Magazine article The American Organist

Immer das Gleiche. Toujours la Même

Magazine article The American Organist

Immer das Gleiche. Toujours la Même

Article excerpt

TOO often, organ improvisation slips into the same old, same old-either 18th-century German, or 20th-century French, but rarely anything in between! The best way to break out of it-and I firmly believe that this is the most important commandment of improvisation-is to take a piece of music that you like and imitate it.

Somehow we're always afraid of "copyright." Yet Bach had no such fears. Recently I played Pachelbel's Toccata in C (P.456) and instantly recognized a passage in Bach's Wie schön leuchtet der Morgenstern (BWV 739). Such imitation is very prevalent in Bach's early music, but decreasingly so as Bach got older, which proves that it is a sound pathway toward originality! Note also that Bach copied only from composers whose music he actually liked-not music that might be "good for him," like some sort of penance.

What are some pieces that you like that are not the same old, same old? By all means, include jazz in your search! I would love to hear a chorale prelude in the style of, say, Charles Mingus, and would bet that your congregation would, as well!

Leonardo Ciampa is a composer, organist, and pianist. Fluent in Italian, he was named honorary music director of the Basilica of Sant'Ubaldo in Gubbio, Italy. …

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