Disruptive Spatiality and the Experience of Recordings of Bach's Solo Cello Suites

Waltham-Smith, Naomi

Architecture, so the saying goes, is "frozen music." Music, conversely, is "liquid" architecture. This aphorism, popular in the early nineteenth century, soon became a cliche. "Should one perhaps speak of ruins;' quips Schopenhauer in 1844, "as a 'frozen cadenza'?". However maligned, though, the cliche persists in Bach studies. It is still commonplace to speak of the "architecture" of Bach's music (Wolff 1969; Schulenberg 1992; Corten 1995), and even the composer himself has been labeled an "architect" (Joseph 1992). The very structures of this music, we are frequently told, are "architectonic:' While discourse on Bach has tended to adopt this architectural metaphor as an unquestioned, and at times tacit, assumption, there is little evidence to suggest that his music corresponds with any degree of precision to concrete examples of architectural theory or practice. Nor have commentators drawn consistent parallels between Bach's music and anyone architectural style, let alone a single historical period. The analogy between high Gothic architecture and Bach's counterpoint was common in the first half of the nineteenth century, and articles and books on Bach continue to be peppered with pictures of Gothic cathedrals. Other commentators, however, claim to detect stylistic parallels with the architecture of Baroque Rome: Raymond Court, for instance, writes that "we place the music of J. S. Bach opposite this grand Baroque architecture of papal Rome as in a mirror in order to discover analogous stylistic traits" (1989:15).



  • thumnail for current.musicology.82.waltham-smith.33-59.pdf current.musicology.82.waltham-smith.33-59.pdf application/pdf 1.2 MB Download File

Also Published In

Current Musicology

More About This Work

Academic Units
Columbia University
Published Here
October 31, 2014