Bach Cantatas [App o' the Mornin']

Today we have a guest post from my friend and former collaborator Gary Parker Chapin. We went on a bender in the early 90s and wr0te a best-selling* humor book called Sun Tzu’s Ancient Art of Golf. (Seriously, the entire thing came out of a Guinness tap from two young men under the influence of P.G. Wodehouse and Will Cuppy.) I’m going to turn the floor over to Gary so he can appeal to that sweet spot on the Venn diagram where Bach fanatics, collectors, and people suffering from OCD overlap. Gary makes his cozy little home in that very spot!

Over the past ten years I’ve developed a firm love of Bach’s sacred cantatas, choral works that come as close to prayer for me as I can imagine. I bought Bach cantatas. I listened. I researched. I learned. I alienated family and coworkers.

At one point, looking over my shelves, I realized that I was … collecting. Then I reached another point.

So, I’m there in the store looking at a CD of Bach’s Cantatas for Alto conducted by Herreweghe, with counter-tenor Andreas Scholl. This features cantata BWV 170 – “Vergnugte Ruh! Beliebte Seelenlust!”– one of my absolute favorites. I’ve got at least three versions of it — Alfred Deller’s is my favorite — but there I stood in the store wondering, “Do I own this?”

At one point, I had a 3×5 card with cantata numbers written in very small pencil – that disappeared when I replaced the wallet! So many cantatas! So little memory! Surely there must be an app to help with this!

Created by Alco Bloom, the Bach Cantatas app “is a handy database of Johann Sebastian Bach’s Cantatas and the many versions of them which have been recorded.”

The app lists every Bach cantata known (BWV 1 to BWV 215), and every conductorwho has recorded said cantatas. The app links to the Wikipedia entry about the cantata (yes, there is a Wikipedia entry for each cantata), so that you can read about the cantatas you own. The app also links to iTunes, so you can buy the cantatas you don’t own.

How to describe the joy this brings me? I understand that, basically, this is an app that helps me keep track of stuff, and helps me buy more stuff.

But … if you’ve ever spent a happy Saturday reorganizing book shelves; or been thrilled to order an obscure, university press discography from Amazon; or stood in an antique store wondering if the thing you see before you could possibly be that thing.

Also, hey, those Bach cantatas. They’re worth a listen. They just might hold up.

Gary Chapin usually blogs about French accordion music over L’Accordeonaire. Give him a visit!

*Not really.

About Thomas L. McDonald

Thomas L. McDonald writes about technology, theology, history, games, and shiny things. Details of his rather uneventful life as a professional writer and magazine editor can be found in the About tab.

  • victor

    Very nice! I can definitely understand the appeal of wanting to keep track of things you collect and if the Skylanders Collection Vault app isn’t silly, then neither is this (now if they only had something that showed me who played what instrument on every P-Funk song ever recorded — that would get my money). This comes from a proud owner of the Ancient Art of Golf book, too! Only I haven’t read the book yet because I misplaced it shortly after it arrived.

  • Mark.

    Bach’s sacred cantatas are grossly neglected, but someday I suspect the arias will be raided for their tunes for various purposes. JSB was an amazing tunesmith. Also the recitatives can be amazing.

    I have to dust off my Suzuki set and copy them to a format I can listen to on my iPhone: I’m getting tired of listening to whatever’s on YouTube just because I’m too lazy.

  • Gary Chapin

    Yes, the problem of keeping track of the cantatas would be solved by buying a complete set — hmmmmm …