Chess and music: another year passes

This blog was started on 19 July 2017. On its second anniversary, I can look back on more than twenty individual posts and take a great deal of satisfaction from the range of topics on which I have given my thoughts, which of course I find unfailingly insightful and well-informed.

Most astonishing to me, however, has been the range of readers who have bothered to read some of what I have written. A year ago, when I wrote The chess and music blog: one year on, I found to my great surprise that I had reached 55 different countries. After exactly two years, the number stood at 93 – and has risen to 94 since then (thank you, whoever you are in American Samoa).

Views 2018-19
The last year has been one of increasing numbers of views.

Occasionally, readers get in touch with me by email or (more rarely) by leaving comments. Gratifyingly, these have always been positive. All communications of this sort mean a lot to me, so if you are reading this, do please “like”, “comment” and “contact”!

In chess terms, the most significant event of the last year was the World Championship match held in London (which was a great thing for us Brits). Once again, Magnus Carlsen showed that he is not simply the best player of our time, something which few could doubt, but also one of the very best players in the history of the game, especially given the strength of other top Grandmasters. Both the Champion and his challenger have a liking for contemporary music, especially rap; I celebrated the match with the posts Fabiano Caruana: hip hop chess and, taking a more conventional comparison, Magnus Carlsen: the Mozart of the chess board.

My musical highlights of the year are inevitably more personal: hearing András Schiff play the second book of Bach’s Well-Tempered Clavier at the BBC Proms last summer was one – I was struck again by the cognitive complexity as well as the great beauty of Bach’s music, something I wrote about in Réti and Bach: four-piece counterpoint. I have yet to achieve my plan of putting on a chess-themed musical concert, to conclude with a rousing rendition of The FIDE anthem. My friends and club-mates should probably be grateful for that.

My favourite posts of this second year have actually been the ones which have overlapped with my musicological research – Schoenberg’s Coalition Chess took me absolutely ages to write, and I still intend to finish translating the lengthy book chapter (written in German) from which a lot of the material came. And my most recent post had to be split into two as I discovered more about John Cage’s interest in chess. I was delighted by this, because Cage is a composer I had long found fascinating, but his increasing engagement with chess as he got older was something I knew nothing about. I may even be able to combine John Cage and his musical chess pieces: Part One and John Cage and his musical chess pieces: Part Two to make a publishable scholarly article.

I am sure I have more to write on this topic, as this blog begins its third year. Please do let  me know if you are enjoying it.

Author: Robert Samuels

I teach music for The Open University and play chess for Cowley Chess Club in the Oxfordshire Chess League.

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