“Look, Bach did a cool thing” is not a thesis

For this paper, I didn’t originally plan to do a Bach cantata, but since it is strongly suggested I will do so. I had the idea of examining the music of Charles Ives, but upon finding Cantata 66 (Erfreut euch, ihr Herzen, or “Rejoice, ye hearts”) I see that many of the techniques of exegesis are the same for both ideas, just using different music.

While Ives’ music is very accessible to me, as it is written in English and utilizes familiar ideas, Bach’s music was also composed to be very accessible to its audience, rife with musical expression and text painting that highlight the scripture. Though preliminary research, I have found that this cantata has a unique structure that does just this. Written for the second day of Easter, it is largely joyful and upbeat, the majority of the text rejoicing in Jesus’ resurrection and the salvation it brings for humanity. However, it does contain a section in which some of the text is darker. Following the opening joyful chorus and thankfully reassured bass aria comes a section that is a dialogue between two voices at odds with each other. One voice asserts proudly in the second duet that “I do not fear the darkness of the grave” while the other says exactly the opposite. This dialogue of hope and fear shows both sides of the story, but in the end the voice of praise and confidence wins and finishes with assurance in the power of God that leads to the final chorale which glorifies God and pleads for further mercy and consolation.

In terms of the paper and podcast, I see what I could do for the podcast itself, focusing on these ideas and demonstrating how Bach illustrated them with his music. But for the paper, I am still a bit lost when it comes to finding a thesis, since “Look, Bach did this cool thing”, while 100% true, is not very arguable. So far I have not done much research but I am already intrigued by this unique format which seems to convey its point through dialogue and inclusion of dissent that is eventually consoled. I look forward to delving deeper into the music and finding how the meaning within impacted its audiences.

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