The Art of Doing Nothing applied to J.S. Bach's Trio Sonata in G major BWV 530 (1st mov.) and Train in the sky

From 2003 until 2007, I carried out a research called The Art of Doing Nothing with students of Codarts, University for the Arts, Rotterdam. Starting-point for this research were observations by contemporaries of Bach on his organ playing; evidently the great master achieved a huge expression with very small movements of fingers and feet only. I related these observations to a typically 18th century term in German music: vernehmendes Hören, which translates as 'observational listening'. This implies that the performer has a kind of inner silence even while playing very exciting passages. Through many years of experience, I found that this inner silence is the result of a continuous striving for the best possible quality of sound. The words 'inner silence' gave birth to the title of the research, The Art of Doing Nothing, which may also be described as the art of playing with relaxed precision.

A short comprehensive description of The Art of Doing Nothing: observational listening due to striving for the best quality of sound and a clear judgement of what one is doing leads to an inner silence and a minimum of movements, consequently giving access to the collective unconscious, which is the richest reservoir of artistic expression that one can imagine. This minimum of movements seems to contradict the tendency in Western classical music to make the visual aspect of performing more interesting.

J.S. Bach is of course an example for any classical musician and particularly for organists, but this type of performing has existed through the ages all in music traditions all over the world. Therefore, I find The Art of Doing Nothing essential in connecting different music traditions to each other. In the following, it is applied to my piece Train in the sky. Here, the very talented percussionist Renato Peneda truly plays in the spirit of The Art of Doing Nothing.


Maurice Duruflé - Veni Creator, Final

This final variation is to be played in the spirit of the following phrase from Arthur Conan Doyle's The Lost World:

'... one great wave of enthusiasm, which rolled from the back of the hall, gathering volume as it came, swept over the orchestra, submerged the platform, and carried the four heroes away upon its crest'.


Maurice Duruflé - Veni Creator, Prélude, bar 124-135, pedal only

A video recording of the double pedal, with cameras from left and right, allowing good observation of all the movements.


Maurice Duruflé - Veni Creator, third variation

In bar 4 and 6, the melody's f sharp is played on the positive in stead of the pedal; the legato (both on the swell and pedal) should not be interrupted because of this. The four part setting on the swell is a good exercise for a clean thumb legato. The left foot is used to open and close the swell box.