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Bach’s Time
Part 3

Continue from part 2

Midnight oil...

Tom Dent wrote (March 23, 2007):
Candles were made of tallow at that point... rendered-down bits of cow. No need for bees or imported petroleum products. How expensive they were could surely be determined by looking at a few contemporary records.

Is there any single direct piece of information about any element of Bach's weekly schedule (apart from, of course, when he was actually in church playing or directing music)? Any source saying clearly that at such and such time of this or that day he was doing something in particular?

P.S. It's amusing to speculate that the actual performance parts did routinely get so messy and/or torn and/or burnt that there was no point keeping them around and the paper was recycled (perhaps like the legendary Bach-Couperin correspondence) for household tasks. None of these survive because paper was a valuable resource and Bach, having paid for it, would be sure to collect all the parts after a performance. What use would a single part then be on its own, anyway?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (March 24, 2007):
Tom Dent wrote:
< Candles were made of tallow at that point... rendered-down bits of cow. No need for bees or imported petroleum products. How expensive they were could surely be determined by looking at a few contemporary records. >
Exactly. Most composers during the 18th century such as Bach, received payment in kind for such things as corn, flour, and candles--to supplement their base salary. These helped greatly in reducing household expenses. So I don't think a lack of candles, or their expense were a factor in Bach's working late hours, because it wasn't.

Also, aren't there are records of Bach as a child working late hours copying scores. And didn't Telemann do this as well, when his mother banished his musical instruments and scores? So why would anyone expect something different when these professional composers were operating under very tight deadlines?

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 24, 2007):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] There are legends of Bach doing this. As someone who teaches History I never cease to be amazed at the inaccuracies that seem to pop up among people regarding history. So I am not surprized if someone on this list thought that Bach wrote by electric light.

Yes candles were made from tallow which has a very unpleasant smell to it ----that is it is made from grease as is soap. Still these products were expensive. Want to know more about this then read Ben Franklin's autobiography as well as read Diderots entries for this in famed Encylopedia. Beeswax and Bayberry wax has a much more pleasant smell to it. Beeswax is or was the wax used to make candles by Ecclesiastical canon.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 24, 2007):
[To Tom Dent] I have not found any information that petroleum products were used to make candles in the 17th century and that is a late developement in candle making. Beeswax is by church canons (at least in the Anglican and RC churches and these days in many Lutheran churches) what candles are to be made of. We must also realize that the light put out by these candles was rather dim if they were used and the same is true of oil lamps.

Yes tallow from Beef drippings and Pork was used to make candles and soap. As someone who has made such candles and soap from tallow I can assure you the smells are not very pleasant. It took along time to get the evil smells out of the house. Bayberry on the other hand is very pleasant to work with. Olive oil was also used as it had been for centuries since Biblical times.

Mickey Drivel wrote (March 24, 2007):
JSB wrote alone, Wrapped up in his thoughts. Solitary...hour after hour....next door W.F. and C.P.E were punching each other.

Hour after hour...all alone...putting it down on paper with a quill pen. Day in, day out, yeat after year.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2007):
The following is based on Bach-Dokumente II, items 157 and 171-172:

Recurring payments to Johann Sebastian Bach for wood and "Licht" ("light" does not specify which type of lighting, we will need to assume 'candles' here). 13 Thaler and 3 Groschen for each year (1723-1750). Payments from the Leipzig City Treasury.

Recurring payments to the Cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach for wax candles and "Licht" (ditto, but what would this other light source be, the proverbial 'midnight oil'?). Yearly Expenditures (from Candlemas to Candlemas [very appropriate fiscal year!] from the St. Thomas Church Treasury for the proper lighting when performing the "Kirchenmusik" (the church cantatas) with the Primary Choir at St. Thomas Church. 11 Thaler and 15 Groschen for the year.

Recurring payments to the Cantor, Johann Sebastian Bach, for providing light for the 1st choir when it performs "Kirchenmusik" (the church cantatas) at St. Nicholas Church. Paid by the St. Nicholas Church Treasury in support of St. Thomas School and the performance of the "Kirchenmusik" (the church cantatas) which took place at St. Nicholas Church. The fiscal term runs from Candlemas to Candlemas (February 2nd) [In Scotland, for instance, the old quarterly terms for paying school fees were Lammas, Hallowmas, Candlemas and Beltane]. 7 Thaler 21 Groschen.

