Musical Borrowing
An Annotated Bibliography

Individual record

[+] Schulze, Hans-Joachim. "The Parody Process in Bach's Music: An Old Problem Reconsidered." Bach 20 (Spring 1989): 7-21.

The subject of parody procedure in Bach's music has been approached with uneasiness and skepticism by writers for at least the past 100 years. Nineteenth- and early twentieth-century writers, including Rust, Spitta, and Schweitzer, have exhibited a tendency to minimize the extent of Bach's borrowing procedure and to simultaneously reify his status as "Germany's greatest church composer." On the other hand, later twentieth-century scholars, such as Schering, Smend, Neumann, and Finscher, have approached Bach's parody technique more directly, defining its parameters more clearly while attempting explanations which at times assume an apologetic tone. Descriptions of parody procedure in Bach's era, in contrast, tend to be uncritical of it as a method but insist on a skillful application of new text to the existing music. A consideration of parody procedure in Bach's Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248) demonstrates that the joining of the new texts with the older music was carried out with great care. The implications suggested by this work and others for our understanding of Bach's parody procedure are manifold: a number of explanations--including those of economic necessity, "neutrality" of the music with respect to the original text as a prerequisite for parody, and the desire to further elaborate existing material--may be accepted without contradiction as long as an apologetic attitude is not adopted. In the final analysis Bach's borrowing procedure should be seen as a vital method by which a given piece of music is qualitatively elaborated upon.

Works: Bach: Mass in B Minor, BWV 232 (9), Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248 (14-17).

Index Classifications: 1700s

Contributed by: Alexander J. Fisher

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