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Thread: Bach and Luther

  1. #1
    Victor Redseal

    Default Bach and Luther

    [This thread will be in installments. Before we can really talk about the role of Bach and Luther in Germanic culture, we'll have to get into some background to gain historical perspective.]


    The nation of Germany is really a relatively recent development. As far back as 100 BCE, the Romans listed a region of central Europe they called Germania but it was little more than a territory populated by various tribes the Romans were always trying to conquer. One of those tribes was called the Cherusci among whom the Romans discovered a seemingly invincible warrior they called Arminius. The Cherusci tribe came from the region known as Germania Magna. There were two other regions sharing the name Germania—Germania Inferior and Germania Superior—which were held by the Romans while Germania Magna was was as yet unconquered and populated by the Germanic tribes as well as Gauls. Celts, Slavs and others.

    Julius Caesar understood the warlike tribes in the area called themselves Germani although the meaning of the name is not clear. Tacitus detailed the war between the Romans and Germani in his accounts. The Cherusci had united other tribes in Germania Magna against the Romans. Arminius had lived in Rome when he was younger and was given a Roman education and trained in the Roman martial arts. He was the son of a chieftain name Segimir. The Romans took Arminius and his brother, Flavus, to Rome to serve as hostages. They would be shown and treated to the best Rome had to offer including Roman schooling and citizenship as well as the rank of petty noble but their presence was to ensure that the Germani behaved themselves. Any uprisings or acts of war would result in the deaths of Segimir’s sons.

    Arminius, however, proved to be a brave soldier and an able commander and was given control of his own Roman detachment in Germania Magna. When the Romans began pushing into lands east of the Rhine under the command of Varus, appointed governor by Augustus, Arminius secretly began uniting tribes against the Roman encroachment. In 9 CE, with a major rebellion in the Balkans that required eight of the eleven legions in Germania, Varus had only three legions left to fight off any attacking Germani. Arminius then baited a trap for Varus and his men by luring them out to Kalkriese Hill in the Teutoburg Forest where they were ambushed by superior Germanic forces and defeated. It would be a good five years before the Romans would be able to defeat Arminius but Tiberius decided to keep the border of the Roman-occupied region at the Rhine River in 17 CE which was essentially a victory for Arminus who died fours years later, murdered by some of his fellow tribesmen who feared he was becoming too powerful. Arminus is also known as Hermann but this appears to be a 19th century name change. Despite the similarity of “German” and “Hermann,” Germany was not named after him. The defeat of the Romans in the Teutoburg Forest has far-reaching implications. The Romans lost their appetite for conquest of Germania Magna which would eventually give birth to the country of Germany.

    By the third century CE, the Roman Empire had divided into western and eastern halves on the orders of Diocletian. The year is given as 284 CE. The empire was simply too vast to be run from only one seat of power. Diocletian would govern the Western Empire (which spoke Latin) from Milan and Maximian would govern the Eastern Empire (which spoke Greek) from Byzantium and so the Eastern Empire is more famously known to history as the Byzantine Empire (although they called themselves Romans). Migrations to and assaults on the Western Empire were carried out mainly of Goths, Huns, Bulgars, Franks and Vandals which pushed the Empire to the brink of dissolution. For example, prior to Diocletian’s order to split the empire, Rome was already fracturing. The army had taken on so many Goths and Germani and what not that much of the army was mercenary and these mercenaries were only loyal to their commanders rather than to Rome (which few of them had ever visited). Meanwhile, the Eastern Empire got along nicely and, in 324, the emperor, Constantine, renamed Byzantium after himself—Constantinople—and the city was consecrated in 330. Constantine declared it the new capital of the entire empire and moved there.

    The numerous invasions of the Western Empire were taking a toll on its finances. The wars were expensive and this resulted in very high taxation rates among the citizenry which was hard pressed trying to keep up with the payments. Plus the mercenary army had to be paid in gold or they would mutiny. Generals became warlords and proclaimed themselves emperor. There were literally dozens of these warlords with sizable mercenary armies all insisting that they were emperor of Rome. Corruption within the government was rife and the military was angry about it which affected morale. In 410, the Visigoths under Alaric sacked Rome. Then the Vandals took the city in 455 leaving the bureaucracy teetering. In 476, Odoacer, a Germanic king, deposed Romulus Augustus, who had been proclaimed emperor less than a year before and took his place as emperor and sending Romulus into exile and no Roman ruler would ever return to reclaim the throne. The Empire collapsed and Western Europe, for the first time in centuries, had no emperor (although the Byzantine Empire would continue strong for another thousand years). The period after the collapse is often referred to as the Dark Ages.

    Although we have been conditioned to regard the Dark Ages as this period when Europe fell into anti-intellectualism and superstition, there is not much evidence to support this. In fact, many historians refuse to use this term to describe that period preferring instead to call it the Early Middle Ages. There was serfdom but slavery was abolished during this period while the Romans had been over-reliant on slavery (it was one of the many things that destroyed the Western Empire). Public health organizations and charities started during this time. Reading and writing actually flourished comparatively speaking and there was much leisure time for everything from card-playing to archery competitions to pitching horseshoes. Wars were small and usually over very quickly because armies were necessarily small, there not being much money to raise large ones.

    In the wake of the collapse of Western Empire, a tribe from the Middle and Lower Rhine flourished in that region. They were called the Franks. Being a very large tribe, some Frankish groups were Roman allies while other antagonized them. Still others were mercenaries in the Roman army. The Romans recognized the Frankish Kingdom (Regnum Francorum) in 357. After the collapse, the Franks found themselves under constant assault by Vikings and were united under the Merovingian rulers a.k.a the Meerwings. The Meerwings were Salian Franks. They believed their lineage began after a fish-man or lizard-man raped a human maiden and impregnated her and she gave birth to the Merovingian line. The first Meerwing ruler was Clovis I, who was crowned King in 496. The Meerwing Dynasty ruled for the next three centuries but, as time wore on, the Merovingian kings exercised less and less power. The real power behind the throne were the Carolingians who consolidated their power under Charles Martel, the Mayor of the Palace (Maior Domus) and Duke of the Franks in 718. Martel called all the shots until his death in 741.

    Martel was mainly concerned about encroachment from the Muslims whom he defeated at the Battle of Tours in 732. Martel had two sons, Pepin III and Carloman. Upon his death, Pepin became Mayor of the Palace and he and Carloman ran things behind the scenes until 752 when Childeric III, a mere figurehead and last of the Meerwings, was deposed by Pope Zachary at the behest of Pepin and Carloman (who installed him in the first place). By that time, the Frankish Empire encompassed nearly all of Western Europe. Two years later, Pope Stephen II named Pepin the king and he ruled under the moniker of Pepin the Short until his death in 768.

    Upon the death of Pepin the Short, his sons, Charles and Carloman were co-rulers. Carloman died mysteriously in 771 and King Charles I became the sole King of the Franks. In 774, Charles, a devout Catholic, defeated then declared himself king of the Lombards of Northern Italy to prevent them from opposing the pope. On Christmas Day in 800, Charles was declared the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire by Pope Leo III while Charles was visiting Rome. Apparently, he did not want this title but was tricked into accepting it by Leo. Charles expanded the Empire and converted pagan areas to Christianity. He never learned to read nor write (although he constantly practiced his letters) but championed education and had schools built throughout the empire.

    Charles became known to history as Karolus Magnus, Charlemagne or Charles the Great. The Germans call him Karl der Grosse. His biographer, Eginhard (some sources say Einhard), gave a good profile of the man. While the later medieval period depicted him with long, unruly, white hair and a long beard and mustache and adorned in long flowing robes, Eginhard described Charlemagne as wearing short close-cropped, black hair that he sometimes grew to his shoulders but no longer. He was usually clean-shaven but often sported a pencil-thin mustache. He spurned elegant clothing and preferred rugged hunting attire.

    Charlemagne’s monogram. He practiced his letters although he remained illiterate throughout his life. KRLS stands for “Karolus.” This was his official mark.

    He was married four times and had at least three children although only one, Louis, survived him. Culture flourished well under Charlemagne who ruled from his court in Aachen (Aix-la-Chapelle) in what is now in North Rhine-Westphalia. There are lots of stories about him which may or may not be true. One such story is that Charlemagne championed education and so once dropped in on a children’s school unannounced and observed a boy misbehaving and so grabbed the child and spanked him soundly. In another case, he bade his courtiers go hunting with him dressed as they were—in their fine, expensive clothing. When they returned, their clothes were filthy and tattered. Charlemagne then admonished them for spending inordinate amounts of money on clothing that had no practical value.

