Bach is back

Award-winning journalist Eric Siblin gave a lecture at the Dawson Reading Series about classical music

By: Gabe Gilker

Award winning journalist, documentary film maker and author, Eric Siblin opened up the Dawson Reading Series on Oct. 5, giving a lecture about classical music as well as the opening of his first novel, The Cello Suites.

His first book is part biography, part history and part mystery which involves three narratives on the discovery of Johann Sebastian Bach’s lost cello suites.
The book is divided into six chapters, each one representing a different cello suite; in these chapters there are six sub-chapters to represent the movements in each suite. Every chapter transcends through history as it follows the life of Bach, Pablo Casals, and Eric Siblin’s own investigation of the story.

Siblin, a Dawson graduate, worked for various newspapers, including The Plant, before he landed a gig as Montreal Gazette’s music critic.

“I got my writing career from The Plant, it felt like we were on our own creative planet,” Siblin said, referring to the times when Dawson was separated into different campuses.

Siblin eased the audience into the world of classical music, first discussing his own musical influences starting at the Gazette. As resident pop music critic, Siblin was in charge of writing reviews for all kinds of genres, from Celine Dion to Slayer. “I overdosed on pop music,” Siblin said.

Stumbling upon classical music one night in Toronto, he discovered a whole other realm of music. Entranced by the cello’s lush and full sound he soon became addicted, reading everything he could about classical music and developing a deep desire to uncover the mysteries behind Bach’s famously lost, then recovered, cello suites.

On one of their biannual meetings of the American Bach Society, the club members were treated to a viewing of one of the only certified portraits painted of Bach.

“He looked boring, completely average. He escapes us, his art is familiar, but he slips through our fingers,” Siblin explained, this being one of the components that drove him to write his novel.

The audience of over 70 students and faculty members alike all listened in rapture as he played a few selections of the suites, which he then compared to modern music. He showed the parallels of the cello and guitar riffs.

“Music is music, the barriers are artificial. Here’s Bach who wrote this piece in the 18th century and two centuries later we’re hearing electric guitar riffs that sound similar.”

The Dawson Reading Series is a semester long activity, hosted by the Canada Counsel for the Arts. The next lecture will be given by Lisa Moore on Feb. 10 and Jen Soofkon Lee is scheduled on March 22.

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