Johann Sebastian Bach: Concerto Number 1 in A Minor, BWV 1041 for violin

I first heard this piece in 1976 during the start of my senior year at Indiana University where I was studying French literature (see below).  Unlike E Major concerto I wrote about the other day, the minor scale gives the piece a sad undertone, which reminds me a bit of Vivaldi’s “Winter.”  Since Bach studied Vivaldi, that makes sense.

Bach Biography

Buy CDs or download MP3s of Bach’s Violin Concertos

My Garret

The fall of 1976 saw me returning to Indiana University for the first semester of my senior year. I moved into a small basement room of an apartment building that my girlfriend, Linda, had found during the summer. You couldn’t beat the price:  free. This was great as it allowed me to keep most of the money I had saved working in the factory that summer to pay for a semester abroad I was planning for January of 1977 in Paris.  The hitch was that I had to serve as the janitor for the middle section of the building. That required me to sweep the stairwell every day and mop it and the floors in the laundry room about once a week.

It seemed like a sweet deal, but I soon learned it had many drawback. First there was the room–it was literally a converted storage closet, about five feet wide and 10 feet long. On one wall was a set of shelves that served as dresser, bookshelf, and larder. On the other was a mirror and a small ledge where I could put my stereo. The desk sat at the end of the room under a small window through which I could catch a glimpse of the sky. It lack space for a bed, so every night I would put down the mattress that remained propped up against the wall.

The worst thing about the room was the noise. Heating pipes ran through it and hung several inches from the ceiling. When the heat came on, they started to creak and had the soothing effect of a tap dripping. To the left of my cubby hole sat the communal washers and dryers. The residents came at all hours of the night to do their laundry. Often I was awakened at 2:00 AM by the pounding of a pair of gym shoes clunking around in the drum of the dryer. I tried to readjust my schedule and slip back home during the day to sleep, but there was a day care center across the street from my little window and in the afternoons my room was filled with the whoops and cries of kids playing on the swings and monkey bars.

And finally there was the family that lived right above my room. The apartment complex was one of the choicest places off campus to live. It had been build in the 30s out of dark red brick, it had huge picture windows and the floors were made of lovely, golden oak. The family above me had a young child whom they let roller skate on these floors!

Oh the place wasn’t without it’s charm. My “kitchen” sat behind a steel door, down a flight of concrete stairs an and beside a great gas furnace in the boiler room. It consisted of a little gas stove, an old Formica and chrome table with two chairs, and a small cupboard. From time to time, the drains would back up and the floor of the boiler room would be covered with about an inch of raw sewage. I also had to cross through the boiler room and travel up another flight of stairs to get to bathroom. This was a ramshackle little space created in the corner of a storage room and had wobbly walls, a shower stall, as sink and a toilet. The commode sat, I soon realized, under the bedroom of a very active couple. The one highlight of my day was going for my post-prandial evacuation in the evening and listening to their grunts, groans, moans and shouts.

This apartment building stood on the West side of campus, whereas the French House was located on the East edge. The West side was closer to the old downtown part of Bloomington, and thus, had a few more interesting local hang-outs. Some of these began to form the basis of a new set of interests, which have become core to my being. Down the hill from my apartment, for example, sat a vegetarian restaurant called The Tao. It was run by an ashram led by a swami who drove a Porsche. The ashram ran a bakery and was attracting more and more disaffected, and dumb, kids of affluent families. It was a good place to hang out Sunday mornings having a Danish, drinking a cup of good coffee (before the days of Starbucks) and doing the Times crossword puzzle. Down the block, a Korean graduate student named Moon started a little oriental grocery store, which opened up the possibilities of a whole new cuisine to me. A few block down the road sat a co-op, where I used to work a few hours a week and load up on whole grains and my favorite herb, dried peppermint, which I would brew up as my morning tea. A few blocks further, sat two great used bookstores, one new and another used record store, and a Greek restaurant. Finally, in a little corner set of shops called Dunkirk Square sat a little coffee shop called “Two Bit Rush,” which was one the first espresso bar in town. Even after I moved out of my hovel, for the next 3 years I pretty much spent all of my free time between these shops and they became the focus of my social and cultural life.

One piece of music that dates from this time, is today’s violin concerto in A minor, BWV 1041, by J.S. Bach.

Just the thing to accompany a meal of falafel and rice, while sitting in the garret, to drown out the sounds of the gurgling pipes.

About kurtnemes
Writer and Education Professional. Specialties include Ethics, Personal Memoir, Classical music, Tai Chi, Stress Reduction, Meditation, Coping, Classical Music, Aging, Love, Joy, Compassion and Equanimity (& what interests me.)

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