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Bach's Birthday
Part 2: 2006

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Continue from Part 1

Year 2006

A Happy Belated Birthday to JSB

Santu de Silva wrote (March 22, 2006):
Yesterday was the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, according to the Julian Calendar. Am I right?

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 22, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva]
According to modern dates (Gregorian calendar) Bach's birthday was yesterday. But, according to position in orbit around the sun, the correct date will be next Friday, March 31st. There was the adjustment of 10 days during Bach's youth, switching from Julian to Gregorian.

The Gregorian (our current) and Julian calendars are now off from one another by more than 10 days (making the Julian March 21st for Bach's birthday also "wrong" by modern standards), but that's fairly irrelevant now since the Julian is disused. It will just keep diverging.

Some earlier discussion: http://www.bach-cantatas.com/Topics/Life-2.htm

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 23, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Yesterday was the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach, according to the Julian Calendar. Am I right?<<
>>According to modern dates (Gregorian calendar) Bach's birthday was yesterday. But, according to position in orbit around the sun, the correct date will be next Friday, March 31st. There was the adjustment of 10 days during Bach's youth, switching from Julian to Gregorian.<<
Looking at Bach's birthday as March 31 is important from another standpoint as explained below:

Johann Sebastian Bach - March 21, 1685 (OS assumed - (Old Style - Julian), Eisenach, Germany March 31, 1685 (NS - New Style-Gregorian), Eisenach, Germany Latitude 50N59, Longitude 10E19.

Knowing the exact time of birth and its location on the earth, astrologers, for many centuries, have been consulted to delineate the characteristics and the so-called fortune connected with this unique set of circumstances surrounding the birth of individuals as determined by the position(s) of the planets (including the moon and sun) and the earth on its axis as well.

Of course, no one will ever really know what time of day Bach was born, but this does not keep astrologers from trying to determine what might have been the correct date and time of Bach's birth.

The data sources, as they stand now, are conflicting and unverified. An assumption has to be made regarding the number of days intervening between the actual birth and the official registration of baptism. Facsimiles/pictures of the baptismal entry on March 23, 1685, a baptism which took place in St. George's Church in Eisenach, abound in many Bach biographies. The date of birth, given in a direct copy of Bach's own original document containing the genealogy of the Bach family (1735) has the actual birth date as March 21, 1685 (even after the change from OS to NS had taken place!), but then researchers have discovered that Bach erred by a half year when he stated that he became the organist at the New Church in Arnstadt in 1704 (the actual date given in the church records is August 9, 1703).

The time of birth remains undetermined (and will probably forever remain so).

By applying the commonly used method of rectification (the dates of significant events in Bach's life are used to reconstruct the original time), the following speculative times have been proposed and have appeared in print:

Ruth Dewey, in "450 Themes de Musicians", speculates that the birth took place at 5:45 am LMT (Local Mean Time at the moment of sunrise) on Saturday, March 31, 1685

Eschelman speculates 10:58 am

Kraum, in "American Astrology" (Feb. 1963), posited the time as 12:14 pm

Genuit, in "Astrology Quarterly (Winter, 1964) gives the speculative time as 2:00 pm (taken originally from "Der Astrologische Auskunftsbogen"

Astrologers, who are not necessarily musicians, are nevertheless very interested in such a phenomenon as Bach, just as they continue to investigate the circumstances surrounding other great (famous and infamous) human beings, Da Vinci, Beethoven, famous kings and rulers, etc. What seems to interest astrologers most about Bach?

1. Bach was born into an extended family of important musicians and composers where the majority of men achieved some degree of fame in this area

2. Bach was prolific not only in producing music but he also had 20 children, 4 of these also became famous as musicians

3. Bach's music, centuries after his death, continues to astound listeners with its profundity, but also its abilities to continue to give pleasure even after hearing it repeatedly.

I have decided to share just a few of the astrological 'readings' that pertain to the J. S. Bach who apparently was born on March 31, 1685 (NS) but whose birth time remains entirely speculative. None of the 'readings' below are based on the birth time, a common basis for ascertaining more personal indications. They simply reflect a cosmological 'picture' for anyone born on that date. For this purpose only the positions and angular placements of the planets (including sun and moon) are taken into account. [These 'readings'/interpretations are from reference books which have not taken Bach's life and fame into account (the authors are unaware that the description might include or refer to Bach.)]

For those readers who might already be offended by what is being presented here, let them cease from reading on. My purpose here is not encourage certain beliefs or customs considered to be superstition by some or heresy by others (nor do I wish to provoke a controversy that might lead away from the subject of Bach and his music), but simply to provide some information, as tentative and speculative as it may be, about yet another dimension that might be revealed about what Bach might have been experiencing as he struggled to produce great music in the face of some great difficulties.

Some planetary positions:

Mercury in Pisces (this general position is in effect for about a month each year)

"You are more of a poet than a rational scientist, for your mind does not function in a strictly logical, linear fashion. The language of music, art, or poetry is natural to you, and you are also able to think in highly abstract and symbolic terms. Translating your thoughts and impressions into concrete, everyday language may be difficult for you at times and consequently you may appear less intelligent or at least less quick-witted and verbal than others. This was especially true of you as a child, and you probably daydreamed a good deal also. You are intuitive and are able to sense what others' thoughts and feelings are, even before they say anything to you. You often form an opinion about a person or situation without much factual knowledge of them, and your impressions are usually correct. You can be somewhat absent-minded and you become so immersed in your own thoughts that you overlook things in your immediate, tangible environment. You are extremely open-minded and believe that anything is possible. Intangible or spiritual forces seem just as real to you as anything in the concrete world. Your imagination and your sympathetic understanding of other people are two of your greatest gifts."

