Consistent Inconsistencies

Bernard D. Sherman

in Inside Early Music

Published in print October 2003 | ISBN: 9780195169454
Published online January 2010 | e-ISBN: 9780199865017 | DOI:
Consistent Inconsistencies

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To his devotees, Johann Sebastian Bach’s mystique originates in his music: one feels that there is much more to it than meets the ear, and that the extra something is profound. His mystique may be heightened, though, by our tantalizingly limited knowledge of his life and his performance style. For an example of the challenges of Bach scholarship, consider Bach’s articulation marks. These slurs and dots may have aided Bach’s contemporaries, but they flummoxed modern scholars for decades. The confusion lay in what Erwin Bodky called the markings’ “incredible discrepancies”. Through an exhaustive survey of Bach sources and Baroque performance treatises, John Butt discerned some of the motivation behind Bach’s markings. He showed that the markings give special insight into how Bach understood his music. This chapter presents an interview with Butt on Bach and his music, use of original musical instruments, Bach’s articulation marks, historical instruments, downbeat and dissonance, syntax, and Bach’s metaphysics.

Keywords: Johann Sebastian Bach; classical music; John Butt; musical instruments; articulation marks; downbeat; dissonance; syntax; metaphysics

Chapter.  9182 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Musicology and Music History

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