The Cry of Jesus in Bach’s Matthew-Passion

The incomparable final chorus of J. S. Bach’s Matthew-Passion, which leaves us with Christ dead in the tomb, is one of the great cries of Western civilization. While the text speaks of crying or weeping (weinen in Bach’s German), the music itself suggests to me much more of a crying-out (schreien): the multitude following Jesus […]

There and Bach Again: A Musician’s Meanderings (Part 3)

At this point, many would argue that if a particular hope or longing appears hard-wired within us, that is proof that the thing hoped in or longed for must exist. [1] The analogy is often drawn to hunger: the fact that we hunger indicates that we hunger for something that exists: namely, food. It is […]

On “Traditional” Worship (2 of 2)

Last week we observed that to whatever extent self-consciously “traditional” worship music seeks to define itself by contrast with “contemporary” worship music, it ironically subjugates its identity to the very thing it would seek to define itself against. When its identity becomes governed by something other than the God of the gospel, “traditional” worship music […]

On “Traditional” Worship (1 of 2)

Church music today is witnessing the interesting phenomenon of two classes of musical language existing for the most part quite separately (at least in principle) albeit side-by-side within countless individual congregations: I am referring to the practice of churches that offer both “traditional” and “contemporary” worship services. Doubtless there is much to be said on […]

There And Bach Again: A Musician’s Meanderings (Part 2)

This sense of transcendence is a most peculiar thing. It is at once terribly vague and terrifyingly vivid: perhaps axiomatically impossible to fathom or classify, it nonetheless makes itself and its identity pointedly and forcefully known in human experience, welcome or not. It breeds its own wonders in the human soul and transfigures all it […]

There And Bach Again: A Musician’s Meanderings (Part 1)

“And as with all music, so also the end and purpose of thoroughbass shall be nothing other than the glorification of God and the recreation of the mind.” — Johann Sebastian Bach Especially in light of the popular association of legalism with all things religious, it is easy to read this statement by J. S. Bach […]

Flesh and Spirit, Part 6 (Conclusion)

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5               We have just uncovered and explored one of the most intricate and elegant examples of musical encryption I have encountered.             And while we may be moved by Bach’s message and even find it fascinating to observe how he articulates it, perhaps some […]

Flesh and Spirit, Part 5

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4 So what might be the significance of the two prominent extra-musical “themes” of this piece (symmetry and the concept of solo)? Could their respective significances by interrelated? Bach gives us a clue that they are by heralding them both side-by-side at the very outset of the piece. Looking at a score of […]

Flesh and Spirit, Part 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 Having observed that the relationships between the first and third movements create a sense of reflexive symmetry in the d-minor violin concerto as a whole, we may further remark that each of the three movements is individually symmetrical in various ways, which is quite an unusual structural feature in Bach (or […]

Flesh and Spirit, Part 3

Part 1, Part 2 In the last post, we discussed the prominence of features in this piece that seem to point to the idea of solo. As we look at how these solo elements are distributed, however, other patterns begin to show themselves. Firstly, we notice that the presence of such weighty cadenzas in the outer […]