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Sex, Death, and MinuetsAnna Magdalena Bach and Her Musical Notebooks$
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David Yearsley

Print publication date: 2019

Print ISBN-13: 9780226617701

Published to Chicago Scholarship Online: January 2020

DOI: 10.7208/chicago/9780226617848.001.0001

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Death Every Day: The 1725 Notebook and the Art of Dying

Death Every Day: The 1725 Notebook and the Art of Dying

(p.87) Chapter Three Death Every Day: The 1725 Notebook and the Art of Dying
Sex, Death, and Minuets

David Yearsley

University of Chicago Press

Anna Magdalena Bach's Notebook of 1725 is a heterogeneous collection containing virtuosic and profound keyboard suites, light dances, and a number of sacred songs whose theme is death. The disarmingly fashionable style of these pieces hardly seems commensurate with the mortal musings of the poetry they set. While scholars have generally seen the Notebook’s less demanding offerings—including the songs—as a testament to Anna Magdalena’s taste for the galant style, little has been said about her apparent penchant for reflecting on, and preparing for, death through the music she chose for her Notebook. Yet it can hardly be coincidence that these musical confrontations with death and dying were inscribed during a period during which many of her own infant children died. By reading the songs' poetic texts and their musical settings against the voluminous writings on the art of dying found in the Bachs' theological library, we can recognize—and learn from—the centrality of the ars moriendi in the family's domestic life and especially in Anna Magdalena's musical practice.

Keywords:   art of dying, ars moriendi, infant mortality, funeral sermons, theological literature, consolation music, domestic music, smoking, bereavement, Lutheranism

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