Welcome to Clip from Spiral logo

Interactive video lesson plan for: John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection

Activity overview:

Gardiner, author of the new book, Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, has a unique perspective on Bach (http://goo.gl/J7gH2K). He is both a historian and a world-renowned conductor who has throughout his career made hundreds of recordings on the prestigious Deutsche Grammophon label. Bach, the orphan rebel, had a suspicion of authority that ran deep throughout his life, and made him an often domineering and unpleasant person to deal with. Gardiner doesn't see any contradiction here. "The very fact that this music is so profound and so uplifting and the man is clearly not a saint makes it all the more interesting," he says.

Transcript -- I think there's been a slightly deplorable tendency amongst Bach's biographers to paint Bach the human being in a very complimentary light. To imply that great music requires a great man and a great human being and a great personality to be behind it. Well, of course great music requires a creator but it doesn't have to be a paragon -- he doesn't have to be a paragon of virtue. And Bach certainly wasn't.

The more that one discovers about him, the more one discovers that he was a deeply flawed character. That even though we have very, very few family records and letters to go on there are incidents that keep cropping up in his life at almost a repetitive pattern of antagonistic behavior between him and authority -- the authorities for whom he worked. He was very combative. He really took them on.

But I think we can trace it back really to his earliest times. All right he started off in a presumably very happy family situation with both parents living but he didn't go to school very often. We have a lot of records of truancy. Now, why? Why was he not at school? That's one big question. Then comes the double shock of both parents dying before he's ten. And his upheaval rooted as he was in Eisenach. He's now uprooted and he goes to live with his elder brother, Johann Christoph, a few miles away in Ohrdruf.

And suddenly his grades shoot up, a reaction to his orphan hood -- who knows. But the more I've been able to delve into the circumstances and the context of his schooling, the worse it becomes. It looks as if the schools -- both the first two schools that he was involved in were prone to very modern sounding difficulties of, you know, overcrowding in classrooms, shortage of textbooks, hooliganism in the classroom, lobbing of bricks through windows, chasing of the girls, coming to school with daggers and spears and a good deal of unpleasant bullying and sadistic behavior.

There was one particular schoolmaster of Bach's when he was in Ohrdruf and he was probably then only about 11 or 12 who was known as the bully and the sadist of the school. And eventually he got handed his cards and he left but not before inflicting God knows what damage on his pupils. And this is a theme that goes all the way through Bach's schooling and we can't say with assurance -- well, he was damaged. But it does come out in certain ways.

For example, in his very first job that was when he was organist in Arnstadt. He gets into a quarrel with a bassoonist. He writes a piece of music with a rather difficult couple of riffs for the bassoon and the bassoonist obviously makes a complete mess of it, he can't handle it. So Bach swears at him and calls him something pretty rude and the guy reacts by setting upon him in the market square. He comes up to him with a cudgel and Bach draws his sword and defends himself. And there's tremendous fisticuffs which is only broken up by the onlookers.

And Bach goes off to his employers and says, "What's all that? You know, you've got to protect me." And they don't. That leads to a feeling of suspicion of authority that runs right away through his life. And it comes up again and again and again. And that comes into the foreground when he's working in Weimar for the two dukes -- the Duke Wilhelm Ernest and his nephew who share the authority.

And Bach is unhappy there. He feels he's been passed over for the succession to become Kapellmeister. He feels aggrieved. He looks for another job. He's appointed, and he doesn't get permission from the Dukes to leave. So they throw him into prison and for a month he's disgraced and imprisoned. It doesn't happen again as far as we know but he's picking fights pretty much all the way through his life and unnecessarily. Right towards the end of his life when he's achieved the most extraordinary quality of his output including, you know, the two passions, the Art of Fugue, The Well-Tempered Clavier, all the Brandenburg concertos, this fantastic body of cantatas -- he picks a fight which doesn't -- isn't even on his patch. It's down the road where a headmaster of a school says there shouldn't be too much music in this school of mine anymore. The emphasis should be on the academic curriculum.

Directed/Produced by Jonathan Fowler and Dillon Fitton

Tagged under: Big Think,BigThink,BigThink.,Education,Educational,Lifelong Learning,EDU,Bach,Piano,Classical,Orchestra,Symphony,Johann Sebastian Bach (Author),Violin,Plays,Concerto,Sir John Eliot Gardiner,John Eliot Gardiner (Conductor),Conductor (Profession)

Clip makes it super easy to turn any public video into a formative assessment activity in your classroom.

Add multiple choice quizzes, questions and browse hundreds of approved, video lesson ideas for Clip

Make YouTube one of your teaching aids - Works perfectly with lesson micro-teaching plans

Play this activity

1. Students enter a simple code

2. You play the video

3. The students comment

4. You review and reflect

* Whiteboard required for teacher-paced activities

Share on:

Share John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection on Google+ Share John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection on Twitter Share John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection on Facebook Pin John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection Email John Eliot Gardiner: Bach's Habit of Imperfection

Ready to see what else Spiral logo can do?

With four apps, each designed around existing classroom activities, Spiral gives you the power to do formative assessment with anything you teach.

Quickfire

Carry out a quickfire formative assessment to see what the whole class is thinking

Discuss

Create interactive presentations to spark creativity in class

Team Up

Student teams can create and share collaborative presentations from linked devices

Clip

Turn any public video into a live chat with questions and quizzes

1000s of teachers use Spiral to deliver awesome, engaging activities that capture students' understanding during lessons.

Now it's your turn Sign up

Spiral Reviews by Teachers and Digital Learning Coaches

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Kathryn Laster @kklaster

Tried out the canvas response option on @SpiralEducation & it's so awesome! Add text or drawings AND annotate an image! #R10tech

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Room 220 Math Stars @3rdgradeBCE

Using @SpiralEducation in class for math review. Student approved! Thumbs up! Thanks.

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Miss Ord @ordmiss

Absolutely amazing collaboration from year 10 today. 100% engagement and constant smiles from all #lovetsla #spiral

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Adam J. Stryker @strykerstennis

Students show better Interpersonal Writing skills than Speaking via @SpiralEducation Great #data #langchat folks!

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Dr Ayla Göl @iladylayla

A good tool for supporting active #learning.

Spiral
Review of Spiral by teacher: Brett Erenberg @BrettErenberg

The Team Up app is unlike anything I have ever seen. You left NOTHING out! So impressed!

Get the Clip Chrome Extension & Create Video Lessons in Seconds

Add Clip to Chrome