According to Wolff's reckoning in the appendix of his biography:

8 Thaler = a high quality Jacobus Stainer violin

1 Thaler = ? 72,00

1 pound of wax candles = ? 2,50

It appears from the above that proper lighting was crucial for musicians who were sight-reading their parts. The church authorities were well aware of this and did not skimp on lighting because they knew how important it was for the best performance of Bach's figural music. If they had studied and rehearsed the cantatas sufficiently in advance (and thereby committed most or all of the music to memory, as the best court orchestras in Europe did), they would probably not have been as dependent on lighting (dim light would have been sufficient) to ensure a good performance.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
[facts deleted; speculation follows]
< It appears from the above that proper lighting was crucial for musicians who were sight-reading their parts. The church authorities were well aware of this and did not skimp on lighting because they knew how important it was for the best performance of Bach's figural music. If they had studied and rehearsed the cantatas sufficiently in advance (and thereby committed most or all of the music to memory, as the best court orchestras in Europe did), they would probably not have been as dependent on lighting (dim light would have been sufficient) to ensure a good performance. >
Yeah, that works for me. Whenever I want my music (or anything else creative I do) to go well -- instead of allowing myself any lead time to think about it, or to practice any ideas, or to get my colleagues up to snuff on any of it -- I just swap my energy-saving 60 watt lightbulbs for a couple of 100s. Splurge. And then everything magically goes better! It's ensured by such a simple expedient!!!!!

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 24, 2007):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< According to Wolff's reckoning in the appendix of his biography:
8 Thaler = a high quality Jacobus Stainer violin
1 Thaler = ? 72,00
1 pound of wax candles = ? 2,50
It appears from the above that proper lighting was crucial for musicians who were sight-reading their parts. >
Ah, everyone notice the quick insertion of sight-reading as a "fact" among the list of Bach household expenses?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2007):
[To Douglas Cowling] I'm still wondering what the break-even point is, measured in lumens, where their sight-reading task switches over to become plausible. Just give the thing enough light, and suddenly it becomes possible; whereas they'd more likely fail if it were even one lumen darker than that.

That break-even point has to exist, if this argument has any merit (since brightness in lumens is for practical purposes a continuous function -- add better candles, or move them closer, or more , or whatever -- more light vs less).

Saying this silly thing another way: it's a "given" that sighted musicians require some sufficient level of visual illumination to get their job done. ("Duh.") Now, we hand a group of UNPREPARED musicians some difficult task of adequately rendering music they have never seen nor heard before. How much light, measured in lumens, will magically allow them to do an adequate job, with this make-or-break factor of lighting so profoundly affecting their musicianship? Obviously they'd fail in total darkness; and do somewhat better in the middle where they can see the pages comfortably; and start to fail worse again if it gets too bright. So, what's that range (in lumens) where the music is playable; and where does the task first become possible, as the lighting is increased from zero?

'Tis smoke and mirrors. The MADE-UP PREMISE about sight-reading cantata performances is still being recycled as its own conclusion; and the lighting of the scene (with better candles or worse candles) is yet another red herring. The candlepower only helps us see better how red it is. :)

If lighting were such a make-or-break concern, as somehow solvable by candles, one could also place some blame on the clergy (since blame for failure must be sprayed around). The other parts of the service got done too early, or too late, for optimal lighting by sunbeams through windows. Candles couldn't cover the remaining deficit. Therefore the musicians couldn't see the music they were sight-reading, and they failed. They could have done better 10 minutes earlier, or later, when the natural lighting was better, or when the cloud cover happened to allow more light into the church. It's the clergy's fault for mis-pacing the service! Or the architect's fault: for positioning the church or its windows in a less than optimal place for that particular day of the year and time of day. Or God's fault: for providing too many clouds that day, and therefore ruining the music!!!!! Not just the big humidity changes that play havoc with instruments and their tuning, but bad lighting too!!!!!!

Sort of makes a musician want to go rehearse, doesn't it, to be better prepared for such less-than-optimal conditions that might come up in performance. The ability to roll with such punches is a good sign of musicianship...and it's one more thing to rehearse: the way a piece of music goes at different times of day, and in different weather conditions.

Tom Dent wrote (March 25, 2007):
One wonders why so many words are being expended for the sole purpose of gaining the upper hand in an irrelevant argument. I know Brad has something better to do, why doesn't he do it?

It is a simple fact that music is easier to read with more light and that music you don't know by heart is easier to play the more you are able to see the page. I don't find it absurd that a cantata performance could have been adversely affected by bad lighting. How important a factor this may have been among many others is of course highly debatable, but a debate cannot take place if every message is a thousand-word-long missive dedicated entirely to proving, with much sound and fury, that what the other guy just said is wrong. I'd rather be implausible than unreadable.

Richard Mix wrote (March 25, 2007):
Ludwig wrote:
< Beeswax is by church canons ( at least in the Anglican and RC churches and these days in many Lutheran churches)what candles are to be made of... >
Well, sort of; they are required to be 51% pure by the RC rubrics.

