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Go to the woods of Kyushu, Japan. Engineer a massive xylophone (or is it a marimba?) to run down the slope of a forested hill. Take a wooden ball, place it at the top of said instrument, and push it. What do you get? Bach's treatment of a traditional church hymn! Namely, "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring."

And, all this for a Japanese commercial for a kidney-shaped smartphone with the tagline, "Touch Wood." I may be late to the party on this one, but when I think of all the time it took to set this up, the precision and measurements used to adjust it and actually make each piece, and how many takes the film crew shot, it continues to inspire even if it's a year old.

And, here you can see how it was made:

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796 Comments

This xylophone is a work of art! Can you imagine the joy of being in that woods while the ball is traveling down its path? Magical!

Indeed - i fully agree with your statement ! - A masterpiece of magical performance !

Indeed wonderful and magical.

Why can't we just allow people to have different reactions to this? Though I didn't take time to read every post, I'm sure each person has a valid reason for his or her opinion, if only based on an intuitive response. Not everyone loves the same movies. So be it.

Live and let live.

I notice that the deer ran away ..

ARE you sure....maybe he went in search of the sound. I did not see running.

trying to imagine... most wondrous and truly great art.

A musical mousetrap! Whimusical!

Charming as this is, it does strike me as something of a Hallmark Card:  a popular classic further sentimentalized by being presented in a medium that is impressive not for the quality of its sound or its interpretative beauty but simply because it works at all.  I'm sure that the folks who put this all together had a wonderful sense of achievement, and the video itself is quite lovely to the extent that I find myself preferring the sound of nearby streams and the sight of the woodland deer much more appealing than the dry clankiness of the 'musical peformance'.

If someone finds this musically inspiring, who am I to gainsay it?  But as a professional musician myself, I am left wondering what more interesting thing could have been achieved by this means than the mere rendition of an already very familiar melody (minus all its other equally important underpinnings).  Indeed, I might ask the question:  would this be anywhere as meaningful to those who say they love this if the tune played were not one they recognized?

Me thinks you are a grump!

me too!

Ditto!

Tritto

This is a neat different way to listen to Bach!

Quattro!

Quintado!

Sextado! "Bah! Humbug. Are there no prisons? And the Union workhouses? Are they still in operation?"

Agreed. The familiarity of the piece is necessary to introduce the completely unfamiliar medium. What a grump.

haha too true. Hey I'm a musician too, and I still see beauty in this as it makes you realise/consider what sound and music really are...and how simple a thing as this can 'accidentally' touch on such a masterpiece. Sometimes 'training' especially in classical (though that's me too) can hinder your core values and creativeness when it comes to music and sound...you are being trained to see it from one very narrow perspective. Open your minds and your hearts =) x

No grump! I'm a classical musician myself, someone who has worked long and hard to play this deceptively simple piece in a string quartet version for weddings. The wobbly rhythm of the ball hitting the wooden blocks made me giggle I'm afraid! I do appreciate the beauty of forest, and wooden forms but wished they'd chosen an old folk tune. Here are the words that Bach set to this music.
"Jesu, joy of man's desiring,
Holy wisdom, love most bright;
Drawn by Thee, our souls aspiring
Soar to uncreated light.

Word of God, our flesh that fashioned,
With the fire of life impassioned,
Striving still to truth unknown,
Soaring, dying round Thy throne.

Through the way where hope is guiding,
Hark, what peaceful music rings;
Where the flock, in Thee confiding,
Drink of joy from deathless springs."

The English, while good, differs considerably from the original German text:

Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe,
o wie feste halt' ich ihn,
daß er mir mein Herze labe,
wenn ich krank und traurig bin.

Jesum hab' ich, der mich liebet
und sich mir zu eigen giebet,
ach drum laß' ich Jesum nicht,
wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.
—from BWV 147, Chorale movement no. 6

Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
er ist meines Lebens Kraft,

Wohl mir, daß ich Jesum habe,
o wie feste halt' ich ihn,
daß er mir mein Herze labe,
wenn ich krank und traurig bin.

Jesum hab' ich, der mich liebet
und sich mir zu eigen giebet,
ach drum laß' ich Jesum nicht,
wenn mir gleich mein Herze bricht.
—from BWV 147, Chorale movement no. 6

Jesus bleibet meine Freude,
meines Herzens Trost und Saft,
Jesus wehret allem Leide,
er ist meines Lebens Kraft,

seriously! This IS PURE JOY in music. it raises it...not cheapens. Yikes!

Enjoy it for what it is 'grumpy pants ' !

Looks like art to me. I can appreciate this for its crativity.

Can you not enjoy both the empty forrest as well as the expression of human music, art, and creativity? Why is it a competition between one or the other, where one has to be "better", instead of them both having their own place?

As a music major, I find this utterly creative and charming. Bach loved to 'play' with his music within the structure of the times, but I think he would have truly enjoyed this renovation of his music. Let's not get stuffy about this.

Yes. I could not agree more.

