Author: Belcher, Owen H
Title: Analytical Studies of Selected Cantatas by J.S. Bach
Institution: Eastman School of Music
Begun: October 2016
Completed: April 2018
Johann Sebastian Bach is considered by music historians, music theorists, performers, and audiences among the most significant composers of the Western world. Yet, the genre in which he was most prolific—the church cantata—has received little attention from the music-theoretical community beyond corpus studies of aria forms, listener’s guides, and listings of madrigalisms. Crucially, there is very little detailed musical analysis of cantatas, other than chorale harmonizations abstracted from cantatas and passions. After speculating about some reasons for the discrepancy between Bach’s privileged position in the Western canon and the lack of analyses of arguably his most important works, my dissertation develops a framework for analyzing Bach’s cantatas, drawing primarily on the analytical philosophy of David Lewin, enriched by the literary theories of Northrop Frye and Frederic Jameson.
Keywords: J.S. Bach, cantatas, analysis, hermeneutics, narrative, eighteenth century
Part I: Introduction and Methodology
Chapter 1: Introduction and Literature Review
Chapter 2: An Anatomy of Music Analysis
Part II: Four Analyses of Individual Movements
Chapter 3: Cedars and Wind (\"Zedern muessen von den Winden\"
from BWV 150)
Chapter 4: Sickness unto Death (\"Immanuel, o suesses Wort,\"
from the Christmas Oratorio, BWV 248)
Chapter 5: Rage Against the Machine (\"Widerstehe doch der
Suende\" from BWV 54)
Chapter 6: Wedges, Lines, and Parallels (\"Kommt, ihr
Toechter, helft mir klagen\" from the St.
Matthew Passion, BWV 244)
Part III: Analyses of Complete Cantatas
Chapter 7: Simeon\'s Death Drive (Ich habe genug, BWV 82)
Chapter 8: Blessings and Reversals (Meine Seel erhebt den
Herren, BWV 10)