Saturday, September 18, 2010

The Beginning of Barbershop

I think that this is probably how it began: The year was 1710. Johann Sebastian Bach was 25 years old......young. The night was foggy and dismal in Weimar, Germany, and our young composer was alone at his clavichord, stuck in a musical rut, not sure how to go about composing the fugue he was working on. He tried one scale...unsatisfying. He tried a sequence... too predictable. Everything he wrote seemed to be failing him, and at one point, he even thought about taking his life in the name of 'musician's block'.
He let out a scream of passion and anger. "Vas gangst betrubst meine schvelle!!!!" This simply meant, "Why the hell do I suck so bad right now!!!!" He'd started writing at 7 PM, and the time was about 2 in the morning, so you can see he'd been at this awhile and although he was a master of contrupuntal music and form, there was something disabling him from writing music that was up to his standards. Something needed to be discovered, something needed to be brought out of him and put onto paper. The problem was though, that he couldn't do that. In a fit of rage, he threw his hands up in the air, and whilst yelling in anger, he slammed them on the clavichord over and over.
And that was it.
What he played, on accident in his frustrated stupor, was one of the most exciting and innovative things since....well since powdered wigs (remember the time period people).He played seventh chord after seventh chord after seventh chord...on accident. An act of genius, how could anyone have ever even TRIED to play that. They couldn't! If they did, they would have been shunned from the music world, for it was looked down upon to write unresolved seventh chords consecutively. But Bach had done it on accident, and the tears streamed down his face. "Seine schone! Seine schone!" (It's gorgeous, it's gorgeous!) He went at this for hours on end, there was no end in sight. Soon, the sun rose bringing a new day upon the world, and with this new day, there was a new form of music as well. The latter being: the Barbershop style.
He soon formed a quartet with four of his friends, who at first were scared of this provocative music form until Bach explained what it was all about, after which they became more relaxed and open to trying it. His friends were Finn Oxley, Luis De Rosa, and Christoph Waurick. Thus was the world's first barbershop quartet, the Four Germans.
There you have it everyone. The untold story of the creation of barbershop style music. Now go out and sing!

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