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October 26, 2011

On Steve Jobs, the computer and Bach

Baltimore filmmaker Mike Lawrence, whose "Bach & Friends" has deservedly won a great deal of praise, has been making fascinating documentaries for quite some time. One of his earliest was "Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress," and among those Mike interviewed for that project was a young Steve Jobs.

"I could not have made 'Bach & Friends' without his computers and software," Mike said in an email. "In 1989, I filmed an interview with Steve for my Library of Congress film and what a special day that was. I remember very fondly every minute of the time I spent with him. I still have the NeXT coffee mug he gave me."

A friend of Steve Jobs asked Mike to send a copy of "Bach & Friends" to the celebrated Apple co-founder, who, like so many others, found himself drawn to the music of the venerable composer. Mike shared with me two Bach-related passages from books about the late Mr. Jobs:

From "Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World" by Michael Moritz: "I had been listening to a lot of Bach. All of a sudden the wheat field was playing Bach. It was the most wonderful experience of my life up to that point. I felt like the conductor of this symphony with Bach coming through the wheat field.”

And from "Steve Jobs" by Walter Isaacson: "Bach, he declared, was his favorite classical composer. He was particularly fond of listening to the contrast between the two versions of the 'Goldberg Variations' that Glenn Gould recorded, the first in 1955 ... and the second in 1981, a year before he died. 'They're like night and day,' Jobs said after playing them sequentially one afternoon. 'The first is an exuberant, young, brilliant piece, played so fast it's a revelation. The later one is so much more spare and stark. You sense a very deep soul who's been through a lot in life. It's deeper and wiser.' Jobs was on his third medical leave that afternoon when he played both versions, and I asked which he liked better ... 'I like the earlier, exuberant one. But now I can see where he was coming from.'

Here's a video clip Mike Lawrence put together from his 1989 film as a tribute to Steve Jobs, talking about the possibilities of computers, followed by the Aria from the Goldberg Variations, as played by a youthful Glenn Gould:

Posted by Tim Smith at 9:12 AM | | Comments (1)
Categories: Clef Notes


IMPRESIONANTE. UNA MENTE MÁS que brillante, un ELEGIDO, y conocerlo
después de su muerte, igual es válido y vale la pena.---- Admirador de BACH como yo, me alegra que tengamos en común, esa predilección por, el compositor-"ingeniero de notas musicales".

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About Tim Smith
Born and raised in Washington, D.C., I couldn't help but develop a keen interest in politics, but music, theater and visual art also proved great attractions. Music became my main focus after high school. I thought about being a cocktail pianist, but I hated taking requests, so I studied music history instead, earning a B.A. in that field from Eisenhower College (Seneca Falls, N.Y.) and an M.A. from Occidental College (Los Angeles). I then landed in journalism. After freelancing for the Washington Post and others, I was classical music critic for the Sun-Sentinel in South Florida, where I also contributed to NPR. I've written for the New York Times, BBC Music Magazine and other publications, and I'm a longtime contributor to Opera News. My book, The NPR Curious Listener's Guide to Classical Music (Perigee, 2002), can be found on the most discerning remainder racks.

I joined the Baltimore Sun as classical music critic in 2000 and, in 2009, also became theater critic, giving me the opportunity to annoy a whole new audience. In 2010, my original Clef Notes blog expanded to encompass a theatrical component -- how could I resist calling it Drama Queens? I hope you'll find both sides of this blog coin worth exploring and reacting to; your own comments are always welcome and valued (well, most of them, at least).

Think of this as your open-all-hours, cyber green room, where there's always a performer or performance to discuss, some news to digest, or maybe just a little good gossip to share.
Note: Tim Smith now writes about the fine arts at This blog will be kept in place as an archive for an indefinite period. Please visit the new location to get the latest Mid-Atlantic arts coverage.
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