Bach's Dialogue with Modernity: Perspectives on the Passions by John Butt

By John Butt

Supplying a close research of Bach's Passions, this ebook represents an enormous contribution to the controversy concerning the tradition of 'classical music', its origins, priorities and survival. The angles from which each and every bankruptcy proceeds fluctuate from these of a standard track consultant, via reading the Passions within the mild of the mindsets of modernity, and their interaction with previous versions of idea and trust. whereas the old info of Bach's composition, functionality and theological context stay the most important, the key obstacle of this research is to narrate those works to a old context which could, in a few threads at the least, nonetheless be appropriate at the present time. The relevant declare of the publication is that the interaction of conventional imperatives and people of early modernity renders Bach's Passions quite attention-grabbing as artefacts that either replicate and represent the various priorities and stipulations of the western international.

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By John Butt

Supplying a close research of Bach's Passions, this ebook represents an enormous contribution to the controversy concerning the tradition of 'classical music', its origins, priorities and survival. The angles from which each and every bankruptcy proceeds fluctuate from these of a standard track consultant, via reading the Passions within the mild of the mindsets of modernity, and their interaction with previous versions of idea and trust. whereas the old info of Bach's composition, functionality and theological context stay the most important, the key obstacle of this research is to narrate those works to a old context which could, in a few threads at the least, nonetheless be appropriate at the present time. The relevant declare of the publication is that the interaction of conventional imperatives and people of early modernity renders Bach's Passions quite attention-grabbing as artefacts that either replicate and represent the various priorities and stipulations of the western international.

Show description

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35 1 Bach’s Passions and the construction of early modern subjectivities It is my thesis in this chapter that one of the factors that has rendered the Matthew Passion so successful over the course of its reception lies in its evocation of subjectivities that somehow resonate with those of the broader modern condition. 2 Perhaps, given the difference in their respective receptions, the forms of subjectivity evoked in the Matthew Passion are more ‘modern’ than those of the John Passion. But, if the John Passion relates to different forms of subjectivity (or none at all), this may well be significant in relation to the work’s increased prestige during the course of the twentieth century.

I use the term ‘narrative’ here in its broadest sense, as covering the way human understanding is organized in relation to time, thus implying that most music evokes a sort of temporality, even if this may be relatively cyclical or even static. This broader concept of narrative is theorized at exhaustive length by Paul Ricoeur, in his Time and Narrative, trans. Kathleen McLaughlin and David Pellauer, 3 vols. (University of Chicago Press, 1984, 1985, 1988). Introduction between events passing in time, one is not just testing out a possible world, as one might in reading a novel, but exercising a real form of consciousness over time.

Consequently, most of the developments associated with modernity required precisely the kind of ‘cognitive provisionality’ developed in the novel, a sort of fiction that was accepted and fostered for some sort of practical convenience. The characters of novelistic fiction are open, inviting the reader to bring them to life, internalized in a way that would be impossible were they to represent actual people. This sort of internalization is not necessarily the direct identification with the characters that many critics of the perceived ‘bourgeois sensibility’ of the novel have assumed, but something much more open and flexible, enabling the reader to reflect on his or her own unfathomability in contrast to the knowability of the novelistic character.

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