Giving Meaning to Research: So What?

As I embark on the early stages of this next paper-writing journey I am struggling with bridging my personality to the realm of academic musicological writing. I need to find a purpose to motivate me to want to learn about and do a good job. I started finding this purpose by asking myself: why do I want to explore antisemitism in Bach’s St. John’s Passion? Throughout the research and writing process, I’m starting to find my answer. The Bible was written a long time ago and Bach wrote the passion a long time ago. Everyone involved in the original creation of these primary sources is dead, so there is no chance of changing what has already been written. If there are antisemetic tones we should call them out. Should we stop performing St. John’s Passion? I think not. Is an informed performance necessary? Absolutely.

There are a few points of intervention to consider. First, the point of view from whomever(s) wrote the Gospel of John. Next, the point between the Gospel of John and Bach, and the point between Bach’s composition and the performers executing a performance of the passion itself.

I’m going to make a case for at which of these points we need to intervene as scholars dedicated to lifting up equal human rights and respect without ignoring creations from the past.

I have found a few great sources so far including a compilation of articles titled Pondering the Passion that includes an essay called “The Passion in Music: Bach’s Settings of the Matthew and John Passions.” This will be a good entry point into the discussion as well as other articles in this book which look at the passion narrative from numerous points of view. Another book I checked out from the library is called Who Killed Jesus: Exposing the Roots of Anti-Semitism in the Gospel Story of the Death of Jesus by John Dominic Crosssan.

There is a lot of literature about this topic and there is no way I’ll be able to read it all. I am nervous to write this paper because I do not have the depth of background knowledge that I would like, but I will need to do my best given the time constraints to say something helpful, original, and accurate.

One thought on “Giving Meaning to Research: So What?

  1. Sounds like you’ve already developed a quite sophisticated response to the issue of antisemitism in Bach. Reading the Crossan (who is an amazing scholar of religion – his biography of Jesus is amazing, too) will help. And you’re right that there have been many opportunities for the meanings of the Gospel to be “lost in translation,” which makes it all the more important that scholars such as yourself fill in some of those lost meanings. After all, if every performance of the St. John Passion came with a little asterisk pointing out how it misinterprets or has been misinterpreted, audience members will have plenty of valuable reminders of the values of tolerance and inclusion that we *ought* to be carrying forward, ideally with Bach’s help.

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