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Bach's Education

Part 1

Auto-didacts? (was: Personal animosities)

Uri Golomb wrote (October 17, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < On Gould, I suspect, the regular pot-shots stem from two sources: 1) Gould, like Bach, was an autodidact, >
Bach was not an auto-didact! He had a formal education, and studied and apprenticed under some of the best performers and composers of his time -- sometimes seeking them of his own initative. He clearly thought that studying from experts was worth a great deal.

I'm not sure Gould qualifies as an auto-didact either: as his Grove entry (by Kevin Bazzana) states, Gould "studied theory (1940-47), the organ (1942-9) and the piano (1943-52, with Alberto Guerrero) at the Toronto (later Royal) Conservatory of Music". It's true that he didn't pursue academic studies later, but he wasn't entirely self-taught (the 'auto-didact' description is probably more apt with reference to his writings -- his forays into philosophy, music history, etc.).

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 17, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb]
Two problems:

1.) Bach's formal education ended at what we would consider High-School level. To compare him to one that went to college would be preposterous.

2.) Bach never formally studied music (neither did his sons, for that matter). To compare him to one that did would equally be preposterous.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 17, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>Bach was not an auto-didact! He had a formal education, and studied and apprenticed under some of the best performers and composers of his time -- sometimes seeking them of his own initative. He clearly thought that studying from experts was worth a great deal.<<
So did other well-known and professed autodidacts in the arts. Without receiving a diploma or recognized degree, they were able, nevertheless, to achieve an importance greater than many others, who, like sheep, were herded through the highest institutions of learning where mastery of the arts was being taught.

Let's keep the focus on one thing quite clearly: Bach did not possess a legitimate degree (not even an honorary one) from any institution of higher learning. This is one important aspect of 'autodidactism.'

Autodidacts learn in a way not sanctioned by the prerequisites and requirements of course work and the prescribed techniques of master teachers or professors. However, they do not learn in a vacuum of egoism untouched by the world around them. They know how to make use of the non-academic sources in their environment (books, scores, performances, paintings,) sources not otherwise sanctioned by universities and academies unless they are taught in a specific way illustrating the current fashionable methodologies of teaching.

In the DWB, some German definitions can help to understand 'autodidact' better: 'selbstgelehrt' = 'self-taught' and 'selbstwachsen' [literally 'having grown by itself' like a plant that grows naturally without the 'künstlich' [artificial] help of a gardener. "in bezug auf beruf und thätigkeit, natürlich, geboren, der von selbst etwas geworden ist, sich wozu gemacht hat, unausgebildet, autodidact" ["in regard to profession and activity, being by nature born into something, a person who has become someone of worth/importance; someone who has made himself into that for which he is known, having not had a formal education, an autodidact."] There is also the implication that this person instinctively knows how to achieve excellence and position without the help of educational institutions (particularly those of the higher kind that grant degrees and diplomas.)

Here is an example based on an entry in the OED [Oxford University Press, 2004] for 'autodidact' ["1883, Blackwell Magazine, March 393: As a painter [Dante Gabriel] Rossetti was essentially an autodidact."]

What do we know about Rossetti's 'autodidactic' training ['Grove Dictionary of Art,' Macmillan, 1996, vol. 27, p. 185]?

>>An early disposition for drawing and literature led him to illustrate his sister Maria's copy of the 'Iliad' in 1840.. In 1841 Rossetti began attending Henry Sass's Drawing Academy in Bloomsbury, London. He was an inept pupil,.In December 1845 he entered the Antique School of the Royal Academy; his boredom with copying casts and his intolerance of discipline caused him to leave. He then sought tuition with Ford Madox Brown, whose work he admired. Although Brown remained his closest friend, Rossetti found the tasks dictated by the exacting master uncongenial; barely five months later, in August 1848, he left Brown and established himself in the studio of William Holman Hunt, also a Royal Academy student.With Homan Hunt and John Everett Millais, Rossetti formed the Pre-Raphaelite Brotherhood in September 1848. [After the first few public showings of his work,] he was ridiculed by critics and condemned for his lack of training and other insufficiencies.<<

Here is an example from the field of music quoted from the biographical entry written by Anna Maria Busse Berger [Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 10/17/04]:

>>Agricola [Sore] Martin. (born Schwiebus [now Owiebodzin, Poland], c1486; died Magdeburg, 10 June 1556). German music theorist, teacher and composer. According to his own statements, he came from a peasant family and was largely self-taught in music. By 1520 he was in Magdeburg working as a music teacher. He became choirmaster of the Protestant Lateinschule in about 1525 and retained this position until his death.

Agricola was one of the earliest teachers of music to realize Luther's wish to incorporate music as a central component of Protestant education. His foremost aim in educating students and congregation was to present material as clearly as possible and to reach a large audience. It was for this reason that his early treatises were written in German rather than the customary Latin.<<

Here are Agricola's own words as quoted from his "Musica Instrumentalis", 1545, in the DWB:

>>das ich ... alle meine tage jnn solcher kunst ... keinen activum praeceptorem von menschen gehabt, sondern das jenige, was ich darinne verstehe, ... bey mir allein mit der gotts hülffe uberkomen hab, drumb möcht ich wol ein selbwachsen musicus gnant werden.<<
["that, in all the days I have spent learning such an art, I have not ever had any active teacher {learned authority}, but rather that that, which I understand as art, has come to me by God's help alone; for this reason I would like to be known as a musical autodidact."]

From the examples above, it should be evident that an autodidacts as artists or composers can be distinguished from those who have completed successfully courses of learning and training at academies or universities. The instinctive pursuit of excellence on the part of autodidacts, leads away from the strictly structured environment of such educational institutions and can actually be stifling for the natural unfolding of their artistic talents.

Closely linked with the notion of autodidact is the definition of a 'self-made' individual:

"one who has risen from obscurity or poverty by his/her own exertions."

The fact that Bach, along with his great musical talent, was also a reasonably well-read man [based upon his private library] compared with the ordinary businessmen and workers he would encounter on the street, but was also a man who never had a diploma or degree, proves that an autodidact such as Bach could be a "Mensch mit Bildung" [an educated, cultured person] without ever having attended a university or enrolling in a musical academy where he might have been taught by the best musicians and composers in Europe.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 17, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] The instinctive pursuit of excellence on the part of many well-educated individuals has led us toward the structured environment of universities, for the resources and the confrontation with unfamiliar ideas. It is the grappling with diversity and the encounter with a wide range of information that leads to learning and understanding, and broad background in chosen topics. This can actually be highly stimulating and motivating for the natural unfolding of our artistic ta. And, it's that response to the instinctive pursuit of excellence: finding a place where that instinct may be refined and practiced.

Furthermore, we know how to make use of both the academic and the non-academic sources in our environment. That's a big point of training in valid research methods: learning where to find useful things and learning how to use them, as the environment itself is broadened. Autodidacts have to content themselves with non-academic resources, plus whatever academic resources they can beg, buy, borrow, steal, or copy from their own enterprise (usually disrespecting academic integrity in the process)...which still doesn't give them the training to use those academic resources responsibly and logically, anyway!

A person does not have less worth for seeking and accepting formal guidance from those who know something better than oneself. That process shows a willingness to learn! Autodidacts may pride themselves, very deeply, and rightly so, on their achievements without education. But, the very self-guided nature of such work can lead to blind alleys of investigation and unsound reasoning, problems that would be very easily corrected if they'd swallow some of that arrogant self-pride in self-instruction (and the self-important pride in not having degrees!) and go take lessons.

And even if it can be demonstrated that some students have a sheep-like attitude toward education, treating it only like passive and thoughtless indoctrination, that's not a proof that education is only for sheep-like students! Nor is it proof that the instructors and institutions treat it that way. Again, basic logic. The true values of any service should not be judged by its least responsible users!

