59. Bach Suite No. 3 in C Major – Sarabande (A Request from my Dad)


Are you tired of this?  I kind of am…But I guess it’s to be expected?  I don’t feel this way all the time, just for the past few days.  I just want to watch a movie.  Does that mean you will sense that I am tired of it?  Will my new found attitude show through my work?  It’s easy to avoid a mirror every day: you just don’t look into it.  But I am forced to look into this every day, even if I procrastinate it until midnight the day my song is due…. and now, as you see, I am late.

It’s more important here that I’m seen as candid, not whiny.  I’m writing this to show an aspect of my experience, not to receive anything in return.  I have shared some commonalities recently with several musicians in regards to confidence and self-worth.  Everyone struggles with feeling worthwhile and important at some point.  Musicians in particular can, though some avoid it somehow, question their place, their worth, and the work they’re creating in the world in which they live.  Some of the greatest eye-opening experiences musically can be touring and performing outside of my normal sphere.  The world is large, my friend.  Large.  And there are a lot of people in it.  The most important thing I’d like this project to do is get me to that place where I quit thinking about all this nonsense and get on with it.  Stop worrying and start working.

The reality is that people get this way: hopeless.  Everybody.  The words used most often might be, “There’s too many people out there trying to do what I’m doing…”, “I have nothing different or significant to contribute…”, “I don’t have the money, connections, or resources to make this happen.”  I could go on, but I won’t.  I just wanted to take into account a hole: it is going away or else.

In any case, my dad sent me a text last week a that requested I do Bach for the 365.  I was immediately annoyed: he has consistently requested I perform classical pieces in my shows to prove I can play my instrument.  (I think this is kind of silly: I don’t play shows or write music to prove anything to anybody anymore.  Energy wasted, I say.)  However, I felt like this was a personal request, not a request on my behalf, and though he initially requested the Prelude to the first Bach Suite, I compromised and chose my preference instead: the Sarabande from the third suite.

Why get into how exposed and insufficient I feel?  You don’t want to read it, and I don’t want to write it.  There are some cellists who get really hung up about Bach.  So did I.  There are rules, expectations, techniques, tiny details that only trained ears can hear and pick up on, love or criticize.  Casals, one of the worlds most famous cellists didn’t even record these suites until he was nearly fifty years old after he discovered them as a youth.  But I offer this recording of the Sarabande for my dad, as I love him and think he’s the best.

Recording: I haven’t played these suites in well over a year (gross!), maybe two!  I pasted my mental and physical memory together and recorded it several times.  Man, I’m rusty.  It’s made me want to learn them again, which is good.  I did this in two sections, which is disappointing, but there was a lot of extraneous noise about… and whatever, this isn’t for an audition.

Julia Lichten, one of my fabulous teachers, told me a few years ago to sing these Suites as I played them (knowing my love to sing).  There grew a mental block within me for these pieces: I can find the musical direction with these pieces by singing them away from the cello, but the second you involve the technical aspects of the cello, there’s a mind freeze.  This is why you can hear me singing faintly in the background.  Having not played this for so long, it was handy.  The other thing she brought up was that these pieces were essentially also improvisational.  There are countless recordings by wonderful cellists who have taken this improvisational idea to the next level and really gone all the way with it.  It’s really unique.  Some people hate it… which is, again, why the Bach Suites carry with them a heavy burden: many people express countless elitist views on how these should or shouldn’t be played.  It’s interesting  I heard cellist Matt Haimovitz pluck an entire section of this very movement in a masterclass once.  It was awesome.

Here you go, Dad.

Dedicated to Tom Clark – We are always thinking of you and praying for you.

13 thoughts on “59. Bach Suite No. 3 in C Major – Sarabande (A Request from my Dad)

  1. So did it annoy you that I often requested the Prelude to the First Bach Suite when I would see you? I’m with your dad on that one for sure. It remains my all time favorite cello piece EVER. It brings me the same joy as hearing a trumpet hit the high C in The Carnival of Venice.

    I love what you can do with your instrument. I love your range and creativity and brilliance. I love to watch you perform and see the joy that oozes from you when you reach others with your music.

    But I have to admit, I also have feelings of joy and comfort when I hear you play Bach…it was the very first thing I heard you play (At Last was the second) and I’ll forever remember that. 🙂

  2. Your sentiment is honest and mildly tranquil. It’s refreshing to discover such disclosure. It feels as if the mentality may have been appropriated to the piece itself, so that it comes to possess within it a nostalgia that is strangely concordant with some threadbare base at the core of us. These projects have a way of compounding; developing into a mass which seems too cumbersome to carry– and yet perhaps, all things of this particular nature yield common dispositions through which, should we press on, serve to edify the creator and those that it touches. It provokes a joyful Intellect

    • I had to read this several times: what craftsmanship you have to form such a comment; I love it! Thank you for your comments. They mean a considerable amount to me at this very moment… thank you.

      • Thank you. I’ve listened to this piece several times in the course of my study this evening.It has helped me a great deal. I enjoy our forged symbiosis.

  3. Emily,
    Your playing is beautiful and I loved the “artifacts” hidden in the recording. And hearing your faint hum was comforting!
    But most of all I loved what you said above. It’s so easy to feel defeated, so easy to let technicality get the best of us. I feel so honored to have you in my life as a driving force as a musician and friend, because your attention to detail makes everything seem special.
    love, j

  4. Hopelessness, EHP, is something that I know a great deal about. After becoming paralyzed in an accident a little more than a year ago it is as instrumental in my life as breathing. I never realized how significant my contributions to those around me were until I was completely down. Your 365 project gives me inspiration to keep on keepin on! So the next time you’re thinking about quitting or feeling hopeless just think of me and my wheelchair pumping iron and busting ass to the wonderful songs you have written.
    PS. When are you coming back to Utah for a tour?

    • Thank you for your very wonderful comment: and so true! I’m coming on April 2 and 3 for a two day extravaganza in Salt Lake City! It’s going to be awesome! I hope you can come!

  5. ems this sounded way good! you’re getting a lot of variety out of this project… nothing wrong with going back to those roots!

    today i was getting ready for a medical ethics exam in the med school, pimping it large in some O.R. scrubs (… oh, are they?) with my lappy out, playing this little number here on my crappy speakers, when to my delight i was able to respond to a friend’s snotty inquiry about what i’m listening to in my best pseudo-sophisticate you-should-be-ashamed-for-not-recognizing-this-piece-and-i’m-soooo-much-better-than-you-because-i-listen-to-CLASSICAL-music-biznitch voice, “… it’s bach. one of the suites.” 😉

    so thank you for the borrowed moral superiority! it probably helped with that ethics exam.

  6. Beautiful. The song, and you. Now I am thinking maybe I should dig out some of my classical piano pieces I haven’t played since college…yikes. That could be really scary.


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