    Charlemagne died in 814 and became recognized as first true emperor in Western Europe since the collapse of the Roman Empire. Supposedly, Charlemagne loved music and had an open door policy at the palace where people could go in and play songs they knew or had written themselves. If Charlemagne liked the song, he would have a scribe skilled in musical notation write it down and it would then be preserved in the court’s library. Many of these songs were quite ribald but Charlemagne was apparently quite fond of such songs. By the time of his death, there were reportedly thousands of these songs in the library. His son, Louis the Pious, as his name suggests disliked the profane pieces and, upon becoming emperor, had this sheet music burned. If true, the world was deprived of an invaluable source of music from the Dark Ages.

    Charlemagne as remembered for posterity. He is shown wearing the “hoop crown” of the Holy Roman Empire but this crown did not exist until the 11th century. What crown Leo III allegedly placed on Charlemagne’s head on Christmas Day in 800 is not known.

    Charlemagne on a Frankish coin depicting him as a Roman emperor but the likeness is probably closer to his true appearance.

    The Frankish Empire

    Louis’s reign was an unsteady one. He had to put down rebellions a fair amount and jailed King Bernard of Italy in 817 for leading a rebellion against him (Bernard died in prison a year later). Louis probably only maintained the empire simply because he was the son of the greatest ruler of Western Europe. In those days, the Franks did not yet practice primogeniture where the only eldest son inherits his father’s throne so, to maintain control of the empire, Louis made his three sons co-rulers by splitting the empire into three slices. His eldest son, Lothair was King of Italy and co-emperor, Pepin was King of Aquitaine and Louis the German was King of Bavaria.

    In 823, Louis attempted to bring his fourth son, Charles the Bald, into the co-rulership but his other sons objected. They didn’t like splitting the kingdom anymore than it already had been. Six years later, Lothair was stripped of his titles and exiled to Italy apparently by his father. His sons then attacked and dethroned Louis in 830. The following year, Louis attacked his sons and again stripped Lothair of his titles and gave Italy to Charles the Bald. Lothair, Pepin and Louis the German then revolted in 832 and dethroned and imprisoned by Louis and Charles. In 835, family peace broke out and Louis was returned to the throne. When Pepin died in 838, Louis declared Charles the Bald as King of Aquitaine even though others wanted Pepin’s son, Pepin II, to succeed his father.

    Louis the Pious died in 840 and Lothair declared himself the emperor of the entire Frankish Empire. Needless to say, this didn’t sit well with his brothers who joined forces and attacked Lothair’s army at Fontenoy-en-Puisaye in 841. Lothair’s army was defeated and so he retreated to Aachen. When Louis and Charles caught up to Lothair, he was trying to raise an army against them but he was no match for the combined forces of his two brothers. Louis and Charles declared Lothair unfit to hold the titles of emperor of the Franks and Holy Roman Emperor. On February 12, 842, Louis, Charles and their respective armies met in Strasbourg. The Oaths of Strasbourg were drawn up with Louis representing the kingdom of East Francia and Charles of West Francia. The Oaths were written in Caroline miniscule in Medieval Latin, Old Gallo-Romance and Old High German. Charles’s kingdom spoke Gallo-Romance, Louis’s kingdom spoke Old High German and Latin was the lingua franca of that time.

    Each ruler addressed the assembly and gave the same speech pledging allegiance to his brother and condemning Lothair. Each brother spoke in the language of his brother’s kingdom. But then the oaths also extended to the soldiers themselves. Each had to swear that if his ruler broke the oath and tried to move against his brother, they would be honor-bound not to assist him in any way.

    Rather than find himself locked out of rulership, Lothair gave in and in August of 843, the Treaty of Verdun was drawn up between Lothair, Louis and Charles. Lothair was named king of Middle Francia including Aachen and Rome, Louis was given East Francia, Charles received West Francia and he granted Aquitaine to Pepin II. At this point, historians agree, France and Germany were formed although the borders would shift significantly over the years.

    Not until 962 would the Holy Roman Empire be established in a succession that would last centuries. That year, Otto I was crowned as the emperor by Pope John XII. The Holy Roman Empire was, for all intents and purposes, Germany. Different parts of the Empire were under the control of different families as the Hohenstaufens of Swabia, the Hohenzollerns of Brandenburg-Prussia and the Hapsburgs of Austria and Spain (the Hapsburgs actually had their own empire which was both within and without the Holy Roman Empire).

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  3. #2
    Victor Redseal



    When we talk about the many composers of Europe, rarely is Martin Luther (1483-1546) mentioned even though he was quite accomplished on lute and flute as well as a fine tenor singer and knew his music theory well enough to compose and to correct musical errors in other people’s manuscripts. He also wrote a large amount of poetry.

    Luther was born, the eldest of several siblings, in Eisleben, Saxony in the central German free state known as Thuringia in 1483, part of the Holy Roman Empire run by the Habsburgs but essentially under control of the Vatican. He was schooled in grammar, rhetoric and logic in the cities of Mansfeld, Magdeburg and Eisenach. He was also taught Latin and music. He sang hymns at masses with his classmates and was taught music theory and joined a choir. Luther also freelanced a bit singing at weddings and funerals for small payments. He was also recognized even in his teens as a fine poet. He matriculated at the University of Erfurt at age 19 and graduated with both a bachelor’s and master’s degree in 1505. His father, Hans, had hopes that his son would become a lawyer. Martin matriculated in law school but immediately dropped out. He had no interest in the fickle laws of men and felt himself drawn to theological and philosophical matters. He joined the Augustinian order in July of that year.

    His early musical training came in handy as the Augustinians sang the psalms extensively and Luther had been long adept at Psalm-singing. He sang his first mass in 1507. But Luther had demons. His conscience bothered him a great deal. Perhaps Luther had a prudish character where even ordinary feelings of desire were signs of moral failure to him. Perhaps the schoolboy urge to ********** struck him as morally degenerate. Perhaps his desires were of a more taboo nature—towards children or other men. We’ll never likely know but we do know he was sorely vexed by his conscience and this vexation was almost certainly of a sexual nature. So vexed was he that Luther felt himself a failure in the eyes of God.

    Luther’s original view of God was not an all-loving, all-forgiving deity but one that was easily angered and justice-driven. God cannot be just and forgiving simultaneously—He was either one or the other. God either forgave sin or he punished it. In Luther’s mind, God does not, cannot forgive sin and justice was harsh. But then Luther had an epiphany while reading the epistles of Paul (who, like Luther, was inexplicably plagued by demons that he wrestled with endlessly). Luther wrote:

    I greatly longed to understand Paul’s epistle to the Romans and nothing stood in the way but that one expression, “the justice of God,” because I took it to mean that justice whereby God is just and deals justly in punishing the unjust. My situation was that, although an impeccable monk, I stood before God as a sinner troubled in conscience, and I had no confidence that my merit would assuage him. Therefore I did not love a just and angry God, but rather hated and murmured against Him. Yet, I clung to the dear Paul and had a great yearning to know what he meant.

    Night and day I pondered until I saw the connection between the justice of God and the statement that “the just shall live by his faith.” Then I grasped that the justice of God is that righteousness by which through grace and sheer mercy God justifies us through faith. Thereupon I felt myself to be reborn and to have gone through open doors into paradise. The whole of Scripture took on a new meaning, and whereas before the “justice of God” had filled me with hate, now it became to me inexpressibly sweet in greater love. This passage of Paul became to me a gate to heaven…

    If you have a true faith that Christ is your saviour, then at once you have a gracious God, for your faith leads you in and opens up God’s heart and will, that you should see pure grace and overflowing love. This it is to behold God in faith that you should look upon His fatherly, friendly heart, in which there is no anger nor ungraciousness. He who sees God as angry does not see him rightly but looks only on a curtain, as if a dark cloud had been drawn across his face.

    Luther now saw many of the doctrines of the Church were not in keeping with scripture and he began to criticize these doctrines. In 1517, to raise money to build more churches, Pope Leo X authorized Bishop Albert of Brandenburg another bishopric if he managed the sales of indulgences that forgave all the sins of the bearer. These indulgences were slips of paper (vellum actually) guaranteeing merit from the saints transferred to the bearer that offset or erased the sins of the bearer—in this case, all sins ever committed by the bearer. Luther criticized this practice as unethical. All that was needed to remit sin, he said, was faith in Christ. Whether Luther was correct about the power of faith is something I leave to the religious among us to argue over (I am not a member of that group) but his belief that the selling of indulgences were unethical certainly sounds correct to me.

    Luther then wrote in Latin 95 points of debate concerning the questionable doctrines of the Church and posted them on the door of the Wittenberg Church for the scholars to debate. Theologian Johann Eck, who had been a close friend of Luther’s up to this point, condemned the theses as being one in league with the Bohemian Brethren—the followers of Czech reformer, Jan Hus (1369-1415), who opposed the Church and was burned at stake for his troubles. The Bohemian Brethren went onto found the Moravian Church.

