(expressively, tenderly, lovingly)

Paying emotive and intellectual tribute to one of the most important figures in the history of music, Khachik Khachatouryan crystallizes Johann Sebastian Bach’s musical form into a standing, grounded physical structure. This installation, Tribute to Bach, has a sensibility, symmetry and a mathematical beauty that visually connects Khachatouryan sculptures with Bach’s arrangements.

The sculptor relates Bach’s music to the sun: “Constant, timeless, brilliant. As it rises, it illuminates the world.” Khachatouryan also says that “Bach’s monolithic music is dynamic, stable, and powerful. His genius is much like the balanced perfection of Egyptian Pyramids. That is how I came to celebrate and interpret Bach in sculptural, three-dimensional terms.”

When an artist dedicates a body of work to a composer as varied, prolific and well-known as Bach, he invites the viewer to recall her or his own relationship with the music. For some, this expressive, tender and loving installation will evoke Bach’s sonatas. For others, his concertos or cantatas. When I look at this work — work that successfully conveys both groundedness and ethereality — I hear a musical conversation, and think of a fugue.

The fifteen figures of the installation embody symbolic attributes and directly relate to Bach’s musical scores. Each of the pieces has its own physical symbology that can be read as musical components. The owl (living wisdom), the man and woman (love), and the cracked cross (spiritual struggle) sustain the counterpoint.

The octave of eagles (flight and Bach’s genius) contributes the musical framework to the key and scale. The sun bathes the piece con fuoco — “with fire” — and provides the flash and musical direction. The figure representing Bach is the tone center, the origin of the scale. Lastly, the boy (the child Bach) standing in the boat (childhood) reminds us of the joyful, impetuous way Bach rushed in to announce the melodic exposition of his music.

Khachatouryan explains, “In a sense, something like a miracle occurs when I work. In fact, the whole process of creating is a miracle. This inconceivable transformation of non-matter (an idea) to matter (a sculpture), this extraordinary process which becomes the means by which the subconscious, and perhaps the unconscious as well, with all the secrets and mysteries that so silently and skillfully hide themselves in the remote depths of the human soul, are brought out in all their colors, in all their forms and shapes, and twists and turns, in clay in paint, in bronze or stone … this divine process is nothing less than a miracle.”

We can imagine, with the addition of the word “music,” that Bach could have written the above description of the creative process. As was Bach, Khachatouryan is inextricably bound to his art: he cannot — does not even make an attempt to — separate his life from his art. When once asked how he chose sculpture as his profession, he replied, “It wasn’t my choice, and sculpture is not a profession. It’s a way of life.”

When I stand before Khachik Khachatouryan’s monumental installation, I see frozen music, and it melts my soul.

Susan Hillhouse, Curator
Santa Clara, California


J. S. Bach (1746) Painting.
by E.G. Hausmann

Johann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750):  the prominent member of the greatest musical family the world has ever known. Bach was always more than just an accomplished performer or composer. His logical mind was interested in organizing ideas into perfect structures, as he created, in abundance, his complex and brilliant polyphonic music. Bach’s music is ingenious, perhaps most of all in its subtlety, its multiplicity of forms and structures, its resolute logic, and the deeply emotional expressiveness necessary for supreme architectural beauty.

The Golden Encyclopedia of Music by Norman Lloyd

“Bach will never grow old. His works are constructed like ideally conceived geometric figures within which everything occupies its proper place, and not a line is superfluous. Bach makes me think of an astronomer. Some persons can see nothing but complicated figures in him, but others, who can feel and understand him, Bach leads to his immense telescope and lets them admire the stars which are his masterpieces. An epoch that turns away from Bach thereby testifies to its superficiality, stupidity and corrupted taste.”

Frederick Chopin

Khachik Khachatouryan (1998)

Tribute to Bach is an effort to give a tangible expression to the powerful influence that the great composer’s music has had on me throughout my life. From a very young age, I felt an inexplicable pull towards Bach’s music, accompanied by the awareness that something within me was undergoing a profound change. After years of listening to Bach and developing an incessant spiritual connection with his music, my fascination has taken shape in this composition. Bach is my favorite composer. His monolithic music is dynamic, stable, powerful. His genius is much like the balanced perfection of Egyptian Pyramids. That is how I came to celebrate and interpret Bach in sculptural, three-dimensional terms.

Khachik Khachatouryan