Thanks to Thomas' figures we can do some quick reckoning:

72/2.5 ~40 lb candles per thaler x 11 thaler for church music = 440 lb per year

52 weeks = 104 Sundays + Sat vespers, + up to25 other feasts? =? 250 hours x 12 shared parts = 3000-6000 candle-hours, assuming the church then was dark in the morning (not so true of the present day).

Now I'll have to ask a priest tomorrow, but if 10 hours/pound is reasonable and I havnt made a mistake, then I've failed to establish that there is an unaccounted for surplus of candles used for rehearsals. To me of course such a negative result merely confirms a suspicion that they took place in the school during the day.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 25, 2007):
Tom Dent wrote:
< I'd rather be implausible than unreadable. >
Pity that so many BCML posts are both. Not directed at yours, BTW, which I always find readable. And so, when a point seems implausible to me, I discuss it.

Douglas Cowling wrote (March 25, 2007):
Richard Mix wrote:
< Now Išll have to ask a priest tomorrow, but if 10 hours/pound is reasonable and I havnt made a mistake, then Išve failed to establish that there is an unaccounted for surplus of candles used for rehearsals. To me of course such a negative result merely confirms a suspicion that they took place in the school during the day. >
Pure bleached beeswax candles are only required for liturgical purposes on the altar or carried by acolytes. This would have been the practice in Lutheran churches throughout the Bach's life and is still probably the custom in European churches. Candles in other parts of the church (corona chandeliers, etc) could be less expensive. The candles in Bach's choir loft, which were purely utilitarian, could well have been unbleached wax or tallow. In general, musicians played in light levels which no modern musician would accept.

Ed Myskowski wrote (March 25, 2007):
[To Richard Mix] Now this is my idea of really having fun! I think your estimate of 10 hours/pound is too low. The liturgical candles (I have forgotten the proper name) which burn at either side of the alter from Easter until they are extinguished on Holy Saturday cannot weigh more than thirty pounds, probably more like twenty. Let's be really conservative and say ten days (240 hours) per pound. Also, consider the small devotional candles I used to light for a quarter ($0.25), which weigh only a few ounces. I would occasionally check, to be sure I was getting full value of devotion, they burned for more than a day.

What does this do to the candlepower versus rehearsal calculations?

BTW, you are spot on re the 51% beeswax spec. I have a friend who is a beekeeper, and who makes the candles for his church. He makes 100% regular size for sale (and friends), but he is careful never to exceed 51% for the giant ones he donates every Easter.

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (March 25, 2007):
[To Richard Mix] Ludwig is fine as I have to keep myself separate from a person of the same name and we are both composers but rather distantly related. We get mixed up all the time by our factual names. We unfortunately were born into egocentric families who have no originality about naming male children. We get named as if we were Royals and there is a line of us going back more than 600 years in which the first born of the male line ALWAYS carry the same name. Do your kids a favor---NEVER name them after any living relative or if you do at least make it a middle name. It is difficult for the kids and sometimes when kids turn out to be the black sheep of the family can ruin someone in the family who may be mistaken for the black sheep. Ludwig was a name bestowed upon me by my classmates when I was in Broadcasting COllege since I played much classical music as part of my lab work.

Some Candles will burn for approximately a day. I have had pillars burn for a week continously but what makes the difference is if they are petroleum based or beeswax based.

I love the smell of burning Beeswax Candles and when they are perfumed with Frankenscene---that is wonderful.

Richard Mix wrote (March 26, 2007):
[To Ed Myskowski] Your quite right, Ed. The 7 day candles (half parafin) at church weigh little more than the hymnal, including a heavy glass container, so 7x24 ~ 170 hrs/lb. or 70K candle hours. Seems like far too many chandeliers for just late night doublet copying parties! Or do tapers burn much faster? Certainly they tend to spill hot wax on one's fingers; I remember my first midnight mass at Church of the Advent, when the opening words at rehearsal were: "Let's raise our sights this year. Our goal will be to have a procession in whichno one's hair catches fire."

 

Historical Sidebar: Augustus II and James II

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 23, 2010):
A fascinating historical "what if?"

After James II of England was deposed in the Glorious Revolution of 1688, Louis XIV offered to engineer his election as King of Poland. James refused, thinking that it might prejudice a return to the English throne. In his place, Augustus II became King of Poland and the dedicatee of the Mass in B Minor (BWV 232).

