Bach's Birthday

Mar 21, 2017

If I told you about a letter from a famous composer to his employers, a letter in which the composer complained that he needed a higher salary because he’d been making less money freelancing playing the organ at funerals, because there hadn’t been nearly enough disease going around – could you guess who the composer was? 

Well, it was the man whose birthday we’re celebrating today, Johann Sebastian Bach. We think of Bach now as a kind of musical deity, but in his own day he was a badly-paid church musician who was required by his employers to teach music and Latin to children in addition to writing enormous amounts of music—and writing it every week. Bach hardly traveled anywhere, but he did get to know the music of his contemporaries, so I have to assume he had some idea of where he stood. But I often wonder: Could Bach ever have imagined that three centuries after he lived the world would still be playing his music—and celebrating his birthday?  

This has been A Minute with Miles – a production of South Carolina Public Radio, made possible by the J.M. Smith Corporation.