Saturday, April 7, 2012

The G String


Now stop that!    I know what you are thinking. A G string is much more than a piece of underwear. To start with, remember the post from last Sunday about chromesthesia? Well, to me G is yellow. That’s right. We can start with mellow, yellow, as in G – G Major.

Next, the violin’s lowest sounding string is G. (Violin strings are tuned E, A, D, G from top to bottom, i.e. highest to lowest.) In fact, there is a very famous piece by Bach that has come to be known as the Air on the G String. Wikipedia says it better than I can: 

The original orchestral suite was written by Bach for his patron Prince Leopold of Anhalt some time between the years 1717 and 1723. The title comes from violinist August Wilhelmj's late 19th century arrangement of the piece for violin and piano. By transposing the key of the piece from its original D major to C major and transposing the melody down an octave, Wilhelmj was able to play the piece on only one string of his violin, the G string.”

To hear this remarkable piece, follow this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=f_FfAi68aW8 . Over the centuries various arrangements of this piece have been performed – for chorus, the original orchestral version, Here is a version for cello and piano at a very different tempo. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6MKOY9x_ds&feature=related .  Interesting, eh? There is even a rock version http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w_pkJc7dKvA which isn’t my favorite, but it is certainly a different interpretation.

JS Bach
Every year the National Flute Association holds a convention that is attended by anywhere from 2500 to 4000 flutists from around the world. The Closing Ceremonies of the august body is the playing of Bach’s Air on a G String by everyone in attendance. It is an awesome sound to hear that many flutists all playing together.

Many musicians have a close emotional reaction to this composition. The Chicago Symphony has a long-standing tradition of playing the Air whenever a member of the orchestra dies. It is always a very emotional beginning to that night’s concert. 


Many years ago the orchestra was loading onto a plane to fly to Europe for a month-long tour. The piped-in music was playing the Air on a G string, and at least one member of the orchestra got off the plane and refused to fly. That’s how powerful the association was that the musician had about that particular piece of music.

3 comments:

  1. I'm really not into the technical side of music, but I do enjoy the audio samples you're posting.

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  2. So far the best A-Z post I have read. Thank you for raising the bar.

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  3. Interesting stuff here. I'm trying to visit all the A-Z Challenge blogs this month.

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