Bachanalia – Voices of Monterey Bay

JS Bach portrait by Elias Gottlob Haussmann | Image courtesy JPL and NASA


“[Bach is] probably the best in a thing that anyone in the history of a thing has ever done. “
Jon Batiste, new Golden Globe winner

By Barbara Rose Shuler

In more than 30 years of reporting on the Carmel Bach Festival for print and radio media, I have met more than a few enthusiastic fans of the composer. While it’s an understandable idea that the music of a composer born in North Germany in 1685 could be boring and old-fashioned, the Beat by JS Bach teaches you that much of his music has a timeless universality that modern ears appreciate.

Bachophilia suddenly met Bob Danziger in his twenties and changed his life. He was practicing tai chi at sunset on a French Polynesian dock in the late 1970s when a boat passed and the second Brandenburg concert played. Spellbound by the music, the young man jumped into the water and swam to the ship to find out what he was hearing. After hearing the answer, the jazz / pop musician returned home with no prior knowledge of the classical repertoire, bought a recording of the six Brandenburgers and listened to it every evening for over two years.

He was so fascinated by the melodic lines and the intricate interplay of the instruments that he decided to recreate the music with his own modern settings. This challenge proved daunting.

He says, “Every time I’ve picked up a new instrument and I’ve tried many instruments over the years, I’ve tried to play some of the lines. Especially the trumpet lines from the second Brandenburg, because I love them very much. But it never worked well. “

When an injury restricted his arm movements, his career as a performing musician came to an end. However, his passion for Brandenburgers never let up.

He and his wife settled in this region around the turn of the millennium. Danziger, a man of many talents and abilities, was working on a soundscape project for the National Steinbeck Center when he discovered an instrument called EWI (electronic wind instrument) that he could finally use to recreate his beloved music.

“I fell in love with the English horn sound of the EWI, noticed that I was playing a Brandenburg melody and decided to learn all parts of the second Brandenburg Concerto. The parts started to come quickly. After a few months I started rearranging them to blend some of my favorite counterpoint lines with the melody and bass lines. ”

In addition, he rewrote sentences of the concerts based on his intuitions about the composer and experimented with infusions of jazz, funk, rock, country, Africa, Indonesian, Brazil and other genres from his musical life. Without any classical music training, Danziger developed his own techniques for reorganizing the concerts.

He estimates the project took 12,000 hours to complete and credits the guidance and knowledge of mentors and friends as critical to his endeavor. His Brandenburg arrangements were presented to the public at a gala event seven years ago. Knowing that the 300NS Danziger called his work “The Brandenburg 300 Project” on the 50th anniversary of the Brandenburger.

Danziger is overseeing the production of a live streaming homage to the Brandenburgers, which will be broadcast from the Monterey peninsula to the world on March 24th. The project is reminiscent of Bach’s gift of the Folio of the Concerts to Margrave Christian Ludwig von Brandenburg in 1721.

What music would be so adorable that you would be ready to dive off a dock at dusk and swim to a strange boat?

Ironically, the Margrave, the younger brother of King Frederick I of Prussia, lacked the means to support an orchestra talented enough to play these complex pieces. As far as we know, he never heard her. They rested in pristine condition for over a century until they were discovered in a Prussian library in 1849 and released to the world.

In addition to Danziger, his co-producers Jeff Jones, chairman and associate professor of music and performing arts at the CSU Monterey Bay, and the videographer Doug Mueller are working for the programs on March 24th – there will be two. Viewers are pampered with fine art from local museums and galleries, including pictures of paintings by Californian artists from the Crocker Museum as well as the Hardy, Trotter and Winfield Galleries.

These include photos of works by Monterey County artists David Ligare and Armin Hansen, as well as famous European and Chinese painters. These visuals will complement a series of interviews, stories and performances of the concerts in both classical and contemporary styles.

The wonderfully eclectic musicians featured in the video include Black Violin, Wynton Marsalis and the English Chamber Orchestra, Sones de Mexico Ensemble Chicago, Karl Richter & His Chamber Orchestra, Academy of Ancient Music, Dave Brubeck, Oscar Peterson, John Clayton, Neville Marriner and the Academy of St. Martin in the Fields, Classical Jazz Quartet with Kenny Barron, Ron Carter, Stefon Harris and Lewis Nash.

An important element of the video comes from another significant event in Gdansk’s life. After his music career ended, he earned a law degree and accepted a position as an environmental systems analyst at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory. He had only been at the JPL for a few days when he witnessed the transmission of the first sounds and images of Jupiter by the Voyager space probe – a breathtaking moment.

NASA’s two Voyager space probes each carry a gold record that depicts images, sounds and music from the earth. The content was selected and recorded by a committee chaired by renowned astronomer Carl Sagan, who said, “The spacecraft will be encountered and the record will only be played if there are advanced space civilizations in interstellar space.”

To his astonishment, Danziger discovered the music section with the first movement of Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 2. The viewers of the live stream are asked to consider which music they would choose for a future gold record to represent humanity. During the broadcasts, they can share their ideas in a chat room.

Danzinger has set itself the goal of local Organizations that become part of the Brandenburg 300 project. Providing their resources and expertise are CSUMB, Monterey Symphony, Monterey Jazz Festival, Osher Institute for Lifelong Learning, California Rodeo Salinas, Carmel Bach Festival, KAZU-FM, Monterey County Pops!, Palenke art, and the Alliance for California Traditional Arts; quite a diverse group of willing participants.

Bach’s music has been a significant part of Monterey County’s history, particularly through the events of the Carmel Bach Festival, founded in 1935 by Carmel impresarios Dene Denny and Hazel Watrous.

The Bach researcher David Gordon, who worked for the festival for 30 years, counted well over 250 performances by the Brandenburgers through this ensemble alone. Numerous other local music organizations and artists have performed the concerts over the decades.

Danziger recently learned from a representative of the leading Bach archive in Europe that his online event from this region was the only known celebration of the 300thNS Jubilee of the Brandenburgers. In addition, they requested a copy of his video for their archive, which gave him a place in the outstanding history of major Bach events. Danziger was overjoyed at this news. “I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”

Another way to ask the gold record question might be, “What music would be so adorable that you’d be ready to dive off a dock at dusk and swim to someone else’s boat?”


The Brandenburg Links

Further information on artists, artists and sponsors as well as registration for the broadcast on March 24 can be found at

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