Research: Finding a Needle in a Haystack

This class has humbled me in so many ways. I have found the research process difficult, frustrating, and irrelevant at times. My theses have been reworked over and over again, simply so that they fit with my research findings. This paper topic has been no different. I have flip-flopped between researching two different Bach pieces, both of which have little scholarship, and one of them is even rumored to not have been written by Bach. Needless to say, I need to get started on this paper, so the time has come for me to make a decision on what I want to do.

I am looking into a specific aria of the St. John Passion, “Ich folge dir gleichfalls,” the first soprano aria that describes Peter as a faithful follower of Jesus. Peter declares his love and faithfulness, yet denies knowing Jesus in a scene directly afterwards. There is an interesting parallel between Luther’s teachings of vocation and sin and Bach’s musical setting, and I hope to explore this more in a podcast. The aria is roughly 4 minutes in length, yet still carries enough theological and musical implications that a thorough exegesis could be done. I still fear, however, that searching for research to help me build my argument will be more difficult than I expect. My goal is to find solid religious research and pair it with appropriate musical analysis to show that Bach did know what he was doing in adding this seemingly useless commentary into the passion. There is more than meets the eye (or ear) to this aria, and the St. John Passion is enhanced because of it.

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