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 23, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] James III that would have been King of Poland. James III married Maria Clementina Sobieska (1702–35), who was the granddaughter of the Polish king, John III Sobieski. I've never understood the rationale for calling it the "Glorious Revolution," it was basically an incredibly sad story of two daughters that conspired against their own father and mother and their brother, with some home grown British traitors thrown in. Royality at its worst really; it's no wonder so many despised European nobility, and fled to the New World.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 23, 2010):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< I've never understood the rationale for calling it the "Glorious Revolution," it was basically an incredibly sad story of two daughters that conspired against their own father and mother and their brother, with some home grown British traitors thrown in. >
Goodness, a Jacobite among us!

But without Queen Anne, Handel would never have made it into court circles and there would be no "Coronation Anthems"!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 23, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] Maybe. Maybe not.

In a Catholic court in London, Handel could have been composing Latin church anthems and litanies and settings of the Mass.

Marva Watson wrote (April 24, 2010):
[To Douglas Cowling] I am new to the Bach cantata discussions but am enjoying them very much. I really like historical nuggets such as this. Keep them coming please!

Peter Smaill wrote (April 24, 2010):
[To Marva Watson & Douglas Cowling] Well now that is interesting, for when James the II of England (VIIth of Scotland too) died, his body was kept by the Capucins in a coffin above ground in Paris; so that even in death the hope was that he would return to England, be buried in Westminster Abbey. But he never was. Perhaps the coffin started to smell badly, for he was finally interred at the little classical church of St Germain- en- Laye, NW of Paris, where he is to this day, in face of the magnificent palace which Louis IV had provided for his comfort as an exile in France.

The tomb was restored by Queen Victoria but there was never by then a question of him coming back.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 24, 2010):
Peter Smaill wrote:
< The tomb was restored by Queen Victoria but there was never by then a question of him coming back. >
That's more than likely because there simply wasn't anything to bring back. During the French Revolution, James' tomb was raided and his remains scattered.

Douglas Cowling wrote (April 24, 2010):
Bach and State Music

Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< That's more than likely because there simply wasn't anything to bring back. During the French Revolution, James' tomb was raided and his remains scattered. >
His son, the so-called "James III", known as the "Old Pretender", and grandson, "Bonnie Prince Charlie" were both buried in St. Peter's in Rome. Their political machinations and military campaigns were were very present threats throughout the early Hanoverian period. Both "Joshua" and "Judas Maccabeus" by Handel were thinly veiled allegories of victory over the Jacobites.

It's interesting that Handel's state works are foremost in the critical and popular estimation of the composer, whereas Bach's political choral works are marginalized as those silly, flattering secular works. I always wonder why "Tönet Ihr Pauken" is never given status as a brilliant piece of state music equal to any of the Handel "Coronatin Anthems". Yet when it becomes "Jauchzet Frohlocket" for the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), it is extolled as a great spiritual masterpiece.

Why the enforced ghettoization of Bach as the Great Sacred Composer?

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 24, 2010):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< It's interesting that Handel's state works are foremost in the critical and popular estimation of the composer, whereas Bach's political choral works are marginalized as those silly, flattering secular works. I always wonder why "Tönet Ihr Pauken" is never given status as a brilliant piece of state music equal to any of the Handel "Coronatin Anthems". Yet when it becomes "Jauchzet Frohlocket" for the Christmas Oratorio (BWV 248), it is extolled as a great spiritual masterpiece. >
It's really an apples and oranges thing I'm afraid, but I can speculate why.

Maybe because Germany doesn't have royal coronations or a central church connected to their government in the same way the British have? Maybe because Handel's relationship with the rulers of England was a lot more cordial and personable than Bach's with the civil rulers both in Leipzig and Dresden? Maybe because the Prince Elector of Dresden apparently didn't like Bach's music all that much (I say this for several reasons: Bach was really commissioned with music for state visits to Leipzig. If Bach was on the ground there and director of music forces in the city, it was only natural he would be commissioned to write music on site. But there wasn't a single commission for Bach to write any music IN and FOR Dresden for any state events (or for events in Poland, which were quite numerous), and there's hardly any of Bach's music in the Dresden state archives, compared to other Baroque composers, including Handel). Maybe it's because Bach's 'political' texts are rather uninspiring and were written for a political dynasty and system that's long vanished. But if you wish, maybe the city of Dresden can petition Prince Albert Wettin to reclaim his throne, and perform some Bach at the coronation ceremonies in the Frauenkirche; however, I'm sure Angela Merkel would have a few things to say about that ;)

Here is a photograph of the current "heir" to the Saxon throne:
http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a8/Albert_Wettyn.JPG

< Why the enforced ghettoization of Bach as the Great Sacred Composer? >
I don't think that's true at all really.

Great set of questions as always Doug! Thanks for posting them!!