    Several people, however, translated these 95 theses into German and soon the common man was hearing about them. Many Germans agreed with Luther and the sales of the indulgences tapered off significantly. Leo issued a bull in 1520 informing Luther that he had 60 days to retract his words or face excommunication. Luther tore it up when it was delivered to him (other sources say he burned it). He also burned a book of Church law declaring, “Because you, godless book, have grieved or shamed the holiness of the Father, be saddened and consumed by the eternal flames of Hell!” He was declared an outlaw by the Church and excommunicated on January 3, 1521.

    The Protestant Reformation had begun. Luther wasn’t the only reformer. There were others such as John Calvin, Ulrich Zwingli and, later, Henry VIII, but Luther was, by far, the best known among them. Luther was a master propagandist in that he made great use of the printing press to distribute his writings and he published far more than all the other reformers combined. While Luther’s ideas were not unique, others before him, as Hus, had advocated for similar changes, the printing press enabled Luther to propagate these ideas to a far wider audience than ever before. Charles V, the Holy Roman Emperor, offered Luther safe passage to the Diet of Worms in 1521. There he was asked to recant his many writings which he refused to do. Eck got Luther to admit to being in line with the Hussites on several issues specifically in denying the authority of the pope. Charles then declared Luther an outlaw but he was protected by his lord and benefactor, Prince Frederic III (also known as Friedrich the Wise).

    Frederic hid Luther in Wartburg Castle in Eisenach where he went incognito by growing his hair out and also grew a beard. Luther changed his name to Junker Jörg (Knight George). He suffered both mentally and physically. He wrote that he had constipation so acute that great effort was required to produce a bowel movement. Once a dog crawled into bed with him but Luther was convinced that it was Satan taking the form of an animal and tossed it out a window. To make himself useful, Luther began translating the New Testament from Erasmus’s Greek to Saxon German. This “September Testament,” which Luther finished in only three months, was published in 1522 and quickly became popular throughout Germany. In so doing, Luther made great contributions to standardizing the German language and, by 1534, an entire German bible was being printed. Modern spoken and literary German is largely an outgrowth of Luther’s efforts in translating scripture. Prior to this, Germans in the Empire spoke a wide variety of dialects to the point people in adjacent states oe provinces were unintelligible to the other.

    By 1522, Wittenburg was the heart of Reformation and the reformists were getting the upper hand. Three Wittenburg priests the year prior had married in a service that had been altered for the clergy. That same year, Philipp Melanchthon (who was the chief editor of the September Testament) saw the publication of his Loci communes which was the teachings of Luther that became the foundation of Protestant theology. The atmosphere had changed so much that Luther left Wartburg Castle and returned to Wittenburg after 10 months of seclusion.

    In 1524, a peasant revolt took place against the princes. The peasants were inspired in part by the writings of Luther but he took the side of the princes. Luther was no fool in the matter. He knew what outcome he wanted and it had nothing to do with the peasants’ goals. The princes were actively using Luther to break the hold of the Church in Germany and nothing could be allowed to interfere with that. Luther chose his words carefully. He blamed both sides for certain injustices but ultimately said that work was a necessary duty for any state to function. The job of the peasants and farmers was to work the land. The job of the aristocracy was to keep the peace. Since the peasants were breaking the peace, he could not support their cause. The revolt was put down the following year (with 300,000 or so peasants killed without achieving anything).

    On January 21, 1530, Charles V called the Imperial Diet to meet at Augsburg on April 8th to discuss various religious matters concerning the Turks. The Protestant leaders were immediately suspicious despite the friendly tone of the message. Having been branded an outlaw by both the Church and the Holy Roman Emperor, Luther could not possibly attend the diet without being immediately arrested. Yet Luther was far too important to be ignored. Something would have to be worked out. The Prince-Elector Johann of Saxony (also known as John the Steadfast), a patron of Luther, called a meeting with Luther and other Protestant leaders including Melanchthon in Torgau in order to lay out before the Holy Roman Emperor a summary of the Lutheran faith that would be presented at the diet. The result was the Torgau Articles—28 articles, 21 of which laid out the Lutheran faith and seven which criticized the Catholic Church:

    The group journeyed to Augsburg from Torgau but stopped in Coburg to drop off Luther who was invited to live for a time at the castle of Johann of Saxony where Luther would stay for the next five-and-a-half months. At Augsburg, Melanchthon stood in as Luther’s representative and the Torgau Articles were dubbed the Augsburg Confession. In response, the Church issued a Confutation of the Confession which Charles tried to enforce (although it was badly written and poorly prepared). Melanchthon then issued an Apology that refuted the Confutation and reaffirmed the Confession.

    While at Coburg Castle, Luther devised a symbol of his faith and his church which he explained in a letter to Lazarus Spengler dated July 8, 1530:

    Grace and peace in Christ!
    Honorable, kind, dear Sir and Friend! Since you ask whether my seal has come out correctly, I shall answer most amiably and tell you of those thoughts which now come to my mind about my seal as a symbol of my theology.

    There is first to be a cross, black and placed in a heart, which should be of its natural color [red], so that I myself would be reminded that faith in the Crucified saves us. For if one believes from the heart he will be justified. Even though it is a black cross, which mortifies and which also should hurt us, yet it leaves the heart in its natural color and does not ruin nature; that is, the cross does not kill but keeps man alive. For the just man lives by faith, but by faith in the Crucified One. Such a heart is to be in the midst of a white rose, to symbolize that faith gives joy, comfort, and peace; in a word it places the believer into a white joyful rose; for this faith does not give peace and joy as the world gives and, therefore, the rose is to be white and not red, for white is the color of the spirits and of all the angels. Such a rose is to be in a sky-blue field, symbolizing that such joy in the Spirit and in faith is a beginning of the future heavenly joy; it is already a part of faith, and is grasped through hope, even though not yet manifest. And around this field is a golden ring, symbolizing that in heaven such blessedness lasts forever and has no end, and in addition is precious beyond all joy and goods, just as gold is the most valuable and precious metal.

    May Christ, our dear Lord, be with your spirit until the life to come. Amen.

    The German princes then formed a military alliance called the Schmalkaldic League and encouraged as many cities and states to join it as they could get. The only condition was that the city or state in question accepted the Augsburg Confession and the Apology. Henry VIII supported the Confession and the Schmalkaldic League but could not join it due to various religious and internal squabbles going on in England. In 1540, Melanchthon revised the Confession in order to get John Calvin’s support. This revised Confession is called the Variata which many Protestant churches refused to recognize.

    The year of Luther’s death, 1546, a war finally broke out between the forces of Charles V and the Schmalkaldic League and, by 1547, the Holy Roman forces had pretty much routed the League. Yet Charles could not subjugate the Reformation and, eight years later, was forced to sign a treaty called “The Peace of Augsburg” in 1555 that recognized Lutheranism as legal within the Holy Roman Empire. By that time, Lutheranism was all but the state religion of Germany. By 1580, the Book of Concord was published in Dresden as Lutheranism moved into other areas of Europe. In it was a series of documents compiled by Jakob Andreae and Martin Chemnitz in which the Lutheran faith was defined. The Augsburg Confession and Apology are included as well as Luther’s Small and Large Cathechisms and the Smalcald Articles but the Confession is the central document of Lutheran doctrine while the other documents reinforce or expand up on it. The book is considered the complete doctrine and credo of the Lutheran faith.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Sep-23-2017 at 02:30.

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  5. #3
    Victor Redseal


    The Counter Reformation

    The Catholic Church had been in internal squabbles over corruption in its ranks since at least the 13th century. The Benedictines and Cistercians had been reformed in the 14th century and the Minim Friars had formed out the reforms of the St. Francis of Assisi in the 15th century. But with the advent of Luther, deep and broad reform of the entire Church became a pressing necessity. The Capuchins, who splintered off from the Franciscans, formed in 1520, when the order’s founder, a friar named Matteo de Bascio, sought to get back to the practices of St. Francis—a life penance and solitude. The Theatines formed in 1524 who rejected the idea of parishes and formed congregations instead under the direct authority of a bishop. In 1535, an all-female order was formed in Brescia, Italy by Angela Merici in dedication to St. Ursula and appropriately known as the Usulines, who ministered to the sick and advocated for the education of girls. The Society of Jesus (Jesuits), which was founded in 1540 by a former-military nobleman called Ignatius Loyola, took vows of “poverty, chastity and obedience” (to the Pope) with a military-like structure.

    The longer the financial misconduct and issuance of indulgences went on in the Church, the more people were turning to the Protestant heretics. Finally, Pope Paul III called a meeting at Trent starting in 1545 to discuss possible redresses of grievances and need for reforms. The Council of Trent kicked off what became known to posterity as the Counter Reformation, the importance of which cannot be underestimated. The council lasted for eight years and, while some reforms were instituted (such as absentee bishops), the council reaffirmed the position of the Church in relation to Protestantism. The Protestant position of faith-over-works was rejected. Citing James 2:26, the council stated that faith without works was dead. The council also affirmed that the glory of god (and the Church’s theology) is found in art and architecture. Reaffirming works and exalting art and architecture went hand-in-hand since our work was supposed to be in imitation of God’s creation of the world. The real reason was that the Church was the largest holder of art and architecture in Europe. The art and architecture, however, must not arouse carnal desires but depicting a battered, bloodied and tortured Christ was fine. Artists as Reubens, Tintorentto, Rembrandt and El Greco were approved of while others as Michaelangelo and Veronese were not. Church music likewise most contain no untoward or immodest lyrics and all secular elements should be removed. Although we regard Michaelangelo’s Sistine Chapel as some of the greatest art ever produced in human history, it was repeatedly attacked as immoral during the Counter Reformation, its nudity was painted over and remained that way for centuries.

