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Text, the Number Alphabet and Numerical Ordering in Bach's Church Cantatas
Stockholm University, Faculty of Humanities, Department of Musicology and Performance Studies. Musikvetenskap.
2002 (English)In: Bachs 1. Leipziger Kantatenjahrgang: Bericht über das 3. Dortmunder Bach-Symposion 2000, Klangfarben Musikverlag: Dortmund , 2002, 121-133 p.Chapter in book (Refereed)
Abstract [en]

Did Bach draw up a detailed ground plan when composing church cantatas, stipulating the number of bars in the work, and did it bear any relationship to the numerical value of the biblical text? In Bach and the Riddle of the Number Alphabet (Cambridge, 1991) I was able to show that the German natural order number alphabet (A=1—Z=24) was used by poets in the seventeenth and early eighteenth century for generating ideas. Did Bach adapt the technique to music and use the number alphabet as a source of invention? Did he use it systematically in his works? The central purpose of Bach’s church cantatas was to express in music the biblical text expounded in the sermon. Of his 200 extant church cantatas, 78 quote a biblical verse verbatim. Did he base these church cantatas literally on the biblical text? Given the fundamental significance of the biblical verse, the analyst has unusually clear conditions within which to examine any numerical correlation that might indicate Bach’s pre-compositional choices. Whether positive or negative, the results of this experiment provide important evidence towards the solution of the riddle of the number alphabet.

Place, publisher, year, edition, pages
Klangfarben Musikverlag: Dortmund , 2002. 121-133 p.
Keyword [en]
Bach, compositional procedure, experimental musicology
National Category
URN: urn:nbn:se:su:diva-19655ISBN: 3-932676-08-4OAI: diva2:186179
"Text, the Number Alphabet and Numerical Ordering in Bach's Church Cantatas" is published on pp. 121-134Available from: 2007-11-18 Created: 2007-11-18Bibliographically approved

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