chapter  4
16 Pages

Creatio ex improvisatione: Chrétien on the Call

ByBruce Ellis Benson

This chapter evaluates the correspondence between Bach's Heilig and Otto's mysterium tremendum and uses this to consider the relationship between music and transcendence, the natural and the numinous. As Otto states, making use of Kantian terminology, music becomes an 'authentic schema of the holy'. As Richards has demonstrated, C. P. E. Bach emphasised musical and religious aspects to 'aspire to a particular sublime mode in the Heilig and other works'. In contrast, in the 'Choir of Angels' segments, quite distant harmonies are explored. The moment of 'overwhelming majesty' follows, which Otto describes as 'the annihilation of self' in which the transcendent becomes the sole and entire reality. Todd Gooch clarifies, however, that the tremendum 'experience of religious dread is qualitatively distinct from normal fear'. Instead, Bach's Heilig represents an approach to the deity full of rational confidence in humankind's position, valuing his musical expressions alongside those of angelic beings.