God truly favored Bach. How else can you explain that time stood still for him? How do I know this? I mean, everyone would know, right, if such a miracle happened (over and over again)? No, no one would know. He’d be sitting there writing one of his 1,000+ scores while changing one of his 20 kids’ diapers while the world around him was still and silent.
Yes, time stood still for him. Richard Wagner said that Bach’s work was “the most stupendous miracle in all music” (Kavanaugh 26). See?
At any rate, that’s my excuse for getting such a piddly amount of things done in my life; God has not favored me with time stoppages. And I don’t have a photographic memory, as perhaps Bach did, and as C.S. Lewis did, who was also crazily prolific in his life. A photographic memory helps . . . a lot. And God making time stand still for you.
To make things a bit clearer about Bach and his miraculous output, here are some perspective builders.
- Both his parents died when he was nine. He did not inherit wealth and therefore did not have lots of extra time. (In fact, during his lifetime only 8 – 10 of his works were published, so he didn’t acquire wealth–and the extra time it can afford– from his compositions.)
- He played a variety of musical instruments (and sang) from childhood. He worked at a number of churches as church musician, primarily, but also was employed as “Capellmeister” for Prince Leopold. Eventually spurning the Prince’s secular position, he went to St. Thomas’ in Leipzig to become Cantor and Music Director.
- His first wife died, then he married a second young wife. As mentioned, he had 20 children altogether (not all reached adulthood). This makes me hope that God made time stand still for his wives some, too.
- Bach not only worked at churches, composed music (and in a large variety of styles), and helped make lots of babies, but he also taught. He taught Latin AND music, to outside students as well as his own children. I must be missing something here. He taught Latin and music, while doing all the rest of his daily genius stuff . . . he must’ve taught a third subject or laid golden eggs or something, right? Oh, that’s right, he . . .
- . . . and his wife (or wives) were very social and hospitable and always had people over at their place!
- His eyesight worsened as he aged. By the time of his death at age 65 (1685-1750), he was blind.
Maybe I’m wrong about God stopping time for Bach. But if so, the only other possibility is that he never slept. God either made time stand still for Bach, or gave him the gift of sleeplessness. This might better explain his 20 children, too.
Kavanaugh, Patrick, Spiritual Lives of the Great Composers (Zondervan 1996).