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Bach and His Successors

Bach’s music has profoundly influenced the development and evolution of Western music, and his compositions are among the greatest of human accomplishments. This course will sample that music and provide an overview of the role of his music in our developing musical sensibility. Participants should leave the course with a better appreciation for the music and its aesthetic, social, and historical context. Come prepared to voice your opinions of the music sampled. Listening to Bach’s music in your free time will be encouraged with information provided for online access to support class material.

Dates:  Oct. 7 – Nov. 11 (6 sessions)
Time:  Tuesdays, 10:10 a.m. – 11:50 a.m.
Location:  CED 303


Session Six

Bach's voice continues to be heard into the 21st century. This last session will look at the impact of Bach on music in the 20th century - on jazz, on film, and on less easily classified music. We'll conclude by considering The Well-Tempered Clavier by Bach. It's an inspired collection of two books of all 24 major and minor key preludes and fugues. And it inspired Shostakovich to write his 24 Preludes and Fugues, arguably on of the best compositions of the 20th century. The slides are available Download PDF - Session Six

Session Five

This week we move forward from Johann Sebastian Bach. The first step is to consider his children, and specifically the four sons who became composers. In the years following the death of Sebastian Bach, his sons had more respect as composers. They were, and are, interesting, but not at the level of their father. We move on to consider the impact of Bach on 19th century music. Because I could not resist the draw of the Beethoven's Grosse Fuge, it is the final composition we consider. The slides are available Download PDF - Session Five.

Session Four

At issue this week is the question of how to best perform Bach. Is there such a thing as an authentic performance? And if not an"authentic" performance, what about Historically Informed Performance (HIP)? Historians, musicologists and musicians have worked on the best way to perform Bach. There are no right answers, but there are more or less satisfying ways (and places) to present Bach. We'll consider a sample of different approaches - different keyboard instruments (Well-Tempered Clavier); different violins (Partita), and different forces (Brandenburg Concerto). The slides are available Download PDF - Session Four.

Session Three

This week we'll be examining the results of Bach's employment in the church for most of his professionl life.He left a rich legacy of organ music and hundreds of hours of sacred vocal music. The organ was "special" in a number of ways. It's volume and majesty was awe inspiring. And its technology was state-of-the-art. Bach performed, maintained, composed and assessed organs. We will only dip our toes in the sacred vocal music, focusing on the Magnificant as composed by Bach and two of his predecesors. Download PDF - Session Three. Almost all the examples again come from YouTube.

Session Two

This week the focus is on how each generation finds something for themselves in the music of J. S. Bach. The architectural strength of the music allows it to shine in widely different settings. We examine how Bach's music was reintroduced in the 19th century, and thrived in romanticized translations. In the 20th century, Pablo Casals showed the world what great performance pieces the Cello Suites were. And we examine how Glenn Gould showed the world a whole new Bach with his 1955 Goldberg recording. The draft slides are available: Download PDF - Session Two. All the musical examples are taken from YouTube.

Session One

What happens in the classroom will depend on the participants, as well as what I prepare. There is a pdf file of the slides that I'm planning to use for Session One: Download PDF - Session One. All of the musical references point to YouTube videos; you're free to sample the music before class. The only serious non-musical reference is a recent book by Tim Ingold. His book is called Lines and it's all about how almost everything can be viewed as a contextual line running through time and space. I see strong connections with the musical lines that Bach wove in his compositions. Here's the Introduction & Chapter One.

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May 6 – June 10 (6 sessions) Time: Wednesdays, 10:10 a.m. – 11:55 a.m. Location