No Apology for Bach's Theology

As the cantor of Leipzig, Bach was responsible for composing music for Sunday ­services, which produced reams of choral ­music, mostly cantatas. Because of this, it would be difficult to find a composer who wrote more sacred music. Like Victoria and Bruckner, Bach’s works stem from his own devotion. But more than any other composer, Bach uses complex music to articulate theology. . . . Continue Reading »

Rhyme and Reason

Hymns are chimerical critters. Their bodies are made of poetry, and their breath is music. The natural ligature of these beasts is rhyme. But sweet rhyme has fallen on strange times in both poetry and music. In poetry, rhyme is terribly out of fashion. It has come to serve more as a rhetorical . . . . Continue Reading »

Prince: Dance. Music. Sex. Religion.

Iʼm twenty years old, maybe twenty one. Weʼre four deep in my little two-door Saturn, on our way back from a show in the city. Itʼs late. I canʼt remember who played, but they were good. (They were all good back then, or at least I thought they were.) Weʼre passing the auxiliary cord, sharing . . . . Continue Reading »

David Bowie's Search for God

One doesn’t often find people of faith, especially conservatives, rallying around an entertainer who became famous for dressing up as an androgynous rock-star named Ziggy Stardust, singing, “Rebel, Rebel,” and pushing musical expression to its outer limits. And yet, when David Bowie died last . . . . Continue Reading »

Worship Wars

I listened in on a conversation recently on “the worship wars” in evangelical-style congregations and I heard some interesting observations. My main dissent, which I did not express, was that the discussants were treating the battles about worship as a relatively recent phenomenon—several . . . . Continue Reading »

The Play of Daniel

Earlier this month, I had a chance to see the Gotham Early Music Scene’s production of The Play of Daniel, a medieval Christmas pageant, performed as part of the annual Twelfth Night Festival at New York’s Trinity Church. The festival, which the church started several years ago, revives the idea . . . . Continue Reading »

Winter Songs

Schubert’s Winter Journey: Anatomy of an Obsession by ian bostridge knopf, 528 pages, $29 One hundred and fifty years ago, lieder—art songs, in English—held a place in society that no music holds today. These were songs for a soloist with piano accompaniment, something for two people of . . . . Continue Reading »

Go Tell It on the Mountain

Not long after the Civil War, John Wesley Work, an African American church choir director and scholar in Nashville, Tennessee, realized that the rising generation of black southerners might best understand the importance of spirituality by learning the songs their ancestors sang during the days of . . . . Continue Reading »