Everybody's an autodidact at some things. That observation itself is not proof that autodidacticism is the best way to learn anything.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 17, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>The instinctive pursuit of excellence on the part of many well-educated individuals has led us toward the structured environment of universities, for the resources and the confrontation with unfamiliar ideas. It is the grappling with diversity and the encounter with a wide range of information that leads to learning and understanding, and broad background in chosen topics. This can actually be highly stimulating and motivating for the natural unfolding of our artistic talents. And, it's that response to the instinctive pursuit of excellence: finding a place where that instinct may be refined and practiced.<<
Often it is the very baggage of a structured environment which gets in the way of the discovering and unfolding of unfamiliar ideas. How this can enhance the 'natural unfolding of our artistic talents' where the inner spirit might better guide the individual to what is really needed, has not been clearly explained here. Bach was faced with a similar situation in his 'moonlight' copying endeavor: "This music is not to be copied for purposes of study" is what he heard as guidance from a master musician. This is quite similar to a university course which prescribes certain readings and castigates others ('don't even waste your time reading this or that.') Bach's instinct was refined and led to greater knowledge and experience by defying the structured authority of a master teacher. In doing so, Bach demonstrated that he was clearly an autodidact and not one subservient to the will of someone better educated, trained, and musically more proficient than he was at the time. University training is simply an extension of this situation on a grander scale.

>>Furthermore, we know how to make use of both the academic and the non-academic sources in our environment. That's a big point of training in valid research methods: learning where to find useful things and learning how to use them, as the environment itself is broadened. Autodidacts have to content themselves with non-academic resources,plus whatever academic resources they can beg, buy, borrow, steal, or copy from their own enterprise (usually disrespecting academic integrity in the process)...which still doesn't give them the training to use those academic resources responsibly and logically, anyway!<<
Yes, Bach was very naughty. He should not have stolen these academic resources late at night in order to copy and study them later, nor should he have stolen the works of other famous composers for his own performances. As a result, he never learned how to get the proper 'training to use those academic resources responsibly and logically.'

>>A person does not have less worth for seeking and accepting formal guidance from those who know something better than oneself. That process shows a willingness to learn! Autodidacts may pride themselves, very deeply, and rightly so, on their achievements without education. But, the very self-guided nature of such work can lead to blind alleys of investigation and unsound reasoning, problems that would be very easily corrected if they'd swallow some of that arrogant self-pride in self-instruction (and the self-important pride in not having degrees!) and go take lessons.<<
Too bad that Bach did not show a willingness to learn by accepting formal guidance in a structured environment from those who knew something better than himself! How many blind alleys of investigation and unsound reasoning did Bach get into because of his autodidactism? Consider how Bach might have swallowed some of his arrogant self-pride in self-instruction (particularly the self-important pride in not having degrees!)by going to take lessons from someone with degrees teaching at a university. But, thank God, he did not do so!

>>And even if it can be demonstrated that some students have a sheep-like attitude toward education, treating it only like passive and thoughtless indoctrination, that's not a proof that education is only for sheep-like students! Nor is it proof that the instructors and institutions treat it that way. Again, basic logic. The true values of any service should not be judged by its least responsible users!<<
Nor is it proof that others like Bach would have benefited from instructors and institutions who did not herd their sheep-like students through the rigors of an academic education.

>>Everybody's an autodidact at some things. That observation itself is not proof that 'autodidacticism' is the best way to learn anything.<<
It certainly depends on the individual, the individual's innate talents and gifts, just as much as it depends also upon the fact that there are good professors and bad ones, more reasonable academic institutions with their structures as well as bad ones.

We are not speaking here about the numerous bad autodidacts, students, degreed professors, etc. These do exist just as there are also the few truly excellent autodidacts as well as their equally-as-rare counterparts in academic institutions, counterparts who recognize the need to overcome the deficiencies inherent in the structured learning environment.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] With re the claim, "Bach's instinct was refined and led to greater knowledge and experience by defying the structured authority of a master teacher" : evidence, please. It seems to me that he went to meet Buxtehude, and overstayed the planned sojourn, for the primary reason of learning from the experience of a master musician. There was also his 1720 trip to Hamburg to meet the venerable Reincken, et al. And, back in his youth, the famed "moonlight" manuscript itself came from his brother's studies with the master Pachelbel. And then, furthermore, in Bach's own career as a teacher, good students sought him out as their own master instructor. The Leipzig authorities checked him out thoroughly, as to his readiness to BE a teacher, before hiring him. Where's JSB's alleged defiance of a system of education with master teachers there, in any of this?

And with re these alleged "deficiencies in the structured learning environment" of modern universities, or "a university course whichprescribes certain readings and castigates others"....that's all empty allegation and inhearsay from one who has never given indication that he's ever attended one! EVIDENCE, PLEASE, that such allegedly poor instruction is a norm anywhere in accredited universities! EVIDENCE, PLEASE, that you have any clue whatsoever, from experience, as to university instruction in music and the ways in which it's handled! Lacking that, you really have no basis to be making such accusations against the value or structure of formal education.

Charles Francis wrote (October 18, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < And with re these alleged "deficiencies in the structured learning environment" of modern universities, or "a university course which prescribes certain readings and castigates others"....that's all empty allegation and invented hearsay from one who has never given indication that he's ever attended one! EVIDENCE, PLEASE, that such allegedly poor instruction is a norm anywhere in accredited universities! EVIDENCE, PLEASE, that you have any clue whatsoever, from experience, as to university instruction in music and the ways in which it's handled! Lacking that, you really have no basis to be making such accusations against the value or structure of formal education. >
Allow me to refer you to the remarks of Wolgang Plath in his forward to the "Klavierbüchlein für Wilhelm Friedemann Bach" (Bärenreiter 1978): "The /opening with its table of clefs, ornaments, and fingerings (applicatio) is certainly instructive enough, but it is difficult not to receive the impression later on, that the instruction, as it is reflected in the entries of the Clavier-Büchlein, placed but little emphasis on systematic method or strict discipline". Note that here we have a book whose very purpose is the instruction of Bach's own son. And IMO, the lack of structure is deliberate - for how will a young mind be trained to develop that essential creative element, if everything is spoon-fed from a higher authority in a structured manner?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
[To Charles Francis] Ever taught music to a 10-year-old? How about to a 2-year-old? How about to a 20-year-old? Different methods are applicable in each case. (I'm currently attending a weekly class in music with my 2-year-old; the professional instructor has very good methods to keep the children and parents engaged with the material! The progress from week to week is already noticeable; and we have supplemental things to work on each week outside class, too. Our instructor teaches four or five of these MusikGarten classes each week, to different ages of children.)

Ever studied the outstanding didactic keyboard work of the 20th century, Bartok's "Mikrokosmos"? A marvelous resource for training creative and independent thinking, and technique. I have used it with adult harpsichord students also, as suggested by Bartok in his preface. Great way to foster a smooth, well-controlled touch on the keyboard, playing these little pieces.

As for "spoon-feeding" from a "higher authority"?! Ever taken any music lessons? In what instrument(s), and at what age?

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 18, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>It seems to me that he [Bach] went to meet Buxtehude, and overstayed the planned sojourn, for the primary reason of learning from the experience of a master musician.<<
Evidence. please, that Bach engaged in any kind of formal study under Buxtehude. Bach only heard Buxtehude play the organ and perform some of his Abendmusiken among other things. This is like listening to recordings of Glenn Gould and learning how to play and compose like him. This is certainly not a structured form of higher education by any means. We have no statement from Bach or from Buxtehude that one was the master teacher who taught a traveling student for a few weeks, after which Buxtehude may have written a recommendation based upon Bach's improved skills as a musician.

>There was also his 1720 trip to Hamburg to meet the venerable Reincken, et al.<<
Evidence, please, that Reincken instructed Bach formally in music composition or performance. Wasn't it the other way around? Bach was absolutely superior in every way in passing whatever musical test Reincken could devise. It was Reincken's comment of amazement at what he had heard that has come down to us.

>>And, back in his youth, the famed "moonlight" manuscript itself came from his brother's studies with the master Pachelbel.<<
As I had already explained on this thread, his brother forbade Bach to copy and study the manuscripts that were locked away. If it were not for Bach's own autodidactic initiative, he may never have made such a thorough acquaintance with Pachelbel's music. This is just another instance when the more highly trained master musicians/composers/teachers fail to transmit valuable knowledge to their subservient pupils or deliberately stand in pupil's way, making it extremely difficult for the pupil to obtain what he needs as the moment. What good is formal instruction of this sort even when the recipient can point to a degree or diploma that is issued as a result of it? The autodidactic effort on Bach's part made his understanding of Pachelbel possible to a greater degree than anything else that his brother might have told him about Pachelbel's music.

>>And then, furthermore, in Bach's own career as a teacher, good students sought him out as their own master instructor.<<
Yes, and according to some musicologists, Bach gave them Niedt's music instruction book to study! Niedt was a musical theorist (we have no documented music from his pen) who believed completely in the galant style and abhorred all contrapuntal sacred compositions.