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 24, 2010):
Apparently the current heir to Saxony has his own website:
http://www.prinz-albert-von-sachsen.de/

I wonder if he uses Twitter ;)

Marva Watson wrote (April 24, 2010):
[To Kim Patrick Clow] I happened upon "Tönet Ihr Pauken" about two years ago when I went back to school. It is one of the most inspiring pieces I have ever heard. It seems like I can listen to it over and over without tiring of it. Although I love the sacred cantatas, I have always wondered why the secular cantatas get so little time and attention.

Uri Golomb wrote (April 25, 2010):
I think part of the reason why Handel's secular court/political music is more popular than Bach's is to do with their respective reception history.

Handel's reception history was more continuous than Bach's, at least as far as the vocal music is concerned; and a lot of his continreputation rested on this. He also wrote for institutions that are still in existence. Thus, "Zadok the Priest" is still used as a coronation anthem (as far as I'm aware - it will probably be a while before another coronation comes along and a decision made as to whether to use it), serving the British monarchy (which still exists). In a sense, this music never stopped being used; it never needed a full-scale revival. (His operas and Latin church music did not enjoy the same continuity, and more effort was required to bring them back into the repertoire).

Bach's court music, on the other hand, was written for an institution - the court of the Dresden Electors - which no longer exists, and which didn't make much use of it even when it did exist; there was no continuity. When Bach's vocal music was revived, the revival began with his church music, and much of the revival work was done by people who extolled Bach primarily as a church musician; no wonder they focused much more on his sacred than on his secular music, which even embarrassed them (the Fifth Evangelist writing about Hercules and singing the virtues of coffee?). Furthermore, the institution for which he wrote the sacred music - the Lutheran church - still exists; once parts of that church renewed their interest in Bach's music, they could also contribute to the reputation of his sacred works - but not his secular ones.

I wouldn't say the above offers a full explanation, but that's certainly part of it.

 

OT: Social networks, passing of knowledge mapped

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (November 27, 2010):
Stamford University has a fascinating project of tracing letter exchanges as a form of primitive social networking in 18th century Europe.

Researchers map thousands of letters exchanged in the 18th century's "Republic of Letters" and learn at a glance what it once took a lifetime of study to comprehend.

There is a Youtube video clip available online: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nw0oS-AOIPE
Though several researchers on the list would find this interesting.

 

OT: Life in 18th century Europe / BBC's "Filthy Cities"

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 15, 2011):
The BBC has started a 3 part series of documentaries on "Filthy Cities" looking at Medival London, Revolutionary France, and Industrial Age New York City.

All of them are extremely informative, but I'm sure the list participants would find the one for 18th century Paris the most pertinent for our interest in Baroque music.

I can't believe Leipzig or Hamburg or Berlin or Darmstadt would be any better to be honest, with the possible exception for less crowded conditions, so maybe the filth was spread out more. While class warfare was rampant (serfs weren't freed in Austria until Joesph II) and while there was a growing middle class, political rights for average citizens was completely unheard of. But as the special on Paris makes completely clear: nobleman or not, everyone stank to high heaven.

You can see a clip on Youtube here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aPVeRld-aqA

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 15, 2011):
I forgot to mention:

You can view the entire episode on Youtube: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KPch1MNt0Mk

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 16, 2011):
Kim Patrick Clow wrote:
< as the special on Paris makes completely clear: nobleman or not, everyone stank to high heaven. >
From recall, the following *quote* sounds like Mark Twain to me:<I would choose heaven for the climate, but hell for the company.>

Now even the heavenly climate comes into question? Or only Paris?

William Hoffman wrote (April 18, 2011):
[To Ed Myskowski] They say that the sense of smell can evoke the most intense memories. My first experience in Paris was walking up the Champs Elysees on a hot July afternoon and sensing a beautiful young stylish woman upwind who apparently had not bathed for a while, wore intense perfume and was sweating. I'll never forget that 1963 event as a 20-year old soldier in the last American unit in France. A little while later I asked where the nearest public bathroom was and someone pointed to the median in the middle of the street where I saw this octagonal iron stall on stilts, which began about two feet above the pavement, and below were two clothed legs and a stream. Vivre la France!

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 19, 2011):
William Hoffman wrote:
< Vivre la France! >
I watched a Julia Child cooking program (rerun!) recently, with my spouse. Julia was cooking fish, which she specifically did not wash. <Washing removes the character of fish, and also people, in France!>

Aloha, Ed Myskowski (French mama, if you need to know)

William Rowland (Ludwig) wrote (April 19, 2011):
[To William Hoffman] The ideology that the French do not bathe regularly and stink is a false stereotype derived out of the past and as recent as World War I. It is based on barely half truths and outright lies.(when you are at war--you can become deprived of many things and among them is a daily bath--especially if there is no hot and cold running water to your flat or military unit or Monastery). It also stems from the centuries bigoted old hatreds of the English towards the French. After some 500 years ---is it not time to kill these bigoted ideas? Perhaps the French peasant class did not bathe regularly in the 17th and 18th century (but would have had they been able to afford to do so) but Marie-Antoinette set that straight when she arrived to marry Louis XVI and she became Queen. The Court, when she arrived as a young teenage girl from Austria, did stink of body odors and all the more so to foreign noses because of the love of garlic based foods and stinky cheeses by the French.