    The problem with the Peace of Augsburg was that it did not recognize the Calvinists nor the Anabaptists (the “twice-baptized” which included the Mennonites, the Amish and the Hutterites). Under the Augsburg Peace Treaty, these groups, though Protestant, could still be charged with heresy even under Lutheran authority and the desperate measures taken by these groups, particularly the Calvinists, took to preserve their faith led to a major calamity known as the Thirty Years’ War.

    The Thirty Years’ War

    In 1609, the Catholic League was formed in southern Germany under the authority of Maximilian I, duke of Bavaria, as a reaction the formation of the Protestant Union in 1608. Maximilian’s top general was Johann Tserclaes, count of Tilly, who is generally referred to simply as Tilly.

    Bohemia was the seat of the Holy Roman Empire where, by 1618, Ferdinand II was heir apparent as king. He looked with disapproval upon the religious freedoms enjoyed by the Protestants of Bohemia and sought to curtail them and reestablish the supremacy of the Catholic Church. The Protestants under Ferdinand’s rule revolted and appealed for aid from the Protestants outside Bohemia and to countries as the Dutch Republic, Denmark and Great Britain for aid. German Protestants also lent support to the Bohemian cause. Ferdinand, in turn, called upon the Catholic League centered in Bavaria (the home of the German Catholics since the Counter Reformation), Spain and the Vatican to assist him. Tilly’s troops began systematically putting down the revolt. The following year, Ferdinand was elected as the Holy Roman Emperor.

    In 1620, the Protestant and Catholic forces battled at White Mountain near Prague. The Protestants, under command of Frederick V, the newly crowned King of Bohemia, were defeated by Tilly’s army and a purge of Protestantism from the realm of Habsburgs began. The aristocrats who backed the Protestant forces were executed and Protestant schools were closed.

    By 1621, Ferdinand focused his attention on the German Protestants whom he feared could carry on the war. By 1626, Ferdinand found his own general, Albert von Wallenstein and the Catholic League began an inexorable decline. By 1629, the Protestants were overrun in Germany and Denmark and then Ferdinand laid claim to their lands for the Church via the Edict of Restitution. The German princes who resisted the Empire were not Lutheran, however, they were overwhelmingly Calvinist. Ironically, the religious aspect of the war was driven by them because they refused to ally themselves with any Catholic or Orthodox nations who could have been of assistance.

    With the princes purged by the Empire, the task of taking up the Protestant cause fell, once again, to the Lutherans. They opened lines of communication with France and Russia who also expressed a desire to curb the power of the Empire. The Protestants might have been nothing more than a footnote in history had not Swedish forces under King Gustavus Aldolphus (Gustav II Adolf) arrived in Germany in 1630, without any allies, to drive the Imperialist forces from the country. He was not unanimously welcomed by the various Protestant princes such as George William of the state of Brandenburg who refused to aid the Swedish king allowing the city of Magdeburg, which Gustav had hoped to salvage, to fall to the Empire. Prince John George of Saxony, however, broke his neutrality agreement when the Empire violated it and allied himself with Gustav. The Swedish-Saxon alliance met the Imperial forces at the Battle of Breitenfeld in 1631 and routed them. They then swept easily through central Germany driving out the Imperial army.

    Gustav was quite an innovator in the area of warfare. He defeated the Imperial forces using what the U.S. unsuccessfully attempted in its invasion of the Iraq in the 21st century—shock-and-awe. He employed smaller, leaner fighting units using lighter artillery, combining infantry and cavalry, and the use of missiles to frighten and disorient the enemy. With northern and central Germany under his control and knowing that the German Protestants could not persevere without him, Gustav next decided to form an alliance of German princes. This alliance was called the Corpus Evangelicorum a.k.a. the Protestant League, which operated under his direct authority. By 1632, the League consisted only of the southern German states, those most in need of protection from the Empire—Brandenburg and Saxony, for example, were not included.

    In 1632, Gustav led his army into Bavaria and managed to take Munich. On November 6, a fierce battle took place at Lützen which the Swedes won at the price of Gustav himself who was killed. The hold of the Catholic League had lessened considerably and with the defeat of Tilly and the death of Gustav it had no reason to continue existing would dissolve altogether in 1634. The following year, it was banned from ever reforming by the Peace of Prague which outlawed the forming of military confederations within the Empire.

    In 1634, ironically at the time the Catholic League disintegrated, a Spanish contingent arrived at Nordlingen in Germany to rout the Swedish forces which had the effect of forcing the Protestants out of southern Germany. Although this looked like a good deal for the Imperialists, it did not sit well with France. Although primarily Catholic, France felt it was being encircled by the Habsburg Imperialists and so declared war on Spain in 1635 and on the Holy Roman Emperor in 1636.

    For the next dozen years, Germany became a battleground for France, Sweden, Spain and Austria. The war was a horrific struggle of finding resources for each army and keeping resources from falling into the hands of enemies. Caught in the middle were the German villagers. Entire villages were often laid waste on nothing more than the suspicion that they could aid the enemy. Entire fields of crops were destroyed to keep them from possibly falling into enemy hands which resulted in widespread famine. German villagers were killed or died of starvation in the hundreds of thousands resulting in the depopulation of large swaths of the German states—as much as 50% in some areas. The cities fared better than the villages but many cities had had their economies and trade destroyed.

    In 1643, French forces defeated the Spanish at Rocroi while the Swedes defeated Imperialist force at Junkau in 1645. The Catholic and Imperialist hold on Germany was finally irrevocably broken. In 1648, the Holy Roman Emperor, Ferdinand III, agreed to a peace. This accord is known as the Peace of Westphalia which consisted of three treaties where the warring powers agreed to cease all hostilities and the Thirty Years’ War ended. The Peace of Westphalia also brought a halt to the Eighty Years’ War between Spain and the Dutch Republic with Spain recognizing Dutch independence.

    While the war had been devastating to Germany, it brought an end to the religious alignments of wars in continental Europe. While wars still happened, of course, sides were generally not taken based on state religion and so tended to be smaller and less costly. Not until World War II would such devastation once again be visited upon Germany.

    The Role of Music in the Reformation

    While in his room at the castle, Luther was depressed and convinced he was nearing the end of his life. He wrote to his fellow composer, Ludwig Senfl, who sent him a motet he had written titled, Non omoriar sed vivam (I will not die, but live and declare the works of the Lord) based on Psalm 17:118 and the motet filled Luther with inspiration and determination to fight back against his opponents. He would later write his own arrangement of the piece.

    This incident may have influenced the role of music in the Reformation. Rather than music representing the Church over and above the congregation performed by choirs and skilled musicians as it was under Catholicism, music in the Reformation was envisioned as an expression of the faith of the congregation itself rather than an expression of the institution. The entire congregation was to participate in the making of music. We could go so far as to say that the Reformation was born of music.

    The music must not supplant the words because the words, said the reformers, were the words of God. The words must not be hidden or buried but up front, clear and completely audible. The music was to exalt the words. Indeed the Reformation has often been characterized chiefly as “the triumph of the word.” Protestants separated vocal music from the complex polyphony favored by the Church into soprano, alto, tenor and bass (or baritone).

    The singing of hymns by the congregation also had the effect of allowing the average person to participate in the religion of the word. One of the things many don’t know today was that the Church forbade bibles among the masses. Only certain people were allowed to have them—priests, scholars, monks and very wealthy patrons. Since the vast majority of the masses were illiterate, there wasn’t much point to them having bibles anyway. This changed in England under Henry VIII under the Reformation when an English bible was available in every parish and household that could afford one and usually kept where servants could have access to it even if they couldn’t read. The singing of hymns in the house put the commoner in touch with the religion of the word that had previously been denied them. The Protestant psalm book was very popular among the masses and by 1640 one million copies were distributed throughout England and Scotland. Through song, the masses could now learn scripture and hence grapple with the problem of sin and guilt without need to confess to a clergyman. The psalms also became Protestant battle cries in their wars and skirmishes with the Catholics.

    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Sep-23-2017 at 02:49.

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  7. #4
    Victor Redseal



    In the years following the end of the Thirty Years War, the Holy Roman Empire had dwindled considerably leaving Germany subdivided into a number of Länder or federated states. These Länder consisted of duchies, city-states and principalities that were independent but, being federated, were loosely allied. These areas differed from one another culturally and linguistically, speaking different dialects of German. One of these Länder was located in central Germany and called Thuringia.