As I understand it, the best instruction that Bach ever gave to his students was to have them listen while he played his compositions or improvised. In comparison we might say today that a professor in performance gave his graduate students some of his Wildboar recordings to listen to and this would be considered the same type of formal instruction on a higher university level as Bach, the master musician/composer gave his private students.

>>The Leipzig authorities checked him out thoroughly, as to his readiness to BE a teacher, before hiring him. Where's JSB's alleged defiance of a system of education with master teachers there, in any of this?<<
As I understand this, Bach did everything possible to get out of teaching Latin classes which were required of him. This is more than simply an 'alleged' defiance of a system of education, it is outright defiance. Bach had other teachers substitute for him on a permanent basis, much to the dismay of the city/church council. How does this show his alleged support of a system of education with master teachers?

Eric Bergerud wrote (October 18, 2004):
David Glenn Lebut wrote:
< Two problems:
1.) Bach's formal education ended at what we would consider High-School level. To compare him to one that went to college would be preposterous.
2.) Bach never formally studied music (neither did his sons, for that matter). To compare him to one that did would equally be preposterous. >
Considering the fact that "Bach" another word for musician in and around Eisenach in 1685 I think it's better to think of J.S. Bach as more or less growing up in a musical school of a very high order. His father was a musician and, more to the point, so was his older brother. His "formal" school had a heavy dose of musical instruction - although I doubt Bach learned as much there as from other Bachs. While very young he met and worked with some very skilled musicians indeed. As Wolf shows so nicely, Bach's self-imposed course of study was extensive, innovative and very well informed. Places like Tanglewood didn't exist in 1700 Germany. Musicians still had one foot in the age of guilds. If Bach didn't have a good musicial education than neither did Mozart - can't recall he ever got a diploma. Or how about young Beethoven being kicked around by his nasty although musical papa? Obviously Bach was a genius. But like artistists of the top rank he also prepared hard and worked hard. If education is thought to mean prepara, Bach was well educated indeed. As for Bach's sons, what place would have been preferable for musical education than the home of a good father who was, by most accounts, a fine teacher and the greatest musician in history?

Uri Golomb wrote (October 18, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: < And with re these alleged "deficiencies in the structured learning environment" of modern universities, or "a university course which prescribes certain readings and castigates others"....that's all empty allegation and invented hearsay from one who has never given indication that he's ever attended one! >
Speaking as someone who has attended university courses, I can recall no occasions when I was specifically told to steer clear from certain readings. Yes, in undergraduate (BA) studies we were taught from textbooks, which means that certain readings were recommended, even mandated; but we were explicitliy encouraged to go beyond them, by visiting the library and seeking out further reading on our own. (We had mandatory methodology courses on how to use the library and discover books and articles for ourselves, without needing our teachers to refer us to them). And even directed reading was not simply a matter of getting one opinion: we were often told to read books and articles which expressed different, even contradictory points of view, so that we can make our own judgment -- individually or in group discussion -- on the validity of the arguments presented.

Uri Golomb wrote (October 18, 2004):
One point to bear in mind in all this: the fact that Bach (or Mozart, for that matter, and many others besides) did not get a music degree is pretty meaningless in a context where universities did not give music degrees. The subject simply wasn't taught in most universities in Bach's lifetime. (Some composers went to universities -- but they studied other subjects there, not music). According to Jean Gribenski (Grove Online), "Music played a small role in university curricula at least until the early 19th century. That was also true of other comparable subjects (art and literature, for example); the universities served basically law, medicine and the church, and to some extent mathematics, and attending it was not expected of a young man of means. Music was taught instead in the church, in the home and in the musician's studio; it had its own university, one might say, in the great cathedrals and courtly establishments."

Bach therefore did not choose to avoid a university music course; we have no way of knowing if he would have taken such a course, had it existed. He did study music "in the church, in the home and in the studios". (Gribenski goes on to describe the role that music filled in universities -- even though it wasn't a subject of study, mentioning that "In Leipzig a special arrangement developed by which the Kantor of the Thomaskirche also took charge of university music, which formed a regular part of J.S. Bach's duties.").

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
Niedt…

Thomas Braatz wrote: < Niedt was a musical theorist (we have no documented music from his pen) who believed completely in the galant style and abhorred all contrapuntal sacred compositions. >
That must be a joke, or else a gross misunderstanding by you, or maybe both. Friedrich Niedt died in 1708, which is long before "the galant style", as you well know. We've been through all this, in previous discussion.

Furthermore, as you made clear in earlier discussion, your only exposure to Niedt yourself has been third-hand through an old MGG article that has led you to believe (so willingly to dismiss Niedt, as you don't like what he had to say) that he was some sort of incompetent. Well, Bach didn't consider him an incompetent; only you do. Bach taught his own students from Niedt's written materials. That's documented fact. You don't like it. That's also documented fact. I believe Bach's teaching, ahead of yours. Bach knew the material and he was right there. Bach played basso continuo; you don't. You've never studied thoroughbass in keyboard lessons with a competent teacher of the material. And you have no idea what Niedt "believed completely in". You have only your own dislike and your own misunderstanding of the points that Niedt happened to teach. You're still trying to assassinate the reputation and credentials of Niedt, as you tried to do almost two years ago. Give it a rest. Let the man rest in peace.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
Eric Bergerud wrote: < Obviously Bach was a genius. But like artistists of the top rank he also prepared hard and worked hard. If education is thought to mean preparation, Bach was well educated indeed. As for Bach's sons, what place would have been preferable for musical education than the home of a good father who was, by most accounts, a fine teacher and the greatest musician in history? >
Exactly. What better learning environment could there be, but to have lessons and listen in on other people's lessons with Johann Sebastian Bach, day after day for years?

And take a look at the instructional materials with which Bach taught his own wife (and presumably also the children) in 1725, and his Leipzig students in 1738, on the necessary art of thoroughbass. Both of these are reproduced in the 1966 edition of the Bach Reader, p389ff. Bach gives some tables of the most frequently encountered figures, some lists of general guidelines, some exercises to play (in the 1738 set), and the remark (in the 1725 set) that many additionally important points are best demonstrated in the lessons, not in writing.

Good all-round teaching, there! And it's certainly not evidence that JSB expected his students to pick up their knowledge only at their own autodidactic initiative outside lessons; quite the contrary! These particular lessons are (in part) handwritten by the students themselves, from being told what to write down in the lessons with JSB. There are all these systematic guidelines, and the musical examples themselves drawn from an earlier textbook which Bach (obviously) considered worthy of such mining for examples.

Then look at the keyboard treatise (1753 & ff) written by his son CPE, which is still just about the most thorough textbook on thoroughbass ever written, all the way through the most advanced harmony and treatment of ornamental dissonances. (Perhaps CPE, in his comprehensive approach to explicating the topic, had been influenced by his own formal university study of law, receiving that training on ways to be systematic?) Presumably, at least some of that musical detail in CPE's book reflects the further oral instruction from his only teacher, his father.... Where else would he have got it, but from a healthy combination of formal instruction under an excellent teacher (JSB), plus his practical experience and own enterprise to learn from wherever things can be picked up? He said that himself, explicitly: that his father had instructed him to watch everywhere to pick up whatever may be useful, and then to integrate the best parts into one's own style/understanding.

Genius doesn't arise out of nowhere. It requires challenge, instruction, focus, encouragement, practical experience, personal enterprise, insatiable curiosity, open-mindedness, a huge amount of dedicated hard work, exposure to a bunch of conflicting ideas, and the occasional failed creative attempts that help one avoid similar errors later. And it's refined by overcoming difficulties and setbacks, through perseverance. JS Bach in his learning and his teaching exhibited all of this.

Without instruction, one doesn't get going in the right directions, and the conflicting ideas end up being confusing/misleading or worse: an autodidact without guidance has no solid way to make sense of the problems and anomalies, except to make up something which might not be correct or might overlook other important evidence. The things that autodidacts make up are about their own instinctive tendencies, and their unwillingness to admit that their instinctive guesses might be mistaken, and their arrogant assumptions that they already know everything that could berelevant. Autodidacticism is narcissism. It limits itself.

