Why Can’t People Write Music Like This Today?

Posted on December 19, 2011 at 3:05 pm, by Ben

Composition: Toccatta and Fugue in D Minor by J.S. Bach
Orchestral Arrangement: Leopold Stokowski

It’s a legitimate question–‘why can’t we’? …Or maybe the question is ‘why don’t we’? We’ve got unparalleled access to vast quantities of music and possess instrumental tools that Bach and his contemporaries would have traded their wigs for (wigs were a big deal back then).

Hearing this music just makes me wonder what sorts of musical achievements Bach would have accomplished (on top of all his other unparalleled musical achievements) if the modern symphonic orchestra (that Stokowski helped develop) had existed during his day. Then I wonder a step further: if Bach had access to the musical tools of today, not to mention the virtually unlimited access to sheet music and recordings of basically every piece of music written in the last 400 years that we have access to (including the 260 years of music written after Bach’s death he never was going to hear), what more might he have accomplished with that knowledge?? Yeah, it’s kind of a humbling thought.

Let’s not waste these precious advantages–nay, privileges–that we’ve inherited, and let’s not be lazy. Maybe we can apply a Bach-ian level of industry to our craft and, standing on the shoulders of such great men, progress beyond even their accomplishments, for as J.S. himself said:

“I was obliged to be industrious. Whoever is equally industrious will succeed . . . equally well.”

3 Comments

  • Yes, very humbling. Thanks for the post!

    Posted by Daniel Lamb on December 19th, 2011 at 3:35 pm
  • Great question, but I would so like to know more about this.

    Technology is a layer of abstraction between us and the real world. It usually involves exchanging one drawback for a less obvious drawback on a much more subtle level. If Bach were alive today, is it as likely that the modern mindset has that brought about digital control over music have been a negative influence to his music as a positive one?

    Posted by Joseph N. Musser II on December 19th, 2011 at 8:46 pm
  • Great thoughts – perhaps if modern-day composers had to crank out a new set of church music every week, as Bach did, we might start to gain a small percentage of his prolific trait.

    Posted by Benjamin Dawson on December 19th, 2011 at 11:11 pm