When I was still in high school, and enjoying band, I figured I need to “learn” more about classical music. Sure I heard it on the radio, and in TV and movies, but I didn’t know one composer or piece from the next. And I felt, if I was going to do more in music, I should learn more about it.
So I did what anyone who wants to learn something does: I asked a friend who seemed to know such things, what would be a good starting point. Specifically, I asked “what CD should I buy?” to start learning all this music stuff.
Every single one of them suggested, as a starting CD to learn about classical music, a collection of Bach’s Brandeburg Concertos.
You have heard them. Even if you don’t know classical music. They are there in the ethos of our media. Just go hit up youtube or spoitfy and search “Brandeburg Concertos.” You’ll hear something you’ve heard before.
The concertos widely regiarded as some of the greatest orchestra compositions of the Baroque era. A jaw droppingly good collection of masterworks all by the pen of one person.
I could spend some time going into detail on why this is, and how important Bach is as a person whose works basically cofidy how we hear western harmony today, but that’s not the point of this essay. (Maybe go over to wikipedia if you’re interested in that: Brandeburg Concertos & J.S. Bach)
I can just sort-hand the level these pieces are at with a quote from Carl Sagan. He had the task of selecting the music to be on the “Golden record,” a collections of recordings to be sent beyond the solar system for other species to find and learn of us. (wikipedia: Voyager Golden Record)
He had selected the 1st movement of the 2nd Brandenburg Concerto to be included. When asked why he didn’t include more Bach his response was “That would be bragging.”
So it’s an amazing collection of work. The thing I didn’t know until years later was: it was a resume.
You see, Bach had been working in at the musical equivalent of a small company where he was well paid, his work was liked, and he had a great boss. But after a few years the situation changed. The boss was bad, the pay was lousy, and the writing was on the wall that the gig might go away.
So Bach was looking and sent out resumes.
Ever run into someone at a conference who says the thing of “If you’re ever looking? Let me know.”
Bach had run into a possible employer at one point on business and remembered that contact.
He brushed up a resume of example work, wrote a cover letter and sent it off.
We still have the cover letter. You think it’s annoying writing those now. Wait until you realize the tone a servant is required to use to address a moarch get’s mixed in:
As I had the good fortune a few years ago to be heard by Your Royal Highness, at Your Highness’s commands, and as I noticed then that Your Highness took some pleasure in the little talents which Heaven has given me for Music, and as in taking Leave of Your Royal Highness, Your Highness deigned to honour me with the command to send Your Highness some pieces of my Composition: I have in accordance with Your Highness’s most gracious orders taken the liberty of rendering my most humble duty to Your Royal Highness with the present Concertos, which I have adapted to several instruments; begging Your Highness most humbly not to judge their imperfection with the rigour of that discriminating and sensitive taste, which everyone knows Him to have for musical works, but rather to take into benign Consideration the profound respect and the most humble obedience which I thus attempt to show Him.
(Quoted by wikipedia from “Classical Music for Pleasure.”)
So the world’s greatest music resume is out and in the mail.
What do you think happened?
As far as we can tell, Bach didn’t even get a reply.
I suppose we should thank the nameless HR-equivalent royal clerk who filed the corresponance into the Margrave’s archives. It’s the only reason we have this music today.
But yeah… ghosting resumes? It’s been a thing since 1721. Even for good people.