Stephen Gislason wrote: "I consider the complete works of JS Bach to be a
wonderful collection of musical concepts, melodies and moving harmonic
structures. If you approach his music, as I do, with appropriate reverence, but
also with his innovative, improvisatory spirit, then you can select jewels from
the collection and represent them in new settings. My Bach projects started with
pieces that I already knew and I approached each piece; with a somewhat
scholarly concern, reviewing the history of composition and remaining
compliant with the printed scores I was using. As I progressed through the Bach
catalogue, my approach changed. I discovered relatively short jewels buried in
long works that were designed for church services that
required repetition beyond musical interest. I also realized that big changes
in tempo, voicing and articulation could transform the pieces into really new
compositions suitable for a 21st century audience.
An early hero of mine was the Canadian pianist, Glenn Gould, who recorded Bach's
Goldberg Variations with widely acknowledged virtuosity. The coordination of
left and right hand and arm movements is important to keyboard skills. Even with
sustained practice, the two hands want to do similar things or perform linked
movements. I spent years, for example, trying to achieve right and left hand
separation as I played the piano. I was inspired Gould, who achieved remarkable
independence of his left and right hands. In fact, he seemed to achieve complete
independence for each finger of each hand. If you listen closely, you can hear
him play individual notes with individual attention. Gould played Bach and
Bach’s preludes and fugues that were based on four voices that sang through the
fingers of both hands. An alto voice, for example, would start in the left hand,
pass to the right and back to the left. Less skilled pianists use a coordinated
hand strategy and the continuity of a single voice is audibly interrupted as it
passes from hand to hand.
Gould was a musical genius with a prodigious memory. He learned musical
scores away from the piano; playing the piece on the piano followed memorizing
and rehearsing it in his mind. After a brief, brilliant performance career,
Gould refused to perform in public but delighted in recording in the CBC studios
where he had become a resident celebrity. He also setup up a home studio with
tape recording; and editing facilities. He died tragically of a stoke before
the music production and recording technology I am using was developed. I like
to think that Glen would be delighted by the opportunities I now enjoy and would
approve of bringing Bach into the 21st century.
I recalled that Bach’s pieces that became contemporary hits in the 1960s: for
example, performed by the Swingle Singers' (Air on the G string, Wachet Auf
chorale prelude) and Wendy Carlos' 1968 album, Switched-On Bach, created with a
Moog synthesizer. I; enjoyed the Carlos arrangements and was inspired to learn
about synthesizers. The distinct timbres of the Moog; voices made the
counterpoint stand out clearly.
I pursued re-composition and re-voicing; of Bach pieces using; the extensive
voice banks that I can access. The pieces are developed as multitrack midi
compositions (by editing and arranging the printed scores) that play the
instruments in the; Proteus 2500 ( the orchestra) with yours truly doing the
final mix (conductor) and then completing the recording with all the finesse and
polish I can muster ( the sound engineer).
Digital Bach for the 21st Century
are recordings derived
from the complete works of JS Bach, edited, transcribed and arranged for
synthesizer by Stephen Gislason and recorded as the
Digital Bach Series. The project began in 2006. Revisions and Remixes are
creating a new series for 2017. Two examples...
Fugue BWV 532
Prelude BWV 532
Persona Music Recordings: Our Music Catalogue includes recorded performances
under the titles Persona Digital, P2500 Band, Em4U, and the Persona Classical Consort.
The focus of Persona Classical is the creation of digital performances of pieces
by J.S. Bach. Other performances include pieces by Mozart, Pachelbel and
Music online is offered to illustrate music history, advance music education and appreciation. The recordings presented online demonstrate Persona
Studio's arranging, recording and mastering techniques. All the recordings are
arrangements and performances completed in house by Stephen Gislason. The music selections and their history
are explained in the book, Sound of Music.
Topics presented at Persona Digital Studio are from the The Sound of Music by