A new way of thinking about Bach in in Norwegian folk-jazz artist Sinikka Langeland's liner notes to her CD Kyriekoral: Norwegian Folk Hymns And Bach Chorales, with Langeland on vocals and Kåre Nordstoga on the organ in Trondheim's Nidaros cathedral. (Click on links to discography and "Kyriekoral," a word that Langeland coined from the Kyrie Eleison [Lord have mercy upon us] and the Norwegian word for a type of Lutheran hymn called a chorale.)
I've been playing a melody-and-drone instrument for 25 years, and I've been listening to organ music since I was a little boy growing up with my father's E. Power Biggs LPs playing in the background, but I never thought of the organ as a dronal instrument.
But that was before I read this from Langeland:
My first organist was my mother’s Mixmaster. At the age of four I discovered how a sustained drone made me hum and sing almost involuntarily. Something similar happened when I started listening to Bach’s chorales: I was inspired to create my own melodic lines. This was my point of departure. I have never made any attempt to “compose my way into” the masterpieces; I have only wanted to play with, and improvise on, the old hymn melodies that are part of Bach’s complex structures. They sometimes emerge distinctly in the melodic lines, and sometimes so slowly that they are barely perceptible…in the pedal, high, low,And - you know what? - she's right.
inverted, canons – in short, in every method Bach used to create his masterpieces. When I improvise within Bach’s music itself, I feel very close to him, while at the same time I gain a heightened awareness of my own folk song tradition, especially the religious folk songs of Andris Vang, Ragnar Vigdal, Ingebjørg Liestøl and Sondre Bratland, to name my most important sources of inspiration.