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Confessional Lutheran theology, hagiography, philosophy, music, culture, sports, education, and whatever else is on the fevered mind of Orycteropus Afer

28 July 2007
  + Johann Sebastian Bach, Kantor +
28 July AD 1750

Johann Orycteropus BachJohann Sebastian Bach (1685-1750) is acknowledged as one of the most famous and gifted of all composers past and present in the entire western world. Orphaned at the age of ten, Bach studied with various family members but was mostly self-taught in music.

He began his professional career as conductor, performer, composer, teacher, and organ consultant at age 19 in the town of Arnstadt. He traveled wherever he received good commissions and steady employment, ending up in Leipzig, where the last 27 years of his life found him responsible for all the music in the city's four Lutheran churches.

Acclaimed more in his own time as a superb keyboard artist, the majority of his compositions fell into disuse following his death, which musicologists use to date the end of the Baroque Period and the beginning of the Classical Era. However, his compositional ability was rediscovered, in large part due to the efforts of Felix Mendelssohn. The genius and sheer magnitude of Bach's vocal and instrumental compositions remain overwhelming. Also, whether due to nature or nurture, he was but one of the giants in, perhaps, the most talented musical family of all time.

Christendom especially honors J. S. Bach, a staunch and devoted Lutheran, for his lifelong insistence that his music was written primarily for the liturgical life of the Church, glorifying God and edifying His people. For an overview of the Christological basis of his work and a strong argument that he was among the theological giants of Lutheranism, please read J. S. Bach: Orthodox Lutheran Theologian?.

Today we remember his "heavenly birthday," for it was on 28 July AD 1750 that the Lord translated Mr. Bach to glory.

Soli deo gloria — To God alone the glory! These words appear on most manuscripts of Bach's compositions as testimony to his faith and his idea of music's highest, noblest use.

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Comments:
When I went to college (1968) as a music major, the basic music theory taught in the underslassmen years was by a monk (Benedictine) who was an Eastman grad and taught the classic Eastman series, based on Bach, particularly the chorales.

This was one of the great experiences of my life, on many levels. Having learned music through Bach in this way, it became possible to understand music of any origin, having now an ear for vertical and horizontal musical motion. That two year immersion in Bach opened my ears more than all the "multicultural" junk that would follow.

And, I took it upon myself to learn to improvise a realisation from figured bass, from which it was a short step to teach myself to improvise Jazz. Bach is not lost on many Jazz musicians, and the loss of improvisation in classical music changed it forever. To this day, at the top of my list of albums is Blues on Bach by Modern Jazz Quartet.

I remember reading a statement by Bach that music exists for the glory of God and the permissible delight of the human spirit. Which struck me as a deeply significant recognition that music is not an unqualified blessing, and can be used to stir less than noble passions and promote less than godly things too -- a moving musical experience is not necessarily a moving spiritual experience and are easily confused, something the "contemporary worship" seems a ways from understanding.

Bach's total dedication to Christ as Son of God and Saviour was obvious on every page, and his music carried that message to me, as well as an understanding that these Lutherans weren't entirely wrong with guys like this among them -- I would be 46 (1996) before understanding these Lutherans were entirely right and joined up. And Bach had a role in that.

I was in the last class to go through with that professor and curriculum. He was swept away by the spirit of Vatican II, which despite its surface talk of openness and collegiality is quite effective at removing all who oppose them, put in a far away parish from the abbey and never taught at the university again, and replaced in his teaching and liturgical duties by those more "relevant"
 
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