In Marie-Antoinettes day; to take a bath was quiet an undertaking as it was still in rural America as late as the 1950s. You had to have water boiled/heated and tempered with cold water to the right temperature and then poured into your tub and after it all was over ---it had to be emptied without the benefit of a drain; perfumes and soaps made available (often these were not and if they were in America---they were of the lye soap kind that would eat your skin off you). MA of course had ladies in waiting to do these things for her and all she had to do is to hop into the tub as we do today. There is a famous painting Jacques-Louis David showing and disproving the stereotype---it is the picture of Marat after he had been murdered in his bath, during the Terror, by Charlotte Corday.

Marie-Antoinette, after her arrival at Court, ordered that everyone bathe at least once a day and to use perfume and in addition is responsible for the perfume industry of France that still is in existence today in Provence. The cost of perfumes for the Court was used against MA in considering her for execution. Paris is one of the few places on earth where you can walk into a Perfume store and have a perfume custom made for you on the spot such as at the Galeries Lafayette. For those who might be interested in this tid bid ----the Royals changed clothes several times a day to prevent themselves from developing body odors in a day when there was no climate controls. Queen Victoria also did this also. FYI Englishmen stank just as badly as Frenchmen did back then and even up to when modern toilettes and bathrooms were installed in middle class homes.

The American tradition among the working class (17th-mid 20th century) was to have a Saturday night bath, if they did not have proper bathrooms/toilettes. If you were a cowboy in the American West--you bathed when you got paid or as soon as that was convienient. I know all about this kind of bathing custom because as a young child because my early childhood was spent in a house that did not have hot water and did not have toilette facilities as we have today. Everyone in town and country took their weekly bath on Saturday night back . Only the very affluent had running hot and cold water in thier homes. Soap was made at home from potash made from burning wood that was burnt to heat a cast iron pot used to boil clothes in as part of washing clothes. This kind of soap was used just for about everything and was very good for washing clothes in but it was very caustic.

There is something to be said in favor of being smelly in an offensive way---the sweat contains pheronomes that many people find sexually stimulating and hence become attracted to the person who smells that way. To myself, I find smelly stinky underarms, underware and socks revolting and not at all inducing any sexual attraction to anyone at all irregardless of gender. I do find it makes me want to run the opposite way from them.

In 1963, the French, as was most of Europe, were still recovering from WWII and the infrastructure was still not fully operational. Rentals that were reasonablely priced for starving artists were often walk up flats with either cold water or little or no water at all in buildings that had survived from the Middle ages.

Also dunng the 1960s, the Hippie movement began having an influence and if you were a hippie who believed in naturalness and organicness---there were many who never bathed at all because it was thought that a person was created to smell naturally. How many of us got over that idea as we grew more mature and wise in the ways of the world? I would say most as that was one of the reasons that hippies were outright rejected in many quarters.

Ed Myskowski wrote (April 19, 2011):
Ed Myskowski wrote:
< I watched a Julia Child cooking program (rerun!) recently, with my spouse. Julia was cooking fish, which she specifically did not wash. <Washing removes the character of fish, and also people, in France!> >
I did not give a lot of thought to my answer to Wills post. I had an off-list reply which took offense.

The quote from Julia Child is accurate, but her comment was in the context of buying fish that is fresh. In her extensive cooking programs, she always emphasizes the unique value the French place on fresh food.

I trust there is no doubt that I love the French, and all habitants of the Home Planet. I prefer life in 21st C. USA to life in 18th C. Paris (as portrayed by the BBC), but that is what I am accustomed to.

