This piece here, I said, is called “The Well-Tempered Clavier.” A clavier is a keyboard, and they had just invented a way to tune them all equally, so it was like a new musical instrument. He wrote that piece to show off what it could do.
When they showed a painting of Bach, though, she burst into laughter. What? I asked.
“Sorry,” she said. “It’s just that he looks like a fat baby, with long hair.”
Well, you’ve seen pictures of Newton and Vivaldi, I told her, and they all had long hair – it was the style back then.
“People had long hair when you were little, didn’t they?” she asked.
Yes, it was the style again for a while, I said, around the time I was born. Things like that come and go. And yes, Bach was a bit on the chubby side…
“Oh, right,” she said. “I should say chubby, to be polite. He couldn’t help it. I wonder if his mother was always like ‘Cut your hair!’ What was his first name?”
Johann, I said -- and soon we were off, her taking the role both of J.S. Bach and of his mother.
“Johann, you get away from that clavier right now and cut your hair!” The Girl said, in a shrewish voice.
“Awww Mommmm,” The Girl she answered herself in fluent teenager, “It’s the style right now! All the cool kids have long hair!”
“And go out and get some fresh air! In 300 years people will think you look like a big baby!”
“But I’m showing all the other kids what my new instrument can do!”
After she had amused herself for a while, I asked if we could get back to the programme, and she cuddled back with me.
Will we have conversations like this when you’re a teenager? I asked. It’s only a few years away now.
“I promise I won’t be that bad,” she said.
If growing long hair and playing music are the worst things you ever do, I thought, I’ll be quite pleased.