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Be not afeard. The isle is full of noises,
Sounds, and sweet airs, that give delight and hurt not.
Sometimes a thousand twangling instruments
Will hum about mine ears, and sometimes voices
That if I had waked after long sleep
Will make me sleep again; and then in dreaming
The clouds methought would open and show riches
Ready to drop upon me, that when I waked
I cried to dream again.
This will prove a brave kingdom to me, where I shall have my music for nothing.
Shakespeare, The Tempest Act 3 Scene 2

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This page springs from a number of inspirations: Bach, midi as a concept, the program Midikeyz.exe, which allows you to create midi files by hand - a long-winded task - but at any rate to alter the instrumentation, tempo, etc, of a given midi file until it sounds good; and the late Douglas Adams, some of whose homage to JS Bach is appended (extracted from Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency). To hear a midi file, just click on any organ graphic and wait. To stop the music before it has finished, refresh the page. NB Firefox may refuse to play some tracks or cut them short. Try a different browser!

The modulations from one to another were perfectly accomplished—astonishing leaps to distant keys made effortlessly in the mere shifting of the head. New themes, new strands of melody, all perfectly and astoundingly proportioned, constantly involved themselves into the continuing web. Huge slow waves of movement, faster dances that thrilled through them, tiny scintillating scampers that danced on the dances, long tangled tunes whose ends were so like their beginnings that they twisted around on themselves, turned inside out, upside down, and then rushed off again on the back of yet another dancing melody in a distant part of the ship.

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The visions that were woven in his mind by the million threads of music as they were pulled through it, were increasingly a welter of chaos, but the more the chaos burgeoned the more it fitted in with the other chaos, and the next greater chaos, until it all became a vast exploding ball of harmony expanding in his mind faster than any mind could deal with.

And then it was all much simpler.

A single tune danced through his mind and all his attention rested on it. It was a tune that seethed though the magical flood, shaped it, formed it, lived through it hugely, lived through it minutely, was its very essence. It bounced and trilled along, at first a little tripping tune, then it slowed, then it danced again but with more difficulty, seemed to founder in eddies of doubt and confusion and then suddenly revealed that the eddies were just the first ripples of a huge new wave of energy surging up joyfully from beneath.

He knew that he had been listening to the music of life itself. The music of light dancing on water that rippled with the wind and the tides, of the life that moved through the water, of the life that moved on the land, warmed by the light.

As he arrived at her front door he was pleased, as he always was, to hear the deep tones of her cello coming faintly from within. He quietly let himself in and then as he walked to the door of her music room he suddenly froze in astonishment. The tune she was playing was the one he had heard before. A little tripping tune, that slowed, then danced again but with more difficulty . . .

His face was so amazed that she stopped playing the instant she saw him.

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“What’s wrong?” she said, alarmed.
“Where did you get that music?” said Richard, in a whisper.
She shrugged. “well, from the music shop,” she said, puzzled. She wasn’t being facetious, she simply didn’t understand the question.
“What is it?”
“It’s from a cantata I’m playing in a couple of weeks,” she said, “Bach, number six.”
“Who wrote it?”
“Well, Bach I expect. If you think about it.”
“Watch my lips. Bach. B-A-C-H. Johannes Sebastian. Remember?”
“No, never heard of him. Who is he? Did he write anything else?”
Susan put down her bow, propped up her cello, stood up and came over to him.
“Are you all right?” she said.
“Er, it’s rather hard to tell. What’s . . . ”

He caught sight of a pile of music books sitting in a corner of the room with the same name on the top one. BACH. He threw himself at the pile and started to scrabble through it. Book after book – J. S. BACH. Cello sonatas. Brandenburg Concertos. A Mass in B Minor.

He looked up in blank incomprehension.

“I’ve never seen any of this before,” he said. . . . “Reg . . . the music—”

“Ah, yes, I thought you’d be pleased. Took a bit of work, I can tell you. I saved only the tiniest scrap of course, but even so I cheated. It was rather more than one man could actually do in a lifetime, but I don’t suppose anybody will look at that too seriously.”

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[Reg is Professor Chronotis, who has a time machine which goes back to fix a stranded spaceship which landed on Earth four billion years ago. Amongst the side-effects of his intervention:

  • the Man from Porlock (Dirk Gently) interrupts Coleridge in the penning of the poem: “In Xanadu did Kublai Khan . . .”. Coleridge loses his inspiration and the poem remains unfinished.

  • J. S. Bach hears the music from the spaceship and transcribes some of it.

  • The universe is saved from total extinction at no charge.]

Special thanks to Lubbert Schenk of Softart Design, for use of the images which are derived from his brilliant digital renderings of organs: Digitale tekeningen van bestaande pijporgels, en eigen ontwerp. To see them in all their glory, click this logo:

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More like this:

Cacophonia Part 2

Cacophonia Part 3

Cacophonia Part 4

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