    Johann Sebastian Bach was born March 31, 1685 in Thuringia (although the date was March 21 if one uses the calendar of Bach’s time) in the city of Eisenach.

    Eisenach in the 17th century.

    The name Bach derives from Middle High German and means stream, creek or brook. But other sources say that it is also an old German word for a baker and that makes sense for our purposes. The Bachs of Thuringia were already a famous clan of musicians by 1685. Fortunately, we know about many of Bach’s musical forebears because, in 1735, Bach wrote a genealogy called Origin of the Musical Bach Family.

    The original musical Bach was Johannes Hans Bach who was known simply as Hans. He was the great-grandfather of Sebastian whom he said was the son of a Hungarian named Veit or Vitus Bach (1520-1619) “a white bread baker” who, because of his Lutheran faith, was forced to flee from Hapsburg-dominated Hungary and settled in Wechmar in Thuringia. Hans followed in his father’s footsteps as a baker but, like his amateur musician father, had a deep love for music and became a professional piper and composer. Piper was a popular occupation among musicians and every town of any stature had its own municipal piper band or Stadtpfeifer playing an array of shawms and sackbuts for various official functions. Hans’s penchant for playing must have been well known to people in the area because they called him “der Spielman” or the Player which implies he must have played more than one instrument. One would think the organ would have also been in his repertoire. Veit had an older brother also named Hans about whom very little is known. Who their father was is not known.

    Johannes Hans Bach (1580-1626), a baker by trade. This may actually be a portrait of Veit Bach because, according to Sebastian, Veit “found the greatest pleasure in a little cittern which he took with him even into the mill.” A cittern is a small primitive lute and one can see a small, stringed instrument in his hand but, according Sebastian, Hans was a piper. Then again, perhaps Hans was adept on both instruments.

    Hans’s first son (or perhaps his second since Veit also apparently had a son named Veit about whom little is known other than he died in 1619 which is the year of his namesake father's death which seems a bit coincidental) was Johannes Bach (1604-1673), born in Erfurt, who was an organist and composer. He is the patriarch of the Erfurt Line of Bachs. He studied under his father for seven years and, like him, became a town musician. Hans’s second son was Christoph (1613-1661), born in Wechmar and grandfather to Sebastian, was a town musician in three cities. He started the Eisenach Line of Bachs. He had three sons, all professional musicians—Georg Christoph (1642-1697), Johann Ambrosius (1645-1695) and Johann Christoph (1645-1693) (the latter two were twins). Heinrich (1615-1692), the third son of Hans, was born in Wechmar and trained as an organist by brother Johannes after the death of Hans in 1626. He was also a composer. He started the Arnstadt Line of Bachs.

    Hans had at least two brothers—Phillipus and Casper. Philippus had three sons, the eldest being Wendell. Wendall had a son, Wendel (1629-1682), who, in turn, had a son, Johann Jacob (1655-1718). Jacob had three sons, the eldest being Johann Ludwig . He was born in Eisenach and was second cousin to Sebastian. A brilliant organist and composer, Sebastian used 12 of Ludwig's pieces and added his own bits to them to play for services.

    Johann Ludwig Bach (1677-1731)

    Heinrich of the Arnstadt Line had three sons. One of them was Johann Christoph (1642-1703) who was Sebastian’s first cousin once removed. As with his more famous cousin, Johann Christoph was a great organist and composer. Sebastian was, in fact, quite enamored with Christoph’s music. One of Christoph’s brothers, Johann Michael, was also a composer and musician.

    Johann Christoph Bach.

    He should not be confused with one of the aforementioned Eisenach Bachs—Johann Christoph Bach (1645-1693) who was Sebastian’s uncle. Johann Christoph was a court musician who was the twin brother of Johann Ambrosius Bach (1645-1695), Sebastian’s father, who was born in Erfurt. He was a court musician who played both violin and trumpet. To make things even more confusing. The eldest son of Ambrosius was also named Johann Christoph (1671-1721). He took in Sebastian upon the death of their father when Sebastian was 10.

    Johann Ambrosius Bach
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Sep-25-2017 at 02:16.

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    Victor Redseal


    We’ll get into Sebastian’s wives and children as we go on. As one can see, there was an amazing amount of music in the Bach clan. Despite this, they were not much known outside of Thuringia which none of them left. Between 1600 and 1800, there were at least 64 Bachs that were musicians and composers in Thuringia. Even after the Bach clan dispersed and left the region, the Thuringians continued to refer to musicians in general as “Bachs” whether they were related to the famous clan or not. Even today, many Bachs still exist and many of them are still involved in the music business. May they never cease.

    Bassist Johann Reinhold Bach and sons. He also had at least one daughter. He was descended from J.S. Bach and had a complete family tree documented. Unfortunately, he died in a 1914 when a ship he was traveling on sank. His daughter survived but said the family papers went down with her father.

    The Bach family crest. I doubt this is genuine (it wouldn't say "Germany" on it) as there are a number of them floating around the internet. Such as this one:

    I don't even know if there really is a Bach coat-of-arms or crest. If anyone out there knows for sure and has an image, please post it.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Sep-24-2017 at 19:13.

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    Senior Member SiegendesLicht's Avatar
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    What can I say? You have surely done your homework, sir. Keep it up!
    ... yet for us will still remain the holy German art... (Die Meistersinger von Nürnberg)
    God gave all men all earth to love,
    But since our hearts are small,
    Ordained for each one spot should prove
    Beloved over all.
    R. Kipling

  12. #7
    Victor Redseal


    Sebastian married in 1707 while he was organist at St. Blasius. His wife was the daughter of Johann Michael, Sebastian’s first cousin once removed, which made her Sebastian’s second cousin. Her name was Maria Barbara Bach. Very little is known about her other than she was born in Gehren, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen in Thuringia but apparently grew up in Arnstadt (she was an Arnstadt Bach, after all). She bore Sebastian seven children before dying mysteriously in 1720 while Sebastian was away accompanying his patron to Carlsbad who always traveled with a coterie of his court musicians.

    Of Sebastian’s seven children, only four reach adulthood and only three of those survived him. His eldest child was Catharina Dorothea (1708-1774). His eldest son was Wilhelm Friedemann (1710-1784). The next two died in infancy. Then there was Carl Philipp Emanuel (or C.P.E.) (1714-1788) followed by Johann Gottfried Bernhard (1715-1739) and last child died in infancy. I have no information on Catharina but the three sons were all musicians. Two were also composers. Bernhard was an organist but died at 24 after secretly giving up music and there are no known works by him. But Wilhelm and C.P.E. are a whole different story.

    Wilhelm Friedemann Bach. Born in Weimar, Friedemann was an accomplished organist, violinist and composer. He was also a mathematician and studied law although I do not know if he ever practiced it. He wrote a deal of works and also taught C.P.E. His father wrote the first book of The Well-Tempered Clavier for Friedemann as well as a number of inventions and sinfonias. Sebastian was very locked in on his son’s training. Despite his brilliance, erudition and musical education, Friedemann would die broke in the gutters of Berlin.

    Carl Philipp Emanuel Bach. He got the name Philipp from his godfather, Georg Philipp Telemann, a close friend of his father’s. He attended St. Thomas School in Leipzig and also obtained a law degree at 24. He never practiced law but went wholeheartedly into music. He was trained mostly by his father although Friedeman also mentored him. He wrote a great number of pieces including 30 pieces alone for the mechanical clock. He was regarded as one of the greatest keyboardists in Europe with superb skills on harpsichord and clavichord for which he wrote a great number of pieces. He also wrote a great deal for cello and flute. By the end of the 18th century, he was actually better known and regarded than his father. Mozart collected his music and studied it intensely. By the 19th century, however, people as Schumann regarded him as a pale imitation of Sebastian. He is also remembered for bridging the gap between the baroque and classical periods.

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    Victor Redseal


    Seventeen months after Maria Barbara’s death, Sebastian married again. This time to Anna Magdalena Wilcke. She was much younger than Maria Barbara and also came from a musical family. Her father, Johann Casper Wilcke, was a court trumpet-player. Her mother, Margaretha Elisabetha Liebe, probably had some musical training. Her father was an organist, at any rate. Anna possessed a fine soprano voice and sang at the ducal court where Bach was also employed. One gets the idea that Bach saw this young, pretty thing singing like an angel and was smitten.

    Anna bore Bach 13 children but only six survived him. Of them, three went onto became musicians and composers: Gottfried Heinrich (1724-1763), Johann Christoph Friedrich (1732-1795) and Johann Christian (1735-1782). Gottfried, however, was feeble-minded. He played well and some think he might have composed some but his genius never blossomed, according to C.P.E. Bach.