Kim Patrick Clow wrote (April 19, 2011):
Ludwig wrote:
< Perhaps the French peasant class did not bathe regularly in the 17th and 18th century (but would have had they been able to afford to do so) but Marie-Antoinette set that straight when she arrived to marry Louis XVI and she became Queen. The Court, when she arrived as a young teenage girl from Austria, did stink of body odors and all the more so to foreign noses because of the love of garlic based foods and stinky cheeses by the French. >
I think you've missed the really big picture here: life was pretty horrible back in the 18th century, and these BBC specials are nothing more than documentaries about those periods, with no value judgments of anyone. But there's so much wrong in your analysis, I don't know where to begin: e.g. it wasn't a hardship to take a bath or even a lack of access to "technology" for the rich not to take a bath (afterall-- Rome was able to bath its million plus citizens easily, nearly 1500 years previously), A lot of the lack of bathing was based was a real loathing and fear due to the "medical" science and religious superstitions of the period that dated back to the Middle Ages. Certainly, poverty was an issue for most French citizens in the 18th century, as it was for most of the population in Europe. French men of the time had life expectancies of about 25- 30 years old, so understandably, bathing wasn't their top priority-- when you're dying of hunger, or suffering from a multitude of illnesses, etc. And by the way, the French were hardly the only people in Europe eating garlic or stinky cheeses, so if dear ole Marie been married off to a suitor in Madrid, or Naples, or Milan, she'd been just as mortified with the stench of urban living in any of those other cities. And remember too, Paris was considered to be the most civilized city in that period. And there was plenty of alternatives to soap too.

So bringing this back to Bach, I'm pretty sure Leipzig during Bach's lifetime was just as filthy and unsanitary as Paris. I think a lot of us would be mortified at what Bach had to endure just day-to-day living. Just use your imagination for the logistics issues of all those students at the school. No wonder they were sick all the time. Bach beat incredible odds in the course of his life, it's a testimony to his talents and intelligence, and apparently he had good genes too

 

Article: Bach and the "Snake-Fire-Sprayers" - Fire-Fighting Regulations and Equipment During Bach's Time in Leipzig

Aryeh Oron wrote (September 28, 2011):
Thomas Braatz contributed another article to the BCW:
"Bach and the "Snake-Fire-Sprayers" - Fire-Fighting Regulations and Equipment During Bach's Time in Leipzig"
http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/LeipzigFeuerwehr.pdf
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote:
The article I have written may raise quite a few eyebrows because it seems extremely remote from the type of subject matter usually discussed on these mailing lists or presented elsewhere on the BCW. Personally, I have never truly enjoyed the numerous fanciful biographies or films presenting episodes from Bach's life because I always ask myself: "How much of this is really imaginary and bears little or no relation to what Bach's experiences may have been like?" With the translation of this document from 1691, a tiny window may have been opened, as unimportant as this may seem in the life of this important composer. There is even less relevancy here to Bach's music, in fact, none at all as far as I can determine. Having warned potential readers about its content and its lack of relevancy to Bach's life and music, I will leave the decision about its value to those readers who nevertheless persist in reading the translation and commentary I have provided.

Douglas Cowling wrote (September 28, 2011):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed another article to the BCW:
"Bach and the "Snake-Fire-Sprayers" - Fire-Fighting Regulations and Equipment During Bach's Time in Leipzig" >
"O Ewiges Feuer" takes on new meaning!

All of this collateral evidence is fascinating and invaluable for providing a social context for Bach. A cantata like the "Peasant Cantata" showed he was a astute observer of civic life.

I wonder if Bach heard them singing as they worked in the square.

 

Article: Bach and the Beggars

Aryeh Oron wrote (October 23, 2011):
Thomas Braatz contributed another Article to the BCW: "Bach and the Beggars".
See: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Bach&Beggars.pdf
Linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote:
Who has not heard the story about 'Bach and the Singing Beggars'? Well, if not, then check out Spitta's biography which relates this and some other aspects of musical beggars. The most important resource which reveals how the people of Leipzig treated beggars or were supposed to treat them is the book of regulations governing the beggars who came to Leipzig. This is given in the original with an English translation. Whether it is the spurious Bach connection with the singing beggars in an anecdote or the more reliable regulation booklet which spells out Bach's direct contact with some of these beggars, all of this should make for some interesting reading for Bach lovers.

 

Article: The Rules Established for the Thomasschule by a Noble and Very Wise Leipzig City Council - Printed by Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf Leipzig, 1733

Aryeh Oron wrote (February 13, 2012):
Thomas Braatz contributed another iarticle to the BCW:

"The Rules Established for the Thomasschule by a Noble and Very Wise Leipzig City Council - Printed by Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf Leipzig, 1733."

Original German text: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/ThomasschuleGesetze1733.pdf
English translation: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/Ordnung1733Translation.pdf
Both documents are linked from: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Articles/index.htm
[Scroll down to the bottom of the page]

Thomas Braatz wrote:

When the Thomasschule in Leipzig underwent a complete renovation for about a year from 1731-1732, this necessitated a revision of the Schulordnung only a decade after the previous one had been published in 1723. The text of the latter has been available in the articles section for some time now. The new rules or statutes reveal some interesting aspects not available in the earlier 1723 version. It would appear that the 1733 version is complementary to the 1723 version which was already out of print and hard for students to find a decade later (although there was always a complete version of it available on a bulletin board in the school for all students to read at will).

