Bach Project - Ward Swingle
The Swingle Singers
Well, the whole point was that we use our voice instrumentally.
And that is the essential description of the Swingle Singers.
It was, I think, new. People hadn’t scatted Bach before that.
The singers that were in that first group were instrumentalists who sang.
We were ad hoc singers in the recording world in Paris and that kept us alive
because we spent a good two years preparing that first recording.
And we would never have thought that it would have had the success that it did.
We did have certain guidelines. We just basically made it as simple as possible
so as not to get in the way of Bach’s counterpoint and that was quite sufficient
because Bach took care of everything else.
The Badinerie came from one of the orchestral suites
and I suddenly saw that melody going
and I could hear Christiane Legrand singing it.
But it was extremely sing-able. It’s a jovial piece.
And one can’t so much accuse Bach of being jovial.
I think he undoubtedly had a good sense of humor.
There are a lot of little traces of that in his work.
Bach was one of the great improvisers.
He must have been a kind of fountain.
You never have the idea of effort with Bach.
In the jazz context, I hear the great improvisers
and you realize what an extraordinary feat it is.
Well Bach, I think, did that, thinking about something else,
and the notes just came to him in some miraculous way.
How often I would almost dream about having the idea to explore Bach’s mind.
I think they’re doing some very, very interesting neurological studies these days on,
for example, improvisation.
What happens to a musician when he improvises,
what is that particular click that gives him the material to improvise.
This business of the brain being influenced
and developed somehow in improvisation is quite mind-boggling.
Yes, but it is every emotion imaginable in Bach’s musical creations.
And you do wonder how he was able to get so high, much high emotivity,
at the same time such incredibly complex but yet exacting musical writing.
That, I would say, is a puzzle. It’s a mystery and vive le’mystere, as they say in France.
Johanna Marshall, Tom Bullard, Julie Kench, Ward Swingle