That's why instruction is important: to help the student (especially the highly creative and thoughtful student!) steer around such potholes of wasted energy, avoiding unreasonable made-up and superficial conclusions. Instruction helps the student to understand what is reasonable, both as a process of learning and in the content of the subject matter. How can a student understand what's impractical and silly, and understand why it's unreasonable, without first understanding what's practical and normal and reasonable?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
Keyboard instruction

Thomas Braatz wrote: < As I understand it, the best instruction that Bach ever gave to his students was to have them listen while he played his compositions or improvised. In comparison we might say today that a professor in performance gave his graduate students some of his Wildboar recordings to listen to and this would be considered the same type of formal instruction on a higher university level as Bach, the master musician/composer gave his private students. >
Well, as you think you "understand it", this is deeply mistaken, especially in your invented comparison here. This is obviously about me and my formal instruction with Edward Parmentier, who records for Wildboar. This is obviously an intended personal slam both of me and my professor.

So I'll clear things up for you. Listen carefully. In lessons with me, both privately and in class, Edward Parmentier as my instructor NEVER ONCE admonished me to go listen to even a single one of his own recordings to learn how things should be done properly. His teaching is much better than that, much more thorough in every way. He teaches both by the Socratic method (expecting his students to bring and confront difficult questions, more than simply handing out "correct" answers), and by reacting to the student's performance, and only very occasionally by sitting down at the instrument to demonstrate techniques. Edward Parmentier is brilliant at teaching students how to learn, how to think for themselves (ourselves), how to decide what types of evidence we need to be convinced of whatever questions we're working on. He teaches every student differently in private; and he insists on weekly group lessons also where several students at similar levels of achievement all learn from (and practice teaching!) one another, under his mentoring guidance.

He is one of the most outstandingly brilliant instructors I have ever had, in any field of study. He teaches how to learn, and how to teach, beyond merely teaching how to play harpsichord. He teaches how to be inquisitive and thorough with the material, finding and using every resource that is available. He also insists on perfect writing of research assignments, from his background in additional fields outside music. It is not sufficient to throw ideas together into poorly constructed sentences and paragraphs, with no reasonable connections of the points. The rhetoric of writing is as important as the understanding of the material. Whenever any of us turned in sloppy work, whether in performance or writing, he made us do it again and he helped us make it better, with cogent recommendations of improvement. That is a professor's job.

He's inspiring. That too is a professor's job. If any of us would merely mimic his playing or interpretations, that would be failure of his teaching. Good teaching is not indoctrination. It is inspiration. Edward Parmentier's students do not sound like him, as players. He gives a public concert on campus, every semester, and he also makes all his students play solos in public concerts, every semester. Hearing all the students one after another, it's remarkable: everybody sounds very different, even when playing exactly the same instrument, and an instrument that has an incorrect reputation (among non-specialists!) of being somehow inexpressive or limited. The astonishing thing is how different all his students sound! He inspires each player to come up with a well-integrated approach of scholarship and practice, which of course will be different for everybody. This is brilliant and effective teaching.

=====

So: your imagination is faulty, and your guesswork-accusations about the nature of graduate study are completely wrong. I've made it as clear as I can, right here, by this example of graduate study with an excellent teacher. Thomas Braatz, you haven't been there. Stop making up belligerent nonsense. Stop accusing well-trained musicians and scholars of being inadequately prepared, such that you can overrule us from your reference books and your made-up explications of them whenever it suits your fancy. Stop assuming you know everything there is to know about Bach and his music, just from looking up stuff in reference books. Without practice and training, all that autodidactic book-learning (while admirable in itself) simply does not tell you everything that is worth knowing. If you really want to learn about Bach and his music, go study music with good teachers who expect you to take a comprehensive approach to the material, far beyond your books.

And, instead of arguing interminably about things you really don't understand, trying to "prove" that you are right and all experts are wrong, if you'd just be receptive to learning things once in a while, maybe you'd learn some things that are worth knowing with regard to Bach and his music. There are quite a few list members here who know it quite a bit better than you do, from the perspective of practical experience both in church/concert and in academia, and you could learn some things by listening to them.

Charles Francis wrote (October 18, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: << As I understand it, the best instruction that Bach ever gave to his students was to have them listen while he played his compositions or improvised. In comparison we might say today that a professor in performance gave his graduate students some of his Wildboar recordings to listen to and this would be considered the same type of formal instruction on a higher university level as Bach, the master musician/composer gave his private students. >>
Bradley Lehman wrote: < So: your imagination is faulty, and your guesswork-accusations about the nature of graduate study are completely wrong. I've made it as clear as I can, right here, by this example of graduate study with an excellent teacher. Thomas Braatz, you haven't been there. Stop making up belligerent nonsense. Stop acusing well trained musicians and scholars of being inadequately prepared, such that you can overrule us from your reference books and your made-up explications of them whenever it suits your fancy. >
Thomas described his understanding of the best instruction Bach could offer. After all, if a parent want a baby to speak, it must speak to the child. The same is true in music, from my experience. What amazes me, and Thomas as well I imagine, is those who would take their baby to language lessons to teach them correct grammar.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 18, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>According to Jean Gribenski (Grove Online), "Music played a small role in university curricula at least until the early 19th century..<<
Here is an example of how researchers can easily create a bias based upon insufficient information so that those (even those with doctorates in music) can be fooled into believing that music education on the university level began with nothing in the Middle Ages and very slowly progressed to the point of great flowering in the 19th and 20th centuries. The actual course of events along this timeline which describes the level of activity for music being taught at the university level can more correctly be seen as two high points with a valley between them: Renaissance/Humanism allowed for significant activity which began to ebb in the late 17th century to reach a low point at the beginning of the 18th century, just when Bach was most active, as Golomb correctly pointed out. Things began to pick up again in the 2nd half of the 18th century. What happened was that the Enlightenment, the Age of Reason, with its emphasis upon the scientific aspects of every subject tried to force music (and other arts) into some form of science such as physics or mathematics. Think of Gottsched's misguided efforts in regard to poetry and also Mizler's which provide a direct reflection of precisely what was going on in the universities as they grappled with this problem. Mizler even gave lectures at the University of Leipzig from 1736 to 1743 on the following subject: "Über die gelehrte Historie der Musik," but there was no active, specialized program for music. Mattheson, in his "Der vollkommene Capellmeister" (1739) indicated his readiness to designate money in his will toward (re)-establishing a full professorship of music at the University of Leipzig. However, at the end of the 17th and beginning 18th century, some universities did still hold onto the old traditions as long as they possibly could:
>>Es gab nur einige wenige Universitäten, an denen sich die Musik als akademische Disziplin zu behaupten vermochte, so die Universitäten Leipzig, Basel, Oxford, Cambridge und Uppsala. An diesen Universitäten wurde die alte Tradition kontinuierlich weitergeführt und, unter anderem, an der Satzung festgehalten, daß dem Bakkalaureat und dem Magisterium ein erfolgreich abgeschlossenes Musikstudium vorauszugehen habe."
[MGG I, article on ,Universität und Musik' by Heinrich Hüschen , Bärenreiter-Verlag, 1986] ["There were now only a few universities in Leipzig, Basel, Oxford, Cambridge and Uppsala. At these universities the old tradition {of teaching music as part of higher education and granting doctorates in music} continued without a break and, among other things, the requirement that a Bachelor's and Master's degree must be preceded by a successfully concluded study of music was adhered to."] So it happened that the University of Leipzig experienced a hiatus for a number of decades (the dark ages for music professorship at this university) until it was reestablished after Bach's death. Hüschen goes on to explain that somehow, although the old statutes still remained in force, only the English universities actually succeeded in fully maintaining music as a viable and active academic discipline (in Uppsala, for instance, music was degraded to an 'Annex'- subject, but England held on strongly to its university traditions, more strongly than any other European universities at the very end of the 17th and the first half of the 18th century.)

Things began gradually to pick up in Germany towards the end of the 18th century with honorary doctorates in music being granted to J. N Forkel, 1787 in Göttingen; and Haydn in England, 1791, in Oxford.

Here is some history which Jean Gribenski seems to have overlooked or not even considered as being important enough to report on correctly:

Professors who taught music at the university level

At the University of Heidelberg:

Marsilius (died 1422) (Magister Artium) gave lectures on music at this university

Conrad von Zabern (? c 1480), Music Theory, received his Magister Artium in 1430

The following professors gave lectures on music at this university:

Ludwig Runge (? 1549), Professor of Rhetorik gave a series of lectures in 1548 on music;

Jakob Runge (? 1595), Professor of Theology, in 1547 also on music;

Peter Eddelink, Magister Artium lectured c 1550 on music;

Konrad Tuburtius Rango (* 1639), Professor of Theology, 1694 Rektor of the entire University wrote on the subject of music;

University of Freiburg im Breisgau

Dietrich Gresemund (1472-1512), Humanist, 1493 Baccalaureus Artium wrote on the subject of Music;

Othmar Luscinius (1478-1537), Theory and Composition, 1496 Baccalaureus Artium.