I have provided both the original text [not a facsimile, but a completely retyped version in Fraktur] and my translation of it along with two important, very pertinent extracts from other original sources (Leipzig, 1725 & 1728). There are contradictions or conflicts as well as numerous unclear aspects that cannot easily be resolved from these texts. Questions remain about such things as the currende regularly (3 times a week all year long?) making their rounds 'caroling' in the streets of Leipzig, the punishments meted out (who did the actual caning of a student - the principal, the teachers, the praefects? Where was the jail? in the school or was it the city jail? How much was a Thomaner fined for singing a wrong note? - there is actually a specific answer for this one), and the infamous beer barrels [the beer supply coming from a specific endowment by a local citizen of some note] in the basement of the school from which students would get real beer on Sundays & feast days and
'near' beer throughout the week in a beer stein which a donor [member of the city council] gave to each student? (there are a few references to drinking orgies in and out of the school building).

The students were involved in keeping the building clean, not only their own cubicles which they shared with another student, but also the larger areas - read about the purgants and custos, students who received nominal pay for custodial work. Was the calefactor an older student? He had some awesome responsibilities! After reading through this document, you may be slightly overwhelmed by terms which begin to sound alike: praecentor, praefect, praeceptor, etc. There is also the problem with decurion which at times refers to the leader of such a group also called a decurion.

If you discover anything worth noting or changing, direct your statements or questions to Aryeh Oron.

Bruce Simonson wrote (February 13, 2012):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< Thomas Braatz contributed another important article to the BCW:
"The Rules Established for the Thomasschule by a Noble and Very Wise Leipzig City Council - Printed by Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf Leipzig, 1733." >
Fascinating. A glimpse into the past and the lives in Leipzig. Boys will be boys, I reckon.

And somewhere, wandering the same halls, with this posted polemic, was Maestro Bach.

Thanks much for the translation.

Douglas Cowling wrote (February 13, 2012):
Aryeh Oron wrote:
< "The Rules Established for the Thomasschule by a Noble and Very Wise Leipzig City Council - Printed by Bernhard Christoph Breitkopf Leipzig, 1733." >
Thanks to Thomas Braatz for this fascinating document that captures the daily rhythm of Bach's college. The moralistic tone reminds me of the suffocating memos which Prince Albert, the Prince Consort, sent to the staff
of his son, the future Edward VII.

And speaking of the Prince of Wales, what is the crest at the beginning of the document? It has the three feathers which is the crest of the English Princes of Wales which was appropriated from a conquered German foe in the
Middle Ages.

The interesting thing about the document is that the Cantor hardly appears in the day-to-day workings of the school. The only significant passage is that the extensive monetary penalties levelled on students was used by the Cantor to buy instruments and music.

There are a number of rules which give us some insight into the musical life of the school.

The boys are enjoined to receive communion three or four times a year. That would suggest that they didn't all troop down to the altar to receive, but rather remained in the loft for the Communion music.

It would appear that the boys were not in the loft for some weekday services but rather sang from the choir stalls near the altar: there is much attention given to deportment when they are in view of the congregation. The rules also indicate that prefect gave the tempo and pitch of chorales, apparently by singing the first line. There is also reference to the fact that the organ was not always used for hymn-singing.

All of the boys were expected to have their hymn books with them at all times, and every activity began with the singing of chorales. Boys were enjoined to sing the Sunday's chorales during the previous week. That provision tells us much of how the music and liturgy intersected for generations of students, Bach included.

It is surprising how many times the students are enjoined to use their free time for practising music. The school must have vibrated with music.

As usual, the penalties tell us much about the realties of a school which was full of financial rewards and penalites. No begging from people taking communion or singing extra in people's houses at funerals. And no singing solos in taverns.

And of course, no subversive formation of clandestine music groups to sing unauthorized music.

Harry Potter with music instead of magic.

Julian Mincham wrote (February 14, 2012):
I like the idea that a sermon will warm the students in harshly cold conditions------it won't replace central heating though!

Interesting the emphasis upon personal health, hygiene and grooming---even toilet habits!

I wonder what the cantor thought of the advice to refrain from using both tobacco and alcohol!

Ed Myskowski wrote (February 14, 2012):
Douglas Cowling wrote:
< Boys were enjoined to sing the Sunday's chorales during the previous week. >
Placing a huge question mark on the notion that Bachs cantatas might have been sight-read at first performance?

< And no singing solos in taverns. >
Quartets? No problem.

Continue of this part of the discussion, see: Sight Reading [General Topics]

 

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Last update: ýMarch 12, 2012 ý14:32:05