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The Bach choral dilemma
Dear Auditory Listers,
Listening carefully to BWV 363 (Jesus Christus, unser Heiland), or BWV
364 (Jesus Christus, unser Heiland, der den Tod), I hardly hear it
streaming, if streaming at all. Same for my Sensation & Perception
A collegue of mine, who owns a huge collection of Baroque music, told me
that BWV 363 is not a so good instance of polyphonic music. So why
Bruce Goldstein presents it as such in his Sensation & Perception
textbook? (4th ed., 1996, p. 397; 5th ed., 1999, p. 360)
The author provides a musical notation in Figure 12.11 (p. 360): four
measures of (what is probably, according to title) BWV 363. The notes
clearly stream (VISUALLY, I mean). I am not a musician, but the musical
notation seems to me quite simple for a so complex musical piece. Can
someone confirm that the notation is the original?
Goldstein notes: "When this passage is played rapidly, the low notes
sound as if they are a melody played by one instrument, and the high
notes sound like a different melody played by another instrument. This
effect [...] is an example of auditory stream segregation [...]." (p.
360). First, BWV 363 is refered to as an instrumental piece, while the
only instrument is the human voice (choral). The fact that the human
voice is also a musical instrument should probably be emphasized to
musically naive students. Secondly -- and more critically --, why
whould we have to play it rapidly, while the composer's intent was to
provide a polyphonic experience at the written tempo?
An e-mail sent to the author at bruceg+@pitt-edu on Nov. 30, 2001, has
not been answered yet.
A legal (30 sec.) excerpt of BWV 363 may probably be made available on
the Auditory List Home Page, if someone can provide it. Are more
salient examples of Baroque polyphony known?
I have a great respect for Goldstein's S&P textbook, and I hope Auditory
Listers will provide clues into (what my S&P class and I are now
refering to as) the Bach choral dilemma.
Luc Rousseau, Ph.D.
Department of Psychology
Sudbury, Ontario, Canada