Lorenz Lemlin (* um 1495), Composer who had achieved his Baccalaureus Artium in 1514

Similar lists to those above describe the situations at the universities at Mainz, Cologne, Paris, Basel, Wittenberg, Erfurt, Leipzig, Frankfurt an der Oder, Jena, and Rostock.

Uri continued to quote:
>>(Gribenski goes on to describe the role that music filled in universities -- even though it wasn't a subject of study, mentioning that "In Leipzig a special arrangement developed by which the Kantor of the Thomaskirche also took charge of university music, which formed a regular part of J.S. Bach's duties.")<<
The fact is that, after only a year or so, these university duties were taken away from Bach. In 1725 "die Trennung des Thomaskantorats vom Amt des Universitäts Musik-Direktors" ["the separation of the St. Thomas Cantorship {director of choirs} from the official position of Director of Music at the University of Leipzig"] took place. The improper implication of Gribenski's statement is that Bach, throughout his tenure in Leipzig, was always responsible for the directorship of music at the university as part of his normal duties. The truth is that Bach's contact with university students in performance or private instruction throughout most of his tenure in Leipzig was extra-curricular.

Another respondent on this list has warned repeatedly that the average, amateur Bach-lovers without degrees in music/musicology are unable to quote sources responsibly because they do not know how to select and apply them judiciously with the superior understanding that can only derive from long study of the subject at an accredited university. What do the above error-prone observations thrown out as 'evidence or proof' illustrate? Are these just insignificant, but excusable aberrations on the part of Gribenski or Golomb? Should not those with Music Doctorates be held to a greater accountability, just because they are so critical of comments or information shared by 'dilettante and amateurish' list members? Should these 'degreed' individuals not provide examples of excellence in scholarship, rather than 'simply pasting together rather thoughtlessly information that has been garnered here and there on the internet?'

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 18, 2004):
Charles Francis wrote: < Thomas described his understanding of the best instruction Bach could offer. After all, if a parent want a baby to speak, it must speak to the child. The same is true in music, from my experience. What amazes me, and Thomas as well I imagine, is those who would take their baby to language lessons to teach them correct grammar. >
Yes, I'm interested to hear what my baby comes up with in a couple of years. We sing to her every day, and she goes to weekly music lessons outside the house. Perhaps most influentially, she hears Bach's, Couperin's, Froberger's, and other fine music played "live" in Bach's own tuning every day, by her father at home. She plays on it herself, too, whenever she feels like trying something on the harpsichord. We do it because it sounds beautiful, and because playing music every day is a natural household activity to do. She's in the only household anywhere in the world where this is true, or has ever been done since the 18th century, so far, having that everyday tuning resource available anytime to try out any music. (My clavichord is tuned that way, too, but she doesn't try it yet.) When she inquires about the details of what she's hearing, I'll tell her as much of the technical info as she cares to know. Best, until then, is to have the sound itself by immersion every day, the most natural way to learn it. The method certainly worked well for CPE Bach and his siblings, and led to some great achievements by them, although they also had some direct musical instruction from mom and dad (as we're doing here) in addition to the immersion. We also read to her regularly in Spanish, German, and French, so she gets the sounds and grammars of those languages into her ears. All to help her grow up hearing these languages, including music, used as naturally as we can. She sings to herself, spontaneously, at least 20 minutes a day already, going through her known songs and making up variations on them. Yesterday my wife was humming something and the baby said, "Sing the words!", and we explained to her that sometimes music doesn't have words. An important lesson there.

And if you're going to go and on (most predictably) about how I'm attempting to "prove a negative" here, in my statement above about it being the only household where this tuning is in use since the 18th century, go bite yourself. That specific sound at Bach's house has been lost since the 18th century; I know pretty well when and why, and have documented these findings along with my reconstruction of the method. The information will soon be available to the public, for other households to try this for themselves. Until then, I know the several other people who have been given advance copies of the work for their study and use, and they don't have small children at home. Q.E.D. (Unless somebody has been able to reverse-engineer it from concerts or a radio broadcast, where they weren't told ahead of time what they're hearing and where no special attention was drawn to the tuning at all. Very unlikely, as the details are extremely subtle.)

Uri Golomb wrote (October 19, 2004):
Uri Golomb wrote: >>According to Jean Gribenski (Grove Online), "Music played a small role in university curricula at least until the early 19th century..<<
I'll admit immediately that I made one mistake here -- one for which I owe a genuine apology. The _Grove_ article on "Universities" was divided between several authors. Contrary to my initial mis-reading, the part I quoted from was not authored by Jean Gribenski; the real author is William Weber. This was a genuine oversight on my part, and for this I apologise to fellow list-members, and of course to the two authors (particularly Weber, who deserved the credit for the quotes I introduced).

Thomas Braatz wrote: < Here is an example of how researchers can easily create a bias based upon insufficient information so that those (even those with doctorates in music) can be fooled into believing that music education on the university level began with nothing in the Middle Ages and very slowly progressed to the point of great flowering in the 19th and 20th centuries. >
Neither I nor Weber were making any such claim. Weber's article is devoted to music in universities in 1600-1945, and the section I quoted from is restricted to 1600-1750. The periods before 1600 and after 1945 were treated by other authors (Gribenski wrote the article on post-1945 French universities; the middle ages and the Renaissance were treated by Christopher Page), as anyone who has access either to the printed edition of _Grove_ (available in many libraries) or to _Grove Online_ could ascertain. Most of the information that Braatz has provided falls outside the chronological scope of Weber's article, and having re-read that article, I don't see how any of it proves any failure on his part.

My point was even more limited: I was referring solely to whether Bach had the option of taking a university course in music in his lifetime. The answer, AFAIK, is no. And, as I said, we simply don't know what Bach would have done if he had such an option. That's the only point I was making.

In any case, rather than complain to me, why not write directly to Grove Online? There is a feedback facility on their website; if anyone believes there is a mistake in _Grove_, they are welcome to voice that opinion to the dictionary's editorial board -- though of course the editors will not accept all corrections at face value!

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 19, 2004):
I had originally stated: "Niedt was a musical theorist (we have no documented music from his pen) who believed completely in the galant style and abhorred all contrapuntal sacred compositions."
To which Bradley Lehman retorted: >>That must be a joke, or else a gross misunderstanding by you, or maybe both. Friedrich Niedt died in 1708, which is long before "the galant style", as you well know. We've been through all this, in previous discussion.<<
The preparation of the 'galant style' begain quite early in the 18th century while Niedt was still alive. In some ways he was an early pioneer as can be seen from the evidence presented in his books and which I will quote below.

BL: >>Furthermore, as you made clear in earlier discussion, your only exposure to Niedt yourself has been third-hand through an old MGG article that has led you to believe (so willingly to dismiss Niedt, as you don't like what he had to say) that he was some sort of incompetent.<<
George J. Buelow, who wrote the article on Friedrich Erhard Niedt at least twenty-five years ago, has not bothered to update his article in the Grove Music Online dictionary [Oxford University Press, 2004, accessed 10/14/04] other than adding the H.-J. Schulze article from 1978 which spins the fine thread that supposedly connects Bach's own bc instructions with those of Niedt which were copied by a student. Nowhere on this document is Bach's imprimatur in the form of a signature or correction in his handwriting. (Would Bach not correct basic, obvious errors regarding the rules of bc rather than leave his students with incorrect information so crucial to the rules of composition/performance?) Buelow also adds the "Introduction to F. E. Niedt" by Poulin & Taylor (Oxford, 1989) but not one iota of information possibly gleaned from this text has been included in the text of the article which remains exactly as it was in 1980.

The MGG article is far preferable in that it gives the reader some additional insight that Buelow's rather bland treatment does not.

BL: >>Well, Bach didn't consider him an incompetent; only you do. Bach taught his own students from Niedt's written materials. That's documented fact.<<
With all the glaring errors left uncorrected? This seems quite unlikely if Bach, the careful teacher, had any involvement in this at all.

