The music itself is obviously responsible for the “intention” I’ve set for this 4th Goldberg Variation. Open intervals of 3rds, 4ths and 5ths provide the music’s primary color, eschewing fancy running passage-work or complex polyphony. There is something so earnest and guileless about this variation. Some might even say unsophisticated, as trusting open-heartedness can sometimes seem.

Goldberg Variation 4 (Openness)

Easy enough to define openness as the opposite of secrecy. If your feelings and vulnerabilities are open for all to see then the armor of secrecy can’t protect you from others’ judgments and attacks. That sounds scary, but secrecy seems even more dangerous since it also protects you from having to be truthful…Pinocchio, I’m talking to you.

As Sophocles wrote, “Do nothing secretly, for time sees and hears all things, and discloses all.” Or as the Buddha taught, “three things cannot long stay hidden: the sun, the moon and the truth.”

Openness asks questions. Secrecy tries to hide the answers. Openness is sensitive to surrounding beauty. Secrecy is too busy guarding the gate to see what is outside of  it. Openness seeks to make connections. Secrecy closes doors. Openness tries to see what is possible. Secrecy fears new information. Openness disarms with candor. Secrecy empowers the manipulative.

I choose openness.


I’ve lived with Bach’s Goldberg Variations for a long time now. More than half my lifetime in fact. I would pull them out periodically, feeling that I was revisiting an old friend, but a friend who always has something new to share. I began thinking about Bach and mindfulness last year in a way that meant something to me. Each variation became linked in my mind with a word and that word became something like the “intention” that yoga students are sometimes asked to set for their practice. A word to mediate on and to help draw more from within. For the next 32 weeks I will post one of the variations and write about the word I associated with the music. Sometimes a connection will seem obvious, but more often it will be unexplainable. It became apparent as I worked on this project that I thought about things which I wanted to cultivate in myself, ways of being in the world that were positive. All of the recordings are to be made in my living room, playing the 9 foot Steinway that was gifted to me on January 5, 2016.






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