    Some of Bach’s manuscripts from this period of his life were written in Anna’s neat script which has led to speculation that she wrote or co-wrote some of the pieces Bach is given sole credit for. This idea has been explored extensively and found wanting. Anna wrote the transcriptions of her husband’s pieces to sell and, in this way, brought the household a little extra cash. She and Sebastian organized get-togethers where they and the children would provide musical entertainment for their guests and this made the Bach house a center of music in Leipzig where Bach was cantor at the Thomasschule.

    After his death, however, the household split up. The boys quarreled and left to live with different relatives. Anna was left with the girls—none of whom had received any schooling unlike the boys. While Bach could be faulted for not providing for his daughters, he was no different than a great many men in Europe. The main reason there are almost no female composers of any renown is that they were often not educated in music and any aptitude they might show would be discouraged so that they would be ready for marriage and able to perform the tasks expected of a wife—cooking, sewing, cleaning, bearing and raising children. Many were out-and-out illiterate, receiving no schooling at all. Many were forbidden to explore any interest in music. Some girls were allowed to play music as a child but not once she hit her teens. If she still had time for music, that was fine (Anna continued to sing professionally after marrying Bach), but her musical studies must take a backseat to mastering the domestic duties of a suitable and therefore desirable wife.

    After Bach’s death, Anna was forced to beg in the streets to earn enough to feed herself and her daughters. The city council and regular small payments from C.P.E. Bach were just enough to keep her going. One might wonder why Bach did not leave her well off. Because he was not making that much money himself. Many of the letters of Bach that still survive were usually demanding some payment or other from somebody for services rendered. But he was a famous composer! Not in those days. In fact, he was nearly forgotten in the years after his death. Only a few people in the early 19th century kept his memory alive. The Brandenburg Concertos are now considered one of the greatest classical works of all time. Some even call them the greatest of all. They were not performed in Bach’s lifetime. There was no money to perform them. The Margrave of Brandenburg tossed the manuscripts on a shelf and they sat there until after his death when they ended up in the archives and some scholar found them there over a century after Bach wrote them. The Bach family appeared to be barely scraping by.

    Anna’s other children and stepchildren appeared to have abandoned her after Bach’s death. She died ten years after her husband in the streets of Leipzig without a penny to her name and was buried in an unmarked grave in a potter’s field. Perhaps it is just as well that Maria died as suddenly as she did or she might have suffered a similar cruel fate.

    The Bach household in evidently happier times.

    Born in Leipzig and schooled at St. Thomas, Johann Christoph Friedrich Bach was a composer and a virtuoso harpsichordist. He was very prolific and wrote many pieces for keyboard, cello, flute, violin and oboe as well as chorales and operas. Although trained by his father and a relative named Johann Elias Bach, Friedrich did not generally compose in the German style but in the Italian at the behest of his employer, Count William of Schaumburg-Lippe. He married a singer named Lucia Elisabeth Münchhausen and she bore him a son, Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach (1759-1845). J.C.F. Bach trained his son in music and he eventually became a court musician. His father’s Inventions were written for J.C.F. when he was nine years old but they are anything but child’s play. Clearly, he was greatly talented at that age.

    Wilhelm Friedrich Ernst Bach.

    Born in Leipzig, Johann Christian Bach was known as “the London Bach” but actually spent a good deal of time in Italy where, among other things, he converted from Lutheranism to Catholicism. Hee learned a great deal about music while there. Sebastian was 50 when Christian was born and the generational gap between them was so great that they often did not align well musically but Sebastian taught Christian until his death in 1750. After that, Christian continued his studies under C.P.E. (himself 21 years older than his half-brother). He was an excellent student and distinguished first as a composer and then as a performer. His compositions in Italy were superb and earned a lot of praise and notice around Europe. He wrote three operas that he journeyed to London to perform in 1762. They were so well received that he became a favorite of Queen Charlotte (wife of George III). He spent the rest of his life in England and married there but had no children. He died, as so many Bachs, in debt but his wife was spared the indignities of begging in the streets when Queen Charlotte paid the debts and gave her a lifetime pension.

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  16. #9
    Victor Redseal


    So what was Bach’s view of the roles of both religion and music in our lives? This is a harder question to answer than may seem at first glance. First we have to ask what is music? Luther said this about music:

    “I, Doctor Martin Luther, wish all lovers of the unshackled art of music grace and peace from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ! I truly desire that all Christians would love and regard as worthy the lovely gift of music, which is a precious, worthy, and costly treasure given to mankind by God. The riches of music are so excellent and so precious that words fail me whenever I attempt to discuss and describe them....”

    So, Luther felt that music has a divine origin—a “costly treasure given to mankind by God.” This is a markedly different view than espoused by early Fathers of Catholicism which felt that music, such as theater music, was idolatrous and licentious and a throwback to paganism. However, music, whatever it is, is ingrained in the human heart and mind. Music is not related to nor rooted in the intellect since severely retarded people have shown tremendous musical prowess. Children sing without being taught. At this very moment, a child in a high chair at a table next to mine is singing loudly as she eats. Maybe ten years from now, she’ll be too embarrassed to sing in front of people but, as a young child, she thinks nothing of it. One might say that we are born with music in our souls. Neither Luther nor Bach would disagree with that in all likelihood. As Picasso once said, “Every child is an artist. The problem is how to remain an artist once he grows up.”

    As time went on, the church realized it could not squash music out of the soul of the human race. So, they wrote their own music—the music of liturgy a.k.a plainchant. Yet, Aquinas espoused a view of music and art not dissimilar from that of Luther. Aquinas said music and art are expressions of beauty. Art illuminates the beauty of the creature. He wrote: “The beauty of the creature is nothing else than the likeness of the divine beauty participated in things.” So, once again, we are back to the belief that we are born with music in our souls and that the music comes from God. A person must order their inner qualities—their beliefs, feelings and passions—as a musical harmony. As with harmony, there is pleasance, balance and beauty.

    Aquinas, however, went on to point out that music served another purpose than simply to guide us to a virtuous life but that it also aided in contemplation. In Eastern thought, we would say it is meditative. Luther, likewise, felt that the very act of listening to music was an act of contemplating beauty symmetry, balance and harmony. It was to see into the very nature of things. If accompanied by words taken from or inspired by scripture, then higher truths may yet be discerned.

    But music having a divine nature must still be heard to be perceived. It must still sully itself in the profane world. To be heard, it must move air particles, cause them to bump together like ripples spreading across the surface of a pond. The manner of the bumping and spreading determines the nature and quality of the sound. For example, what makes the sound of a cymbal crash? When the cymbal is struck with a stick, the metal in the cymbal vibrates. First it moves one way and collides with air particles surrounding the cymbal. This is called compression. These particles are knocked back into other particles further away from the cymbal and so on. As this wave moves further away from the cymbal, the particles lose kinetic energy so that each successive set of collisions gets progressively weaker. The cymbal vibration then moves the body of the cymbal back the other way. This creates a vacuum and sucks air particles towards the cymbal. This is called rarefaction. When the cymbal flexes back the other way, it will collide with these particles and send them careening back into one another again. But with a cymbal, when compression is taking place on one side of it, rarefaction is taking place on the other side. The rate of the vibration or what is called frequency (vibrations per second) determines the pitch. High frequencies result in high pitches. Low frequencies result in low or bass pitches. The larger the vibrating object, the lower the frequencies it produces, e.g. a large bell produces a lower tone than a small bell.

    Generally, as a wave of colliding particles moves through a room, they will hit an obstacle such as a wall and rebound towards the source creating an echo. Some of the kinetic energy is lost in the travel from and back to the source and a great deal is lost in the rebounding process as the particles transfer their kinetic energy to the wall itself and so the echo is never as loud as the original sound. If the sound bounces off numerous surfaces causing the echoes to sound off at different moments in time overlapping one another creating a “cavernous” effect, we call that reverberation.

    Even then, none of this is “sound” but simply vibration of air particles. So what is a sound? Sound is the seemingly miraculous process that takes place in your brain after your ears funnel these vibrations of air into it. Even then it is not a direct process but must pass though the eardrum and set it vibrating which moves a set of three tiny interlocking bones called ossicles (malleus, incus and stapes) that pump the cochlea which moves the fluid inside the cochlea which amplifies the vibrations and move thousands of tiny hairs inside the cochlea that separate all the various frequencies and pass them to the cochlear nerve that passes them to the extremely complex nerve wiring system in the brain’s cortex. The process of transferring the outside vibrations to the brain is entirely mechanical. All other senses require some amount of electro-chemical processing before reaching the brain.

    The brain then processes these vibrations in ways we do not understand well and the output of those processes is perceived by the mind as sound. We not only hear it, we can hear a huge variety of sounds all very distinct from one another in so fine a manner that we don’t generally need to see the source of the sound in order to identify it. So if a tree falls over in a forest and no one is there to hear it, does it make a sound? No. Does it make vibrations in the air? Yes. They are not the same thing. One is objective (an event occurring outside and independent of the observer) and the other subjective (a processed perception of that event occurring within and dependent on the observer).