BL: >>I believe Bach's teaching, ahead of yours. Bach knew the material and he was right there.<<
So you were there with him and saw him simply pass over the glaring errors saying to himself: "This will be a good test for my pupils/students. Let them find the errors themselves [which they obviously never did.] If I were a professor of music at the Leipzig University, I would, of course, spare them the long, agonizing hours which autodidacts necessarily would have to spend in discovering what was wrong with the rules that I (Niedt) gave them."

BL: >>And you have no idea what Niedt "believed completely in".<<
We have his own printed words and picturesque expressions that speak for him, unless, of course, you want to call these forgeries that were perpetrated to assassinate his character.

Here are some basic facts (most of which are omitted in the Buelow article (perhaps he is just being very careful by 'towing the line' and not stirring up and creating doubts about a certain, rather feeble connection between Bach's methods of instruction and Niedt's 'rules of musical grammar.'

Friedrich Erhard Niedt (1674-1708) was never a full-time musician or composer [he was a 'wannabee.'] Music was an avocation for him and he was very disappointed when he failed to win the position of organist at St. Nicholas' Church in Copenhagen. His primary occupation for many years was as a notary public. Fritz Oberdörffer, the author of the MGG article on Niedt concludes from examining the examples of composition (arias, primarily) included in his books, that Niedt's compositions 'never rose above the level of dry mediocrity.' The final 'nail in Niedt's coffin' is his statement that he considered all aspects of counterpoint and fugue to be simply "Bärenheuterey" [explained below] and that he personally 'banned' all forms of fugues and allelujas from his own cantatas [he never got very far along in his projected first year cycle of cantatas] because all they [fugal compositions using counterpoint] do is arouse feelings of disgust and annoyance/vexation.

This type of thinking and strong reservations about the utility or even pleasure that can be gained from listening to Bach's choral works which illustrate the glorious effects created by such fugues, was later reechoed by Scheibe in his criticism of Bach's music. Niedt serves as the beginning of the wave of 'style galant' that swept over Germany during the 1st half of the 18th century, only to be reversed in itcourse in the latter half of the same century when what was originally considered as 'contrapuntal fetters' began to turn back toward appreciating full fugal counterpoint over the vacuity of the short-phrased melody suspended over a bass line with nothing much of interest in between.

Here is a quotation from an article by Daniel Heartz and Bruce Alan Brown on the wave or bubble created by 'style galant,' a wave or bubble which could not sustain itself because of its insipid nature: [Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2004, acc. 10/18/04]

>>Defenders of the old contrapuntal virtues were heard from more and more as the 18th century reached its last third, with the onset of an anti-galant reaction. Parallels may be observed with the turn against the Rococo style in art and the rise of Sturm und Drang in literature. Adlung complained that 'murky' basses and 'Galanterien' were being heard even in church. In the article on melody in Sulzer's encyclopedia (written with advice from Kirnberger), 'pleasant, so-called galanterie pieces' and their 'very small phrases, or segments' are said to be appropriate for light, flattering passions, but out of place in serious or sacred compositions, where their effect is more dainty than beautiful. Under the rubric 'Musik' Sulzer noted that 'the melodic language of the passions has gained immensely' from the introduction of 'the so-called galant, or freer and lighter manner of writing', even while claiming that the abuses of this style were leading to music's complete degeneracy. Other complaints about the galant manner were even more specifically moral. As Seidel has shown, the term 'galant', having connoted ease and gracefulness of manner to the early 18th century, later came to stand for an empty, artificial and mainly aristocratic manner of comporting or expressing oneself, and the opposite of bourgeois naturalness of feeling.

The galant idiom freed composers from the contrapuntal fetters of the church style, to some degree even in the context of church music; its simplicities and miniaturistic nature imposed new fetters, which in turn were thrown off with the reintegration of more contrapuntal means in the obbligato homophony that matured in the last three decades of the century.<<

This may seem 'picky', but I find it instructive as to just how perverse Niedt's instructions can be: Niedt's notion of 'Andante' was that this was a tempo 'gantz langsam'(1706.)

Regarding the musical form 'canon:' Walter Blankenburg, MGG Vol. 7, 533, states that Niedt was barely able to comprehend the canon and could not see what use it really had in any good music.

In Niedt's "Musicalisches A,B,C" [Hamburg, 1708], he explains basic things about notation, gives some exercises using intervals, and concludes with a few, very simply arias, just a few of which have an obligato instrument. At the end of the book, Niedt relates rather extensively a recipe for a 'chest balm' [a kind of 'Vick's Vaporub'] to alleviate or cure a chest cold.

**"Bärenheuterey"

This colorful word used by Niedt to describe the disgusting vocal fugues occurring in church cantatas has the following meanings as indicated by the DWB: "Something which is a complete waste of time, in other words, completely useless. It does not fulfill a useful function and is spiritless. It gives poor results. It is morally worthless because of its excesses. There is a want or lack of skill in it. It is generally unsuccessful."

I am beginning to expect that some musicologists will be willing to ignore all this information in the hope that they may still be able to support their preconceived notion about the 'strong' Niedt-Bach connection because it still seems to suit their purpose at this time. Anyone with a truly open mind should be able to form an opinion about Niedt's role in the early 18th century. Certainly, in this case, more information [MGG, 1986] is better than less information [New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians, 1980] in an article that has not been revised or rewritten, but has added only one article and one book to its bibliography on Niedt.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 19, 2004):
Uri Golomb had written: >>According to Jean Gribenski (Grove Online), "Music played a small role in university curricula at least until the early 19th century.<<
and Uri responded: >>I'll admit immediately that I made one mistake here--one for which I owe a genuine apology.<<
Apology accepted! I can easily understand how the greater context with various writers responsible for different sections of a long article can lead to what might be an incorrect interpretation once the quote is removed from its source and not sufficiently explained to the reader.

What about the other obvious mistake, again one of Gribenski's statements?:

>>"In Leipzig a special arrangement developed by which the Kantor of the Thomaskirche also took charge of university music, which formed a regular part of J.S. Bach's duties."<<
The point you were trying to make here was that Bach was a quasi-faculty member who was, in essence, the director of musical activities at the Leipzig University for, as the statement above implies, the duration of his tenure in Leipzig. Is this another statement out of context or is Gribenski unaware of the real situation that pertained to this limited circumstance?

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 19, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] I nominate Thomas' posting below as the most sanctimonious and patronizing piece I've seen in 2004.

The sentence after "Apology accepted" (including the notion that he himself is well placed to judge "incorrect interpretation"...), and the reiteration of a supposedly "obvious mistake" by Gribenski, and way Thomas then lectures Golomb on the point he believes Golomb was "trying to make here".

Once again, it's all about Thomas trying to assert himself above real scholarship, asserting that everybody except himself is ignorant and "unaware" (especially if they have degrees!), and unwilling to offer apologies for any of the astoundingly profound and petty insults he deals to the field, day after day. Nor does he offer any sort of apology for the patronizing chiding he has offered to both Golomb and Gribenski, but instead he TURNS IT UP a notch and repeats it! As to responsibility to the material, and the expectations of accuracy, the double standard here doesn't even bother him; indeed, he thrives on it!

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 19, 2004):
Thomas Braatz wrote: < Here are some basic facts (most of which are omitted in the Buelow article (perhaps he is just being very careful by 'towing the line' and not stirring up and creating doubts about a certain, rather feeble connection between Bach's methods of instruction and Niedt's 'rules of musical grammar.'
Friedrich Erhard Niedt (1674-1708) was never a full-time musician or composer [he was a 'wannabee.'] Music was an avocation for him and he was very disappointed when he failed to win the position of organist at St. Nicholas' Church in Copenhagen. >
So, your conclusion is that non-musicians and non-composers should not teach musical principles? Just trying to be clear here.... We're supposed to dismiss outright everything that Niedt wrote, because (according to you) he was a "wannabee", but we're supposed to listen to and believe everything that a "wannabee" music critic and pseudo-musicologist puts up for consideration (even though he hasn't presented any compositions, let alone mediocre ones, or any evidence of having ever held any musical post whatsoever)?

Why the double standard?

You can tell us that Niedt was a loser all you want to, to your own amusement. It still doesn't prove that he was wrong about any particular point. Nor does it prove that your own overruling of Niedt has any credibility, according to your own standards of judging the credibility of sources. Nor does it prove that Bach was either stupid or wrong in using some of Niedt's material in his teaching.

