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  • 2015 February 22: Musical "Lenses"

    February 22, 2015 10:30

    What we listen for in music has changed substantially down through the ages. During Bach's day (the Baroque era), what marked a good composer was his capacity for 'invention' — that is, the variety of things he could do with one idea. Thus for them the 'fugue' — an entire piece based one melodic figure (the 'fugue subject') — was an iconic form of that age, and that same notion of deeply exploring one idea extended to other forms. (more )

  • 2015 January 4: Lo, How a Rose E'er Blooming

    January 04, 2015 10:30

    There have been various approaches to Advent/Christmas down through the ages: in our culture we more or less start Christmas on Black Friday (if not much earlier) — a month plus of too many gifts and too much food (I’m reminded of William Blake’s aphorism "You never know what’s enough until you know what’s more than enough!"), and then on December 26 it's OVER. In Bach's day, however, Advent was a mini-'Lent' — a time of prayer and fasting, and no music in church! Then, on Christmas Day all heaven broke loose, and they celebrated Christmas for Twelve Days. Thus, after the 'darkness' of Advent, Christmas would be big and dramatic — something rather like somber Lent leading up to glorious Easter. This also worked out for church composers like Bach as they had the four weeks of Advent to prepare the massive amount of music performed over the Twelve Days. And the Twelve days of Christmas takes you to the next holy-day in the Church year: Epiphany — the day when the Christ was manifested to the Gentiles as represented by the Magi. (more )

  • 2014 November 30: The Pilgrims

    November 30, 2014 10:30

    Last week we considered Martin Rinkart (1586–1649) — the Lutheran pastor who wrote the words to "Now Thank We All Our God" in the midst of the starvation, war and plague of the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Johann Crüger (1598-1662) wrote the melody. The son of an innkeeper, he studied at the Lateinschule in Guben until he was 15. He then traveled and studied at schools throughout Austria, Hungary, Bohemia, and Moravia, including the Jesuit College at Olmütz, and the Poets’ School at Regensburg... (more )

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