Jobs Loved Computers, of Course … and Bach

In 1989, Michael Lawrence filmed Steve Jobs for Memory & Imagination: New Pathways to the Library of Congress. “I remember very fondly every minute of the time I spent with him,” Lawrence messages in an email. “I still have the NeXT coffee mug he gave me.”

“Like so many people around the world,” he writes, “I have been thinking of him since his passing. I could not have made BACH & friends without his computers and software.” A few years ago, Lawrence posted a clip of Jobs, excerpted from Memory & Imagination. “It has been viewed over 400,000 times — 34,000 views just yesterday alone,” he says. Now, as a tribute to Jobs, he has put together a series of clips from that flick, which includes a conversation between Jobs and Stewart Brand, the founder of the Whole Earth Catalog. Have a look at it.
Click to watch.

Lawrence adds:

I didn’t know Steve Jobs loved Bach until Mike Hawley asked me to send Steve and his wife Laurene a copy of BACH & friends. Steve was one of Mike’s closest personal friends. I found this quote of Steve’s talking of Bach in Return to the Little Kingdom: How Apple and Steve Jobs Changed the World, by Michael Moritz:

“I had been listening to a lot of Bach. All of a sudden the wheat field was playing Bach. It was the most wonderful experience of my life up to that point. I felt like the conductor of this symphony with Bach coming through the wheat field.”

I haven’t read the Moritz book, so I don’t know the circumstances of that experience. But it sounds like a pretty great acid trip. My favorite quote comes from Memory & Imagination, in which Jobs defines a computer as “the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”


Here’s the whole passage:

I think one of the things that really separates us from the high primates is that we’re tool builders. I read a study that measured the efficiency of locomotion for various species on the planet. The condor used the least energy to move a kilometer. And humans came in with a rather unimpressive showing about a third of the way down the list. It was not too proud a showing for the crown of creation. So that didn’t look so good. But then somebody at Scientific American had the insight to test the efficiency of locomotion for a man on a bicycle. And a man on a bicycle, or human on a bicycle, blew the condor away, completely off the top of the charts. And that’s what a computer is to me. What a computer is to me is, it’s the most remarkable tool that we’ve ever come up with. It’s the equivalent of a bicycle for our minds.”

(Crossposted at HuffPo)

Postscript: Oct. 6 — Mike Lawrence messages, “Hi Jan: I have been reading the new bio on Steve Jobs and found this reference to Bach. Thought you might be interested.”

As for classical music, there were a few recordings of Bach, including the Brandenburg Concertos, and three albums by Yo-Yo Ma. One afternoon we sat in his living room as he scrolled through the songs on his new iPad. Bach, he declared, was his favorite classical composer. He was particularly fond of listening to the contrast between the two versions of the “Goldberg Variations” that Glenn Gould recorded, the first in 1955 as a twenty-two-year-old little-known pianist and the second in 1981, a year before he died. “They’re like night and day,” Jobs said after playing them sequentially one afternoon. “The first is an exuberant, young, brilliant piece, played so fast it’s a revelation. The later one is so much more spare and stark. You sense a very deep soul who’s been through a lot in life. It’s deeper and wiser.” Jobs was on his third medical leave that afternoon when he played both versions, and I asked which he liked better, “Gould liked the later version much better.” he said. “I like the earlier, exuberant one. But now I can see where he was coming from.” Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson

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