Furthermore, you know very well (or at least it seems so, if logical reasoning has any place here!) that the arguments about basso continuo practice do not stand or fall solely on the credibility or accuracy Niedt, or any interpretation of his work. It's part of a comprehensive body of corroborating evidence about normal practices in the recitative genre, and you can't destroy the overall argument itself by assassinating a single data point. The people who have built that argument about verifiable common practice are not stupid, no matter how much you assert (without evidence!) your superiority over them. Therefore, the continued attempt at destruction of Niedt by your hand really accomplishes nothing, except to embarrass yourself with inconsistent reasoning. If your contention really is that "wannabees" should be muzzled from teaching musical principles in public, then take your own premise consistently.

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 19, 2004):
Bradley Lehman wrote: >>Furthermore, you know very well (or at least it seems so, if logical reasoning has any place here!) that the arguments about basso continuo practice do not stand or fall solely on the credibility or accuracy of Niedt, or any interpretation of his work. It's part of a comprehensive body of corroborating evidence about normal practices in the recitative genre, and you can't destroy the overall argument itself by assassinating a single data point.<<
'The shortened bc accompaniment in Bach's 'secco' recitatives?' A crucial element of the 'Schering/Mendel/Leonhardt/Harnoncourt doctrine?'

Seriously, you don't really want to go there again, do you?! Such a discussion would probably uncover even more evidence of incredibly bad scholarship on the part of those who should have known better.

Bradley Lehman wrote (October 19, 2004):
[To Thomas Braatz] Remember that scene near the end, where the Wicked Witch of the West takes it upon herself to try to burn up a straw man (among other dastardly deeds against common, decent folk), and gets a bucket of cold water in the face? Cold water is normally harmless enough, but not if the attacker has poor molecular cohesion.

Dorian Gray wrote (October 19, 2004):
>>Thomas described his understanding of the best instruction Bach could offer. After all, if a parent want a baby to speak, it must speak to the child. The same is true in music, from my experience. What amazes me, and Thomas as well I imagine, is those who would take their baby to language lessons to teach them correct grammar.<<
I could easily echo your sentiments, Charles. Shinichi Suzuki taught music according to what he called the 'mother-tongue' method. Early education, in particular, depends on repeated exposure to a model as the best form of education. Is it any wonder that people grow up with the talents and skills of their parents? Some are still sure this is due to biological inheritance, but all true teachers and good parents know otherwise. No expert could teach an adult to acquire truly excellent speech if his parent(s) had utterly failed to provide a good model, barring the possibility of a miracle. However, if one has a speech impediment at this point, no-one will be able to help more than the speech therapist- but I agree that he is a band-aid, not the cure. -Brendan

Thomas Braatz wrote (October 20, 2004):
Famous Baroque Autodidacts

Great Baroque Composers as Autodidacts

From an article on "Deutschland Barock" ["Germany during the Baroque Era'] by Friedrich Blume [MGG I, Bärenreiter, 1986]

>>Im ganzen war der Bildungsstand des Musikers hoch und erstreckte sich weit über bloße Fachkenntnis hinaus in sprachliche, philosophische, theologische, oft auch mathematische oder juristische Disziplinen. Erst mit dem 18. Jahrhundert treten zunehmend empirische, nurmusikalische Ausbildungen an die Stelle der alten »Gelehrtenerziehung«. Bach, Händel und Telemann waren Männer von hoher Allgemeinbildung, aber keiner von ihnen hatte mehr ein Universitäts-Studium durchlaufen.<<
"The level of musicians generally went far beyond simply mastering specialist knowledge {of music specifically} often to include as well understanding of other disciplines such as foreign language, philosophy, theology, and even mathematics or law. Not until the 18th century did the empirical, purely musical training/education increasingly take the place of the old academic (higher) education. Bach, Händel and Telemann were men of a greater-than-average education/culture, but none of them had passed through/undergone a {formal} university education."

Händel, the College/University Drop-out

From an article on G. F. Händel by Joseph Müller-Blattau in the MGG [Bärenreiter, 1986]:

>>Fest steht, daß die musikalische Begabung des Knaben früh erwachte, daß aber der Vater die Musikausübung nicht duldete, weil er den Sohn für den bürgerlichen und gelehrten Beruf des Juristen bestimmt hatte.<<
"One thing is certain, that the boy's {referring to G. F. Händel} gift for music was awakened early on, but that his father could not tolerate his son's musical activities because he {the father} had already determined that his son should pursue the middle-class, learned profession of a lawyer."

Because the Duke of Weissenfels intervened and persuaded the Händel's father to relent, Händel became an apprentice under F.W. Zachow from whom he learned `harmony, to cultivate his imagination, and to form his taste.' He also learned to play various instruments. Most important was the study of the examples of music written by other composers from various countries. All of this took place on a level equivalent to that of other trades (carpenter, mason, miller, etc.) and not at a university level where other subjects such as Latin would be required of a student.

On February 10, 1702, G. F. Händel registered as a student at the University of Halle. After a year, he broke off his studies permanently and went to Hamburg, where he became acquainted with Mattheson and the opera. After this point Händel was completely independent. This was the extent of his `formal' education which consisted mainly of study at the `trade-school' level with an excellent teacher who had no university degrees whatsoever and just one year at the university level before dropping out entirely.

Telemann, the `Pure' Autodidact

From an article on Telemann in the MGG I [Bärenreiter, 1986], Martin Ruhnke writes:

>>Im Gegensatz zu G.F. Händel ist Telemann niemals durch einen tüchtigen Lehrer in das Musikhandwerk eingeführt worden, sondern hat sich als Autodidakt seine Fertigkeit in der Komposition und im Instrumenten-Spiel angeeignet. Im Gegensatz zu J.S. Bach war er nach seiner Herkunft und nach der Lebensstellung seiner Vorfahren keineswegs zum Musiker prädestiniert, sondern er hat diesen Beruf, zu dem er sich von Gott und Natur bestimmt fühlte, gegen den beharrlichen Widerstand seiner Verwandten gewählt.<<
["In contrast to G. F. Händel, Telemann had never been given a proper introduction into musical craftsmanship by a competent teacher, but rather had to achieve his proficiency in composition and in playing instruments as an autodidact. In contrast to J. S. Bach, he was not even predestined to become a musician by virtue of his family origins and the professional positions of his forebears, but rather it became necessary for him to choose this profession (as musician/composer) for which he felt was determined by God and his own nature despite the continuous resistance of his relatives."]

J. S. Bach, a Musical Tradesman with a Good Family Environment

"Bach's family ties consisted of a number of fairly well-known musicians/composers, but his father provided that part of the Bach clan branch that was primarily devoted to the `Spielmannshandwerk' [`playing music as a tradesman' - member of the entertainment trade; the lowest class of musicians, such as fiddlers and town musicians]"

Comment by Friedrich Blume in his article on J. S. Bach in the MGG I, Bärenreiter, 1986.

Christoph Wolff in his biographical article on Bach in the Grove Music Online [Oxford University Press, 2004, acc. 10/19/04] gives information about the following aspects of J. S. Bach's musical and general education which did not include university studies of any kind.

Training within the Family; Music as a Craft; Family Training as a Gu

>>In the Bach family itself sound, average competence was the norm. Only a few of its members achieved anything extraordinary, and most of those who did left Thuringia.

The unusual concentration of musical gifts within one family in such a narrow regional context has long interested students of genealogy, heredity and talent. The continual reappearance of musical gifts through the generations, with an increasingly large and then suddenly declining number of prominent family members culminating in the remarkable figure of Johann Sebastian Bach, remains a unique phenomenon. An essential prerequisite for the development of such a dynasty was certainly a general attitude to music as a craft to be learnt, so that the careers of male family members were more or less decided from early childhood. Musical training was usually provided within the family, by fathers, brothers and uncles. This was typical even of later generations. For instance, Johann Sebastian, who had himself studied with his brother Johann Christoph, is known to have taught six of his nephews - Johann Ernst, Johann Lorenz, Johann Elias, Johann Bernhard, Johann Heinrich and Samuel Anton - as well as his own sons. Carl Philipp Emanuel regarded it as quite natural to take his youngest half-brother Johann Christian into his care. Studies or educational tours outside the region were uncommon, although there are instances in the Italian journeys of Caspar Bach's sons, of Johann Nicolaus and finally of Johann Christian. In these circumstances even Johann Sebastian Bach's journey to Lübeck to study with Buxtehude must be considered decidedly out of the ordinary. [Note the discrepancy in this last statement. Wolff does not back this up with any hard evidence that a formal teacher-student relationship ever existed with Buxtehude, which, as far as I know, does not exist, so this must be taken rather loosely as sheer conjecture on his part. Everywhere else it is stated that Bach `went to hear/listen to Buxtehude', that he `visited him,' that he `was dying to meet him,' etc. etc.]

