Review of Bach Bleach by Raphael Roginski, ZAIKS/Biem, 2009
Listening to this record bring ourselves in front of some interesting questions about our personal and social way to enjoy music. The music of Bach (thirteen of the most famous scores, like Polonaise, Aria,Sarabande, Preludium, Allemande, Menute and so on) here performed by the Polish guitarist Raphael Roginski are as far away as we may possible imagine from any traditional versions we are used to listen to performed by musicians with classical or traditional education.
Roginski performs Bach’s music playing his “prepared” electric and acoustic guitars so that the sound is modified and the strings resonate in a different and unconventional way, the result is a “Chromatic” Bach, almost micro tonal in its setting. Listening to him I had a strange feeling of cultural deja-vu, as if I had listened to Renaissance lute music, but performed by an oud in Maquam style.
I found these versions not only cleverly built, I can feel a lot of preparation behind this multicultural project, but deeply innovative and interesting, my little personal opinion is therefore positive, but this is not the subject of this review.
I would personally bring your attention to other aspects that this type of operation involves about music and the way we are used to listen to music in general, classical one especially.
Bach certainly didn’t write his music thinking about prepared electric or acoustic guitars and his musical thinking was rooted in a society totally different from the one that we are living today, and yet his music continues to live a contemporary unknown to most of the music that are part of our “Babel’s Library” I’ve often wondered about this: what makes this music still unique today and able to excite us so much? I think the answer is to look for in some constructive aspects of Bach’s music, particularly about form and structure he adopted. Bach’s counterpoint is unforgiving, it requires a great capacity for analysis and at the same time a perfect balance in its interpretation, its facilities. Sso airy and tending towards asceticism and mysticism, it can be a death trap for those who are unable to outline and correctly represent the overlapping of lines, melodies and harmonies. If harmony rules, at the same time it never prevails rhythmic and melodic structures which remain in evidence and that always create a sense of movement that prevents the music is repeated in a cloying and always equal to itself. This beyond any possible strictly philological idea, Bach seems to always yearn for the freedom of interpretation, or rather, the notion that a tradition that repeats itself perpetually, empties itself quickly and it’s contained up to starvation. Roginsi’s Bach Bleach goes directly over any philological claim, it is true, but I personally read this not as an end in itself but as a limit to exceed, the limit that allows to Bach’s music to reborn its structure every once, distributing new energies and emotions. Therein it lies, and must operate the interpreter’s skills: only a deeply conscious interpreter, who well knows construction and characteristics of Bach’s music and their hidden potential and inherent characteristics and limitations of his instrument, can find new ways and new ideas to bring Bach in our contemporary world. Do you think is easy? No, is a delicate task that involves a high sense of responsibility, like a jeweler who is preparing to cut a rough diamond in order to translate its material into shiny new forms. I think Roginski succeeded in this difficult task.