Hey, Bach was all about the mathematics and the precision. He would have loved this!

agreed!!!!

I am reminded of Samuel Johnson's reply when someone asked him if a woman preached well. (The Quakers allowed women to preach in the 1700's; it was a astonishing sight. "Sir, it is like the dancing dog; the point is not that it does it well, but that it does it at all."

Well stated!

The Catholics had women preaching years earlier than this. read the life of St Hildegard of Bingen for a start

At most the women "preached" to other women at convents, though never during the Mass as the sermon, which always was reserved to the priest. Your interpretation is a myth, much like the myth of early, ordained "deaconesses." The women so designated weren't ordained. The title meant that they were the wives of ordained male deacons, much as an "episcopessa" wasn't herself a bishop but was the wife of an "episcopus." Poor Hildegard's name has been attached to things she never really said.

This is EXACTLY the comment which occurred to me but I think it was on the lines of " A woman preaching is like a dog walking on its hind legs - not that it does it well but that it does it all." I suppose if you have time/energy/people/wood to spare ... !

I don't find this commenter a grump at all. I thought I was going to find this video enjoyable, but was sadly disappointed. The time, energy and expense that went into in this would have been much better directed elsewhere. I find the natural sounds of the environment to be much more satisfying, as probably does the deer in the video and any other wildlife inthe area. The "music" of this instrument was dull and clunky. The area was obviously disturbed in the development of this, and to what end? It may have been a satisfying feat of engineering, but I find it a good example of "Just because you can doesn't mean you should".

well, it certainly was a minimal "disturbing" of the forest .. no trees destroyed in the area ..just what wood they used .. was probably similar to primitive instruments ..dull & cllunky, but better than none ..music is beautiful. Am I the Only One who thinks it very well could have been partially animated?

I have to agree, what a waste of human energy.

Yeah, true- they just should have spent the time sitting in front of their TV's like the rest of us

Good, Laura.

I agree, Laura. To paraphrase, "whose who can, do. Those who cannot, will bash on the achievements of others" or something like that.

I know! I know! Like how many years were wasted painting the Sistine Chapel when all that effort could have gone to growing corn to feed the hungry!!! Not to mention that great blunder, the Eiffel Tower which (in spite of its point) is quite pointless. For that matter, maybe it was a waste of time for Bach to have embellished that old hymn, which stood on its own for a long time without being so decorated. In fact, if it were not for Bach's setting of JJoMD, very few of us would be familiar with it at all. You may well ask why I would waste my time writing this comment. I do not know; but I enjoyed doing it.

Bravo, Christopher! Well said.

So true. It breaks my heart just thinking of the cat videos I might have been watching instead. ;-)

It is lovely, simplistic, engaging, whimsical. It is true we have different tastes, and that's okay. It's fine to be a purist, and it is also a pleasure to explore a new experience with flexibility. One can still be a personal performance purist.
There is music in every tree and piece of wood; observe the instrument-maker who personally selects slabs that will become beautiful stringed instruments with beautiful music waiting to be coaxed out!
It' is another perspective on "performance art," and the forest is performing as well as the mechanical instrument; we can hear them both and focus where we desire.
The setup preparation was done by a true team, not terribly unlike a symphony orchestra working together in rehearsing its piece. There was a glimpse that looked to me like a bag for catching or gathering up scraps or trash, leaving the Nature as it was found. It may be quite likely that the entire assemblage was removed to leave the forest as it was found. That could be an additional film....

Totally right... that's of no interest musically speaking, and the "achievement" looks like a drunken bet turned obsession.. so much better could have been done with less efforts... and all this to sell one more dispensable piece of junk...

Wow. What is the weather like, in the land of bitter?

i am always amused when people say they prefer the natural sounds of the environment when watching/listening to something from home, on a computer, removed and isolated from the environment. and yes, the area may have been disturbed, but no more so then when people go hiking or camping in the woods, and given that it was a crew to assemble the set pieces, i am left to assume that they cleaned up the pieces as well, unlike some hikers/campers.

I agree. It's baloney- commercialism masquerading as high "art". Especially sad when you consider that the entire purpose of the "art" was to sell more cell phones. In this case they used something made of "wood" that went "plink plink plunk" like a "wooden" instrument... and set in the "forest" because the cell phone case is apparently made of wood. No doubt churned out by the millions in some factory in China or Vietnam where the going wage is $2/day and there are few if any environmental protections in place. I can see the solvents now flowing out into the nearest river, and tons of toxic hardwood sawdust being breathed in by 12 yr olds . Finally let's talk about the music - a western religious piece about which the average Japanese citizen knows nothing. Weather here in the "land of the bitter" - gloomy as always ;-)

Thanks for your thoughtful comment, Moo Kahn. I have very mixed feelings about this... loved the experience of watching and listening, until the incredible let-down at the end that all this ingenuity and creativity went into a commercial for a product that is planet- and human-destroying. C'mon folks, be friendly, hear each other's points of view without trashing them you can do it!

I have never heard this before, and I did love it.

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