In a self-contained circle of this kind, which was in the nature of a guild, it was natural for relationships with other musical families and intermarriage with them to be frequent. There were other families of musicians in Thuringia, if not as extensive as the Bach family itself. They included the Hoffmann family of Suhl and the Schmidt family of Eisenach. A series of marriages took place with these two families: Johannes and his brother Heinrich both married daughters of the Hoffmann family; Johann Christian and Johann Aegidius married daughters of the Schmidt family. Johann Sebastian himself is a typical example of close relationships between musical families: his first wife was a Bach and his second a descendant of the Wilcke family of musicians from Zerbst.

The family was very close because of its shared social standing and musical interests. Their social status as `outsiders' (for in the 17th century musicians did not normally have rights of citizenship) and their strict religious views were other important features. Some of the family members even showed a tendency towards sectarianism. Family gatherings were held regularly, and must have resembled small-scale music festivals.<<

Bach's Formal Schooling (Grade School and High School)

His Model/Musicians/Composers

Eisenach

>>After the time of the Reformation all children in Eisenach were obliged to go to school between the ages of five and 12, and (although there is no documentary evidence of it) Sebastian must have entered one of the town's German schools in 1690. From 1692 he attended the Lateinschule (as had Luther, also an Eisenach boy); this offered a sound humanistic and theological education.. His musical education is matter for conjecture; presumably his father taught him the rudiments of string playing, but (according to Emanuel) he had no formal tuition on keyboard instruments until he went to Ohrdruf.<<

Ohrdruf

>>Sebastian stayed on until 1700, when he was nearly 15, and thus came under the influence of an exceptionally enlightened curriculum. Inspired by the educationist Comenius, it embraced religion, reading, writing, arithmetic, singing, history and natural science.<<

Pachelbel

Bach studied models provided by Pachelbel's compositions (also through his brother Johann Christoph's organ playing - his brother is not known to have been a composer)

No formal instruction by Pachelbel

C.P.E. Bach maintained about Johann Christoph in his father's obituary >>that his father had his first keyboard lessons from Christoph, at Ohrdruf; in 1775, replying to Forkel, he said that Christoph might have trained him simply as an organist, and that
Sebastian became `a pure and strong fuguist' through his own efforts. That is likely enough; Christoph is not known to have been a composer.<<

[through his own efforts = autodidact!!]

Lüneburg

>> At school [a high school in Lüneburg}, Bach's studies embraced orthodox Lutheranism, logic, rhetoric, Latin and Greek, arithmetic, history, geography and German poetry.<<

Georg Böhm - it is not clear, perhaps even rather unlikely, whether any formal teacher-student relationship existed between Böhm and Bach, but the latter may have heard his playing or viewed some of his compositions and there is evidence of a collegial relationship much later on.

Vincent Lübeck - it is unclear and rather unlikely that Bach heard him personally, hence no formal instruction possible.

J. A. Reincken - Bach may have heard him play, but did not meet him until 1720. There was no formal instruction from this master.

Arnstadt

Dietrich Buxtehude - Bach went to Lübeck to hear Buxtehude and stayed for 3 months to see if there was any chance that he might succeed him. There is no evidence of formal instruction.

=====

Other than instruction within the family circle and some years of formal schooling as a boy, Bach was essentially self-taught, without even a master musician/composer to teach him as in the case of Händel; hence, without any university study of any kind, Bach was essentially an autodidact.

Eric Bergerud wrote (October 20, 2004):
[To Uri Golomb] According to Boyd Bach would not have pursued a proper University education because he had no desire to be a lawyer. Wolfe points out that, although we have no certain extant works from this period (1702), that Bach was already gotten the attention of many of the musically informed in Germany and that he was extremely well placed for the career he wanted. (Wolfe suggests the possibility of the Toccata and Fugue in D may have had its origin in this period when Bach was already considered a keyboard virtuoso.) No mention is made in either book for any university music degree program available in this period.

As far as Bach abandoning Christianity this is a real stretch. In his late period (check Wolfe's article about reevaluating the last period of Bach's career) Bach continued in his position at Leipzig which continued to require that he see that Church music was performed. The fact that he didn't continue to compose cantatas at the old rate is anyone's guess: maybe we should marvel at the scale of his earlier output. That said, he reworked several pieces and did put together the Mass in B - no small thing. Furthermore, there is no reason to think that Bach would have made the sharp seperation between "secular" and "religious" music that one could employ with, say, Mozart. Luther himself believed that beautiful music glorified God (he once commented that the devil shouldn't get all of the good tunes). There's no reason to think that Bach would not have concurred. As Wolf mentioned we don't have much correspondence from Bach so it isn't possible to reconstruct an "internal dialogue." That said, the proposition that Bach underwent some profound crisis in faith in Leipzig must be proved by those who argue the case - not the other way around. I should think that Bach's lifelong association with the Church and his continued interest in religious music until the end suggests that Bach, quite typical of the period, accepted the Lutheran faith with little question. This would not that Bach burned with some unusual fervor: quite the contrary. Some people find a constant faith and wear it easily.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 21, 2004):
[To Eric Bergerud] I would disagree with you about Bach not wanting to continue his education. He made sure that his sons had what he did not. The other side of the matter, as I have said, is that even if he did want to continue in his education (and he had said, from what I have read and heard, as much in later years), he was barred from it because of his socio-economic standing (or in layman's terms, there was no money to support such a move). A Law degree back then did not necessarilly mean that the recipient would be a lawyer (of all the known musician-composers in Germany at the time that received Law degrees at college, only two [Johann David Heinichen and possibly Johann Kuehnau (I don't remember off-hand who the second one was, but Kuehnau sounds right to me)] became practicing lawyers. The Law degree in Germany of that time meant merely that the recipient received a liberal education.

Bach cl43
wrote (October 31, 2004):
While in no way attempting to take a position on this issue, except that IMO the derivation of <autodidact> ought to be take literally in this context--ie "self-taught"--I offer the following:

<---"Solitary reading is worse than solitary drinking."
Dr Mortimer Adler

Ludwig wrote (October 31, 2004):
[To Bach cl43] Just how is this Dr. Adler---the noted Psychologist or psychoanalyst and associate of Freud?

People who are able to teach themselves show great creativity and greater depth of thinking and intelligence than someone who sits down with another party and non-thinking accepts everything the book says.

The autodidact on the other hand knows and understands theory and practicality as opposed to accepting it blindly because the autodidact had to learn these things in order to teach themselves.

There is much snobbery and discrimination against autodidacts but some of the world's greatest writers, thinkers, artists and scientists have been autodidacts. They include Leonardo da Vinci, Thomas Edison, Thomas Jefferson, the Wright Brothers,Benjamin Franklin and the list goes on and on. I would assume that those snobs who poke fun at self learning/teaching are doing so because they realize just how stupid and inane that they are and do so out of jealousy and covetousness.


The definition of formal study

Teri Noel Towe
wrote (October 21, 2004):
< Again, I refer you to formal study. Private instruction would not be considered formal study. Hence the difference between Bach and Gould. Gould had formal study. He went to a college that specifically dealt only with music. Bach and his sons had Informal study of music (private lessons, family traditions, etc.). It would be the same as saying that I have had formal studies in Piano when all I had was private lessons and what I was born with. >
With all due respect, the distinction without a difference that you are attempting to "validate" is utter balderdash.

There were no music conservatories, per se, in Germany in Bach's day, and few elsewhere. (Most of them were in Italy.) Bach, who took boarding pupils, in essence ran a private school for professional musicians, compelled them to follow a set curriculum and a rigours course of study, and he did well at training and preparing professional musicians for positions as Capellmeisters and Cantors. In addition to four of his sons, Kirnberger, Krebs, Muthel, Kittel, Agricola, Gerber, et al., were graduates of what we ought to call The Johann Sebastian School of Music.

David Glenn Lebut Jr. wrote (October 22, 2004):
[To Teri Noel Towe] Actually, there were formal music schools attatched to the universities. Music was an essential part in Humanistic education. And I sseem to remember a Conservatory in Germany at the time, but not in the same region where Bach lived and worked. That one came later.



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