Understanding Bach 2 (2007) abstracts
This paper presents a snapshot of how Bach's works have been addressed within the cognitive sciences of music. Two approaches are briefly outlined and discussed: the first investigates computational solutions to the compositional challenges posed by Bach's music; the second focuses on elucidating the cognitive processes that are involved in the perception of Bach's counterpoint. The paper concludes that Bach's music provides fertile territory for future research in the cognitive sciences of music, and suggests that three particular areas - music as interaction, music as embodied action, and music as embedded in other domains of human life - appear particularly promising as foci on which research within both cognitive science and musicology might fruitfully converge.
A Polonaise Duet for a Professor, a King and a Merchant:
On Cantatas BWV 205, 205a, 216 and 216a by Johann Sebastian Bach
The duet of Pomona and Zephyrus, ‘Zweig und Äste’ from Johann Sebastian Bach’s dramma per musica entitled Zerreißet, zersprenget, zertrümmert die Gruf (Der zufriedengestellte Aeolus) BWV 205 (No. 13) is a typical sung German Polonaise. BWV 205 in its entirety was first performed on 3 August 1725 as part of the name-day celebrations of August Friedrich Müller, Professor of Philosophy and Rector of the University of Leipzig. The duet’s music was subsequently used by Bach in three other pieces: in the wedding cantata Vergnügte Pleissenstadt BWV 216 (No. 7), in the cantata Erwählte Pleissenstadt BWV 216a (No. 7, occasion unknown) and in the dramma per musica titled Blast Lärmen, ihr Feinde! Verstärket die Macht (BWV 205a) for the coronation of August III as King of Poland on 17 January 1734. Of those four works only BWV 205 has been preserved intact (as an original handwritten score). BWV 216 survives only in soprano and alto parts copied by Ch. G. Meißner, and only a handwritten and a printed version of the libretto survive for BWV 216a and BWV 205a respectively (with music excerpts incorporated in the score of BWV 205).
When did Bach first consider composing BWV 205 for the monarch? This is a particularly interesting question since the music of BWV 205, following some textual modifications, was reused in a work celebrating August III’s celebration as King of Poland. Bach also reused the same musical material in the Polonaise duets a number of times in BWV 205, 216, 216a and 205a which raises many questions including the motivation behind his use of the Polonaise form in those pieces. This paper is an attempt to answer those questions.
bars and numbers: Analytical coincidence or Bach’s design?
This paper describes the results of a long-term search for a historically-consistent theory of mathematical procedures in Johann Sebastian Bach’s compositions. The mathematical nature of Bach’s works has entered popular myth. Comments about the supposed numerical bases of his compositions date back to his lifetime, and were perpetuated in the obituary and later biographies. Theorists contemporary with Bach strongly imply that numerical ordering and the use of proportions were important to the composer, but tantalisingly they do not say how, nor with what a composer should order a composition or how he should create proportions. Was there a well-tried and tested numerical method underlying the general guidelines described by early eighteenth-century theorists? Did Bach use proportions to organise his works? And if so would it be possible to find them in his scores? Working from historical sources and the autograph scores the initial negative results of my research were overturned by an unexpected breakthrough which led to the formulation of the theory of proportional parallelism. The technical nature of the new theory is demonstrated in four parallel levels of numerical structure found in Sei Solo a Violino senza Basso accompagnato, the six violin sonatas and partitas, BWV 1001-1006. That these parallel proportions are found in all compositions Bach published or transcribed in Fair Copy raises important issues for the Bach scholar and editor, and demonstrates the far-reaching scope of the new theory.
Magdalena as Bach’s Copyist
Among the wives of eighteenth-century composers, no one is perhaps more favourably and affectionately described than Bach’s second wife, Anna Magdalena (1701–1760). She has been commonly pictured as her husband’s trusted assistant, copying his works in handwriting which closely resembled her husband’s beautiful calligraphy. No one appreciates her contributions more than today’s musicologists, for her copies are usually ‘neat and accurate’, and are often among the most important primary sources when Bach’s autographs do not survive. Occasionally, however, it is difficult to accommodate this patronising view of her role and its significance. It is well known, for instance, that her copy of Bach’s Cello Suites (BWV 1007–1012) contains an unusually large number of inaccuracies and copying errors. One must ask how many of these blunders should be ascribed to her. How would a ‘neat and accurate’ copyist produce such an error-ridden manuscript if she had made it from a fair copy?
In this paper, I shall first discuss Anna’s copies of Bach’s works, and see if any particular patterns or tendencies in her copying activities emerge when these are placed in this broader chronological context. In an attempt to evaluate her performance as a copyist, I shall look at typical situations in which she worked, while at the same time seeking to discover what additional values her copies may bring to our studies of Bach’s life and works.
Augen weint!’ Intersubjective Tears in the Sentimental Concert Hall
ISABELLA VAN ELFEREN
Theorists of Empfindsamkeit attributed social meaning to crying. Tears were considered a proof of virtue, or nobility of spirit. Both sentimental and penitential tears gained meaning when shed publicly, so that the world could view the weeper’s virtue. In this context, musical performances and concerts acquired an emphasized social dimension: while the musician could show his sensitivity by weeping during the performance, the audience could demonstrate theirs by shedding tears in response.
In this paper, I will propose a re-evaluation of sentimental and penitential tears from a performance-theoretical perspective, and investigate the role of music as a multi-layered performance art. In Graun’s oratorium Der Tod Jesu both types of contemporary tears are joined. These passages illustrate that empfindsam music was able both to evoke tears and to enforce their social function, as many tears were shed and shared during their performance.
Whereas sensitivity and repentance were described as private emotions, their tearful expression took place in the new public sphere of the bourgeois that Jürgen Habermas has described. In its functionality as a public arena for collective repentance, the mid-eighteenth-century concert hall can be interpreted as the stage on which music evoked the crossing of borders between private and public emotions.
Music and Newtonian Science: A Composer in Search of the Foundations of His Art
Christoph Wolff’s article further develops the picture of Bach he presented in Bach the Learned Musician (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2000), drawing a parallel between the scientific aspects of Bach’s musical creativity and Newtonian philosophy, and the fundamental changes and new principles they introduced to science and music respectively. Wolff highlights Bach's remarkable ability to integrate and synthesise the various parameters and components of his musical science and his highly developed sense for the creation of unified structures.