Bach’s contribution to Western imagination and spirituality is immense His is a sounds-world that in its scale and depth accompanies us on a profound spiritual and musical journey.
The bass notes travel, often at walking pace, rising and falling, journeying through the narrative with delicacy but with seemingly inexorable harmonic confidence. The melody is horizontal, often based on Lutheran psalm chants or hymn tunes, pointing us always forward in the direction of travel. The harmony is vertical, but again travelling forwards, moving us on, resolving, moving us on again, taking us through the sadness of minor keys to the brightness of the major.
In the horizontal melody and the vertical harmony, I can hear, as others have before me, Bach’s cross-shaped faith that brings meaning in a chaotic world. I find the music consoling and emotional, and, in its journey towards musical resolution, I learn that the movement of the Spirit is to bring order out of chaos.
In the movement and energy of harmonies, it seems too that reformation is always possible, that things do not have to be as they are. Although the music is not afraid of turbulence, in the spirit of Psalm 107 it travels with us through the storms of our lives to the haven where we would be (Psalm 107.29-30).