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Welcome to the Musical Offering!
Welcome! My name is Jeff Gedmin. I am Editor-in-Chief of The American Interest and the author of several books, including The Hidden Hand: Gorbachev and the Collapse of East Germany.
I have been publishing a series of evening emails on music over at TAI, but have recently decided to bring the project over to Substack. Here’s a quick explainer, from the inaugural email sent back in March, as to the origins of the name, and the idea behind the project:
This "Musical Offering" is in homage to Johann Sebastian Bach, whose Musikalisches Opfer—musical offering—was very possibly a bit of trick. In May 1747, Bach was visiting the court of Frederick the Great in Postdam, where his son Carl Philipp Emanuel was employed as a court musician. The wily King decided to put old Bach to a test. He presented the organist and composer with what he thought an impossible tune around which Bach was to compose a fugue. (Arnold Schoenberg would later speculate that Bach’s son had been enlisted in setting the trap.) Suffice it to say, Johann Sebastian was not to be bested. He presented his masterpiece to the King—a musical offering, yes, but with the second meaning in German: "musical victim.”
To clarify, there will be no tricks from our end. We are just offering some music, to enjoy, to stretch the mind, to de-stress, to challenge—and to reflect on and to.
I started doing these as the COVID lockdown set in, to help both myself and my readers to remain sane during isolation. But the project has taken on a life of its own, with readers and friends old and new opening my eyes to new musical vistas.
I hope you will subscribe, share these offerings with your friends, and help this little project grow!