    The “divine” part of music—at least for me—is encapsulated in the question of why we hear anything at all. Many other animals don’t hear but rather they sense vibration. It serves them well and they are extremely good at it. Why do we need to hear sound? But the even more important question is, how does it work? No amount of information about frequencies, wavelength propagation, the Hertz spectrum, etc. can tell us how we experience this as a Bach cantata or a thunderstorm or a television blaring or a wind-chime tinkling. Ultimately, sounds are qualia—sensory impressions that we experience on a strictly personal level but cannot communicate to others. This is made even more difficult because we all have some amount of hearing loss over time and so we can’t all hear the same thing the same way.

    Why a certain passage of music should bring tears to my ears is not something I can communicate to you. That same passage, in fact, may leave you cold. But the real question is why should this happen at all? Now, a musical theoretician may explain that the quality of the instruments used along with the intervals being combined generally induce an emotion reaction in the listener but this is an after-the-fact explanation. It does not explain the experience nor does it explain why we should have the experience. There is no explanation for it. As Mr. Spock would say, it is illogical. And, yet, there it is. Undeniably, there it is.

    But to call this divine also raises a question: Was I created to find passage of a Beethoven piece heartbreakingly beautiful? Why? Rather it is my consciousness that creates this reaction because I certainly wouldn’t have it if I were not conscious. And still other people may share no such reaction to the passage in question and that can be no more explained than the former.

    Indeed some materialists feel that there really is no consciousness, no finished picture of the universe and so there is no real problem. Indeed they are self-deceivers. If we were nothing but a material brain reacting to external stimuli, why the need for music? Why the need for art? Why set aside huge sums of money to build museums in order to appease something that doesn’t really exist? We need music because it feeds something in us but we don’t know what it is. If this were not true, then it would not be true that every young child is born a musician. But it is true. Ever met anyone who hates all music and listens to none? You very likely never have. If you did, you are dealing with a mental defective. Music is stamped on our hearts and minds when we come into this world and perhaps even before…or after.

    How did a cold, lifeless collection of matter evolve into a mind that plays, enjoys and, yes, needs music? Is it somehow some unknown blind physical process? Or is it not physical at all? In fact, we are forced to ask why is there matter at all? Does it exist as we think it does? Are we built from it and all that we are derives from its various cold properties or are the building blocks used by (or even produced by) consciousness to build a world?

    Well, these ideas may be beyond what Luther or Aquinas envisioned. But I think we would be foolish to assume such thoughts didn’t occur to them. Luther, at least, did not seem to think music just arose from lifeless matter epiphenomenally. But how did he grapple with this problem of consciousness and matter and yet somehow keep God and Jesus Christ at the center? How then did he really perceive God and Christ?
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Oct-02-2017 at 04:03.

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  19. #11
    Victor Redseal


    There were two competing viewpoints of Bach’s religiosity in the centuries following his death in 1750. One was that he was wholly devoted to the Lutheran Church and wrote his music to instruct as much as to entertain. The other was that he wrote in service to the Lutheran Church because they paid him to do so.

    Bach was, at least on paper, a non-pietist Lutheran. Upon being appointed as cantor of Tomasschule in Leipzig in 1723, he was required to sign an agreement that he was not a Pietist. Pietism was basically a reform movement within the Lutheran Church. Bach was born just as Pietism was getting off the ground in the late 17th century through the writings of Spener. Probably, the most objectionable statement made by Pietism via Spener was that laity and clergy should both share equally in the spiritual government of the Lutheran Church. Many clergy were outraged by Pietism while others enthusiastically adopted it.

    New scholarship has examined Bach’s music and library and come to the conclusion that he was, in fact, a probable Pietist fully devoted to the teachings of Luther. Pietism was rather influential in Liepzig. Like Luther, Bach shared the belief that music was divine in origin. We have a bible from his library in which he had written his theological opinions in the margins. For example, next to I Chronicles 28:21, he added in the margin, “Magnificent proof that, besides other functions of the divine service, music especially has also been ordered into existence by God’s spirit through David.”

    Also found in Bach’s library were works by Spener, the founder of Pietism, as well as Franke and Arndt. As their name suggest, Pietists were largely concerned with doing away with Church dogma and focusing instead on piety and the showing of charity to others to the point where life itself is reformed for nothing less means anything. In fact, Bach’s library had a 1701 copy of Arndt’s True Christianity, considered the bible of the Pietist movement. As with all of Lutheranism, music had a special place in the Church and Bach was there to write that music.

    And this leads us to the question—why did Bach compose baroque style for church music? Why not just write hymns? First, we should examine what baroque music is. Baroque music spans about 150 years or so (c.1600-1750). The word baroque comes from the Portuguese word barocco which is a large misshapen pearl—ornate, expensive but ultimately grotesque and deformed. This was in comparison to the music that preceded it. Renaissance music (c. 1400-1600) was very measured and flowed in a steady pace.

    Baroque music, on the other hand, contains sudden changes in tempo, dynamics, instruments and trade-offs between soloist and orchestra. Baroque was far richer harmonically and far more complex. The fugues developed in renaissance music from earlier canons became highly embellished in the baroque era. We listen to baroque music now and shrug. What was so grotesque and decadent about it? For people of that period, baroque broke all kinds of boundaries. Instead of pure scales and intervals, there was dissonance. Instead of a meditative flow, there were starts and stops and changes in tempo. It sounded like people doing crazy things with music just because they could—and there is truth in that.

    Baroque music is the start of modern harmony although early baroque (1600-1640) sometimes sounds similar to the medieval and renaissance music that preceded it using the same dark, gothic harmonies. For example, Carlo Farina (1604-1639) bridged the change from gothic to baroque although he most definitely is a baroque composer and not something in between gothic and baroque. He typified much that was new and exciting in baroque by sometimes actually bringing in the gothic harmonies and then contrasting and alternating them against the baroque.

    How was baroque able to become so ornate and expressive, some even say decadent and overblown? Prior to this era, Western scales were Pythagorean which is to say that the ratios of the intervals were precise. An octave was 2:1, for example, while a perfect fifth was 3:2, the perfect fourth was 4:3, a whole tone was 9:8 and so on. The problem is the comma. Since there are six whole tones in a scale then 9/8 raised to the power of six should equal exactly two. It does not. Instead, it equals approximately 2.0273. Can the ear hear that? Yes. The problem is that semitones do not all have the same value. Some are larger or smaller than others resulting in a kind of overrun or “comma” of 81/80. Chords within a certain scale will sound fine but modulating to other keys sounded bad and dissonant because the comma caused the octaves to overrun into the next octave pushing it slightly off. Medieval musicians were forced to keep their songs confined to a small number of harmonically-related scales.

    Baroque composers needed something new, something to liberate them from rehashing the same ground over and over again and got around this by tempering their intervals. To make octaves exact, some intervals were shrunken down or expanded by very small amounts. Every note in the ascending scale would rise by exactly the same amount—5.9%. Now, scales could be modulated without the dissonance of the Pythagorean scales. There was resistance to this idea and musicians objected by insisting a violin or harpsichord cannot be turned in this manner. The West was still hung up on this idea a perfect scale where every interval had to be pure and perfect to reflect the pureness and perfection of heaven. So musicians were slow to change to tempered intervals which sounded out of tune to them (because they are) and insisted instruments cannot be tuned to this new temperament. Bach proved they could by publishing a thoroughly revolutionary and ground-breaking work called Das Wohltemperirte Clavier or The Well-Tempered Clavier which came in two books—the first published in 1722 and the second in 1742. Each book contains 24 pairs of preludes and fugues in all the major and minor keys starting at C major/minor and ending at B major/minor. When one listens to all the exercises in order, one will notice that they come full circle which the Pythogorean scales cannot do.

    Manuscript page of The Well-Tempered Clavier.

    Some say the loops at the top of the page are not purely decorative but are actually a diagram of Bach’s tuning system. The empty loops represent pure fifths while the loops with smaller loops in them are fifths carrying a tiny division of the comma.

    Although not the first book of its kind, The Well-Tempered Clavier set the stage for modern tonality. The temperament he uses is not today’s 12-TET but that was an outgrowth of his work. Without it, the classical and romantic periods would not have happened, ragtime would not have happened, blues would not have happened, jazz would not have happened, country would not have happened, rock n roll would not have happened, nor would hip-hop, techno, trance and numerous other forms of modern music exist. Bach made it all possible by showing us how to compose with tempered scales of majors and minors.

    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Oct-08-2017 at 20:15.

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  21. #12
    Victor Redseal


    Earlier I stated that Sebastian wrote the Inventions for JCF Bach but I now believe that to be in error. He wrote them Wilhelm Frieddeman.

