Johann Sebastian Bach: Genre-Bender Extraordinaire
One might say of Bach's time, it's unheard of to combine opera with a religious theme, my dear.
"It's unheard of to combine opera with a rock theme, my dear," Queen's Freddie Mercury told Circus Magazine in 1977. Mercury was referring to the critical reaction to the band's operatic single, 'Bohemian Rhapsody.' The song was slammed by some critics, as Mercury saw it, because "they couldn't put their finger on us."
Such reactions can be found throughout the history of musical innovation. Genre-benders make us uncomfortable.
This was certainly the case with Johann Sebastian Bach. According to the British conductor John Eliot Gardiner, the clergy of Bach's day "didn’t want him to compose music that was in any way operatic or theatrical." Why? The churchmen had a general anxiety, Gardiner writes in his book Bach: Music in the Castle of Heaven, "about religion borrowing the clothes of secular theatre." Moreover, the church was threatened by drama insofar as it lifted a religious text beyond church dogma and brought about conversations "between characters, between two voices, between several voices, between an instrument or several instruments and a voice," Gardiner says.
And so one might say of Bach's time, it's unheard of to combine opera with a religious theme, my dear.
And yet, Bach's church cantatas and Passions are full of drama, internalizing and dramatizing "the situation of the individual believer, spectator or hearer." According to Gardiner, the new form of Baroque music-drama that Bach created answers Gottfried Ephraim Scheibel's rhetorical observation: "I do not know why operas alone should have the privilege of squeezing tears from us; why is that not true in the church?"
"With never an opera to his name," Gardiner writes, Bach will be the one to work his way towards uncovering and releasing a dramatic potency in music beyond the reach of any of his peers."
Watch the video here:
Image courtesy of Shutterstock
Malcolm Gladwell teaches "Get over yourself and get to work" for Big Think Edge.
- Learn to recognize failure and know the big difference between panicking and choking.
- At Big Think Edge, Malcolm Gladwell teaches how to check your inner critic and get clear on what failure is.
- Subscribe to Big Think Edge before we launch on March 30 to get 20% off monthly and annual memberships.
We take fewer mental pictures per second.
- Recent memories run in our brains like sped-up old movies.
- In childhood, we capture images in our memory much more quickly.
- The complexities of grownup neural pathways are no match for the direct routes of young brains.
It's not just a case of "what doesn't kill you makes you stronger."
- A new study suggests children who endure trauma grow up to be adults with more empathy than others.
- The effect is not universal, however. Only one kind of empathy was greatly effected.
- The study may lead to further investigations into how people cope with trauma and lead to new ways to help victims bounce back.
It's one of the most consistent patterns in the unviverse. What causes it?
- Spinning discs are everywhere – just look at our solar system, the rings of Saturn, and all the spiral galaxies in the universe.
- Spinning discs are the result of two things: The force of gravity and a phenomenon in physics called the conservation of angular momentum.
- Gravity brings matter together; the closer the matter gets, the more it accelerates – much like an ice skater who spins faster and faster the closer their arms get to their body. Then, this spinning cloud collapses due to up and down and diagonal collisions that cancel each other out until the only motion they have in common is the spin – and voila: A flat disc.
SMARTER FASTER trademarks owned by The Big Think, Inc. All rights reserved.