(the answer is both)
A few weeks ago I wrote about introversion, making the perhaps obvious observation that most of us have personalities which are a combination of introverted and extroverted traits. Not equally balanced between the two surely, but with any luck a balance that works for us in all of the different situations we encounter in our lives. If extraversion is simply defined as having a desire to engage with the world outside of ourselves, then that is a worthy goal for every introvert. Taking on the assertiveness and enthusiasm of an extravert has a place in any introvert’s toolbox for dealing with the world. And if extraverts are sometimes people who talk too much, or those who always need to be the center of attention, or who don’t read social cues well enough to know when enough is enough….well, cultivating some of the quieter, reflective qualities of an introvert might be in order.
It’s always about balance. Having good physical balance, balancing competing interests and demands on our time, being balanced in our emotions. The golden mean. The via media. Possibly part of The Goldberg Variations’ continuing appeal is found in the equilibrium that Bach created within the music. He built each variation with two sections, each repeated, creating unchanging structural symmetry. Additionally, the “theme” upon which these variations are based is actually a 32-note bass line and that parallels the 32 measures of music in each variation. Which, in turn, corresponds to the number of variations, counting the opening and closing Arias which surround the 30 variations, giving stability to the whole. And that’s just the beginning of the beauty to be found in the mathematics of this music.
Variation 5 is lively and sociable. Bach suggested that it be played on two manuals – i.e. a harpsichord with two keyboards. The piano, of course, has just one keyboard and the player’s crossing hands spend a fair amount of time playing right on top of each other. Not unlike an animated dinner conversation, where perhaps the extravert has more chance of being heard!
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.