    I also decried the lack of education, musical and otherwise, for females in Europe in Bach's day. He did not educate his own daughters. Upon reflection, following on the heels of the Thirty Years War, the education of females was probably not even possible to any large degree. Entire areas of Germany were laid waste in that war. Many villages were wiped off the map. Whole regions were depopulated. To get Germany back up, it would be necessary to have a baby boom. Without it, the economy would suffer, farms could not produce enough food (no kids to help with chores), the provinces would be open to foreign invasion because armies would be tiny or nonexistent.

    Under such harsh circumstances, females would be pressed to have as many children as possible and this would have made it hard to educate them when they are constantly being made into mothers. Girls would have to learn the domestic duties for the nation to have a strong backbone and this would make educating them as musicians and what not impractical. The men had to go out and earn money and it made no sense for them to have to compete for jobs against women--the population and the money simply wasn't there to allow it.

    While much of the neglect of female education was simply sexist crap. By Bach's time in Germany, it was probably more about practicality than sexism.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Oct-08-2017 at 20:29.

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  23. #13
    Victor Redseal


    Perhaps now would be as good a time as any to go over the Bach catalogue classification system since it is widely in use and I’ll likely be referring to it myself. As we know, Bach’s works are classified by a “BWV” prefix followed by an Arabic numeral. BWV stands for Bach-Werke-Verzeichnis or Bach Works Catalogue. It was developed in 1950 by Wolfgang Schmieder and is divided into two parts—the main body and the Anhang or lost and spurious works. BWV 1-224 are the cantatas, 225-231 are the motets, 232-243 are the masses, magnificats and mass movements, 244-249 are the passions and oratorios, 250-438 are the four-part chorales, 439-524 are the songs, arias and quodlibet, 525-771 are the organ works, 772-994 are the keyboard compositions, 995-1000 are the lute compositions, 1001-1040 are the chamber pieces, 1041-1071 are the orchestral works, 1072-1078 are the canons, 1079 is “The Musical Offering” and 1080 is “The Art of the Fugue.” There are a number of alternate pieces also. All told, there are 1128 known Bach pieces. BWV 846-893, for example, comprise The Well-Tempered Clavier.

    There are also over 200 or so Anhang and these are designated as BWV Anh. 1-213. Many of these pieces are actually compositions by Sebastian’s son, W. F. Bach, while other are written by Pachelbel, Telemann, Krebs, J. C. Bach, Johann Ludwig Bach, C. P. E. Bach, Francesco Bonporti and others. Bach wasn’t above borrowing pieces from other composers, often rearranging them and so it is natural a number of these would be attributed to Bach but are not his or at least not fully his. One famous example is BWV Anh. 114 which is Minuet in G Major. Although attributed to Bach, many scholars, starting in the 1970s, believe the true author is Christian Petzold of Dresden as part of a harpsichord suite he had written. Still many believe Bach is the author and note that the piece is “sometimes attributed to Christian Petzold" and so to the Anhang it goes. [Actually, a different format of what appears to be the same piece turns up in Handel's Music for Ancient Instruments although I seem to be the only one who notices it.]

    It would be most helpful if the pieces were arranged in chronological order than arbitrarily by genre (Mozart’s catalogue is arranged chronologically) but, due to Bach’s reclusive nature, that would probably involve a lot of guesswork and constant reshuffling of the order.

    The reason Bach borrowed a lot of music from others is not hard to figure out. Look at his output! How incredible that someone should write such a huge amount of music (Mozart, in comparison, wrote around 700 pieces as did Beethoven). If you were to simply write out by hand each of Bach’s works to manuscript paper doing this for a couple of hours everyday without pausing, it would take you years, decades, to complete the task! That’s how prolific this man was! So we should not wonder that, occasionally, he would cast about for ideas and hear them in the music of others and incorporate them into his repertoire. We can see why much of the notation was written in Anna Magdelena’s hand; he simply couldn’t write it all out himself. He needed assistants. One imagines him sitting at a keyboard and just letting ideas flow through him and playing them while an assistant, one of his sons perhaps, jots it all down. Some might be finished pieces but many were no doubt worked on and improved by Bach over time who scribbled in the changes and then gave them to his wife to rewrite into her neat, legible script while he continued to compose new pieces. Not that Bach didn’t have excellent calligraphy himself. When one looks at that title page for The Well-Tempered Clavier written in Bach’s hand, one can see his wonderful handwriting but the volume of work he was putting out simply didn’t allow him time to write out everything. He only had 65 years on this earth to complete the task.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Oct-14-2017 at 22:20.

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  25. #14
    Victor Redseal


    To get off the subject for a bit, below is a Handel's piece HWV 365 which is part of Music for Ancient Instruments. Go to 9 minutes in and listen to the melody--it appears to Petzold's "Minuet in G Major" is a kind of clipped meter. Although it appears to have been written well after Petzold's piece, it makes me wonder who really wrote it. Is it some old folk melody that sort of hung around and composers picked it up and used it when they wanted something familiar sounding that would catch people's ear? Don't know.

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  27. #15
    Victor Redseal


    Ironically, Bach’s musical basis—the one he worked from—was the chorale. Ironic because the chorale was falling out of favor in his time. Arias were becoming popular rather than singing congregations which was really in direct contrast to what Luther envisioned for his Church. The German chorales were developed by Luther and some of his fellows composed of German religious poetry coupled to the old melodies they had learned as youths in the Catholic schools. These chorales became even more important during the Thirty Years War when Germans desperately sought solace of the spirit. Bach, however, also wrote arias. Chorales faded from view almost completely after Bach.

    What is also ironic is that the organ became the preferred instrument of the Bach clan and reached something of an apex in the works of Sebastian but who also borrowed a great many from his son, Friedemann, and his second cousin, Ludwig (of the “Lips” line of Bachs). As a result, many of the Anhang are really Friedemann’s and Ludwig’s works.

    In Luther’s time, however, the organ was more or less an outcast in the Lutheran service as well as the other Protestant sects and the Catholic service because it was regarded as a secular instrument due to its circus calliope-like tone. Nevertheless, it found its way in and in spite of official injunctions against its inclusion. But these were clumsy instruments that could not even play polyphonically (even though polyphonic organs had existed since at least the 15th century) and whose purpose was to give tone to the choir by playing a line that the singers would take the key from and respond by singing the line while the organ rested. When they finished singing, the organ would play the next line which the choir would then sing and so on. This was known as “preambling.” The organ was often employed to replace the choir and this happened even in Luther’s time. Luther himself commented upon it. Not until the start of the baroque era (c. 1600) was the organ employed in the service using secular melodies and elaborate single-note runs in the preamble although these were greatly frowned upon at first.

    17th century organ. Quite a crude instrument.

    For the Bach clan, however, living in central and northern Germany, organ-building became a very fine art producing instruments of excellent action and sound which, in turn, permitted the organists in those regions to excel on the instrument in a way that the southern German musicians could not match.

    The man to whom much is owed by the central Germans is Pachelbel. He imparted so much dignity to the instrument that both secular and religious music were played in the same stately manner which changed how people saw the organ. Pachelbel’s mantle fell to fellow organist and theoretician Johann Gottlieb Walther who was an older contemporary of Bach’s and a colleague when Sebastian lived in Weimar.

    Johann Christoph Pachelbel

    Johann Gottfried Walther

    Indeed both Pachelbel and Walther were huge influences on the works of brothers Johann Christoph Bach and Johann Michael Bach (elder cousins once removed to Sebastian). Bach admired the works of his elder cousins and incorporated their artistry into his own developing style of writing choral preludes.

    Another influence on Bach was Georg Böhm of Lüneburg. Unlike Pachelbel’s stately preludes, Böhm wrote them with unrestrained liveliness of great color and richness. Where Pachelbel might be seen as stiff, Böhm was fluid and constantly moving which he would layer over a repetitive bass pattern (basso ostinato) which would have a profound effect on Sebastian’s style. We can be certain that Sebastian knew the strengths and weaknesses of the approaches of both Pachelbel and Böhm. Pachelbel’s stately approach was marred by a kind of incoherency between the organ runs and the sung part. Böhm’s style had nice movement but lacked the stateliness of Pachelbel. Sebastian incorporated the styles of both men into a new synthetic approach that was all his own. BWV 61 is a good example of how Pachelbel and Böhm are synthesized into a purely Bachian approach but one can really hear that lively movement of Böhm in this piece. It teeters on the brink of losing the stately quality and flying off into the whimsical in order to give it the proper movement but Bach is careful not to allow that to happen and, in the process, eliminates the incoherent quality that Pachelbel’s preludes exude. Quite a masterful juxtaposition.

    Georg Böhm

    Bach added nothing new to the preludes these men and others of that time had already written. The revolution lies in how he was able to apply the qualities of one to improve on the other. He does this in lieu of creating any new forms. But a revolution was brewing because the pre-Bach preludes were strictly limited to the music but were about to become linked with poetry. This was something that could have happened much earlier than it did but it simply did not. No one is sure why.
    Last edited by Victor Redseal; Nov-10-2017 at 02:45.

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