Sunday, March 29, 2009

Mood Modality

I was looking through Bach's Orgelbüchlen for a chorale prelude to play on Eastertide. I was surprised by how almost every single chorale for the season and its resultant prelude was in a minor key. And then I was surprised at my surprise. This is a way in which Classical music since Bach has seriously damaged our conception of what modes can express. We naturally assume that if it's a happy occasion we need a major key and if it's a sad occasion we need a minor key. Lost is the notion of an exuberant, zippy, joyful, lusty, minor-keyed piece.

When asked by Stephen Pettitt why he took such a fast tempo on St. Matthew Passion's Kommt, ihr Töchter, Paul McCreesh replied, "All Bach's music, fast or slow, has an almost visceral connection with the dance. Why should we require the first chorus to be slow and solemn, when it is above all else celebratory? There's an almost ecstatic desire to share in the retelling of the Passion story."

This is another area where we need to war against the idea that the solemn and the joyous are mutually exclusive. All parts of the Christian life are required to be both, especially the liturgy.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Yes, yes, yes!