great Bach pieces (he perfected essentially every style of post-Renaissance composition), but nothing makes me smile quite like the first movement of the second Brandernburg Concerto. First, I love the Brandenburg Conertos because they were essentially a resume and job application. Bach mailed six concerto manuscripts to the margrave of Brandenburg, who was seeking a new in-house composer. These six astonishing pieces, now considered some of the finest compositions in history, did not even land Mr. Bach an in-person interview.

More importantly, the opening of Brandenburg Concerto 2 accompanies the opening of a lecture from The Great Courses. Every single lecture opens with an intro to the topic accompanied by the opening seconds of this concerto.

Thus, this song means that I’m about to learn something really interesting. Some of those lecture series have been life-changing and paradigm-shifting — most notably Robert Greenberg’s series on the history of classical music (you can also buy it on Audible, which I highly recommend). To me, this movement is associated with nothing short of enlightenment.

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