Saturn in Virgo (this general position pertains to a 2 ½ year duration every 30 years)

"You have a penchant for order and precision, and an almost compulsive attention to detail. You are often
hypercritical and can be such a demanding perfectionist that you discourage yourself or others from even attempting something that won't be done exactly the way you know it should be done.

You frequently over anaor pick things apart mentally. You may be something of a hypochondriac also. You must learn that you do not have to rationally understand everything in order for it to be valid, and also to relax your unnecessarily high or strict standards."

Neptune in Pisces

"You are part of a 14 year group of people that are very intuitive, receptive, and imaginative. The arts and music are very important to your age group, and they flourish with your support, talent, and contributions. There is a rich and varied abundance of artistic and musical productivity from your age group."

Some planetary aspects (angular distances between the planets):

Moon conjunct (the planets 'stand together') Neptune (only in effect for a day or so of each lunar month)

"You are extremely psychic and very sensitive to your environment and your associates. This sensitivity may be frightening when it stays in the land of day dreams and a real asset when it is harnessed to the immediate and relevant circumstances in your daily life. The speed of this integration governs the rate of emotional integration and normalcy of living you experienced in childhood. You have a tendency to retreat into fantasy and daydreaming. If your imagination is harnessed and reinforced as a child, art, music, dance and all cultural pursuits become an open book for you. The arts can become your escape and a constructive and shareable part of your inner life. You have an uncanny knack for what is happening around you because you are "tuned in" to the larger world. If you have courage and discipline, you may well have a very positive effect on the whole world. Vivid imagination is indicated and, if correctly used, can enhance musical and artistic ability. This conjunction can give religious and spiritual tendencies."

Mercury conjunct Venus (this angular placement is generally in effect for only a few days in the entire year)

"You appreciate aesthetics and have a fine sense of form, design, and beauty. You could develop considerable technical skill as an artist, designer, craftsman, or creative writer. You could also sell objects of beauty - artistic products, cosmetics, jewelry, etc."

Mercury Trine (120 degrees apart from) Pluto (in effect for only a few days of the year; not in effect, for example, on March 21, 1685 (NS - 10 days earlier)

"This trine indicates the kind of mind that is capable of understanding reality in terms of the interplay of energy-that is, understanding the causes of outer manifestations (the ability needed by an atomic physicist to understand and comprehend atomic structures). Deep involvement in such areas will occur in only a few cases (of those individuals who have this aspect), since many other factors must bear it out. Often this influence is too subtle for the average person to understand or use to its fullest potential. In ordinary humanity this aspect would merely indicate an ability to get at the root of things."

Venus Opposition (180 degrees from) Saturn (in effect for only a few days of the year)

"Saturn frustrates the natural tendencies of Venus toward joy, beauty, and happiness. The individual may be made cold because of continual deprivations and heavy responsibilities. The individual may have jobs they do not enjoy or which do not pay well. Their employers may be miserly and selfish. This opposition can also make it difficult to relate to the public at large and does not favor popularity because the individual always appears to be so reserved."

Fumitaka Sato wrote (March 23, 2006):
[To Santu de Silva] I hate to dispute about calendars here, but I must say that March 21 (Bach's birthday) on Julian Calendar corresponds to April 3 on Gregorian Calendar this year.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 23, 2006):
[To Fumitaka Sato] I think the difference might be explained this way (please bear with me):

An astronomer in Eisenach, Germany looking at the local calendar would have seen the date: March 21, 1685 and locating on that same day the position of the sun in degrees of longitude from the zero point Aries (beginning of Spring in the northern latitudes) would have found the sun at + 11 degrees from the Aries point (or simply 11 degrees Aries). He would have realized that this was not the ideal location for the first day of spring because the calendar kept adding to this error every year. During Bach's lifetime, the correction in the calendar was undertaken in a rather piecemeal fashion in various principalities which Bach visited or in which he lived. Russia, for instance, finally made the change from Julian to Gregorian much later (end of the 19th or even the beginning of the 20th century, I am just guessing at this fact without looking it up). In Bach's lifetime, he suddenly lost 10 days, but the Russians, in order to make the correction from the old to the new lost something like 2 weeks, (again just an approximate guess). But once the change was made, then the amount of divergence between dates recorded in one style (OS) and recalculated in the new style (NS) stopped and remained constant relative to each other. Had Bach wanted to, he could have had an astronomer tell him, that on the birth date (March 21) which Bach remembered from the 'good old days' before the calendar change, the sun was not at the vernal equinox (+1 degree Aries) but rather at 11 degrees Aries because of the built-in deficiencies of the Julian calendar. In order to place the sun correctly (actually the earth in its orbit around the sun) so that it would be at almost the very same spot where it was when Bach was born, he would have to wait until March 31 NS (for instance in 1735 when his family's genealogy was being discussed and copied) in order to celebrate his normal birthday (according to the heavens and not according to imperfect man-made calculations). Bach's real birthday occurs when essentially the same point of the sun in the sky (or earth in its orbit, depending on how you look at it) [circa 11 degrees of Aries or from the 0 Aries point) is reached each year. For us, in celebrating our birthdays, it is easy to rely on a specific calendar date because we had no changes in the calendar to contend with. For Bach or anyone to celebrate April 3, 2006 as somehow related to his birthday, one would have to state: If Bach were born on April 3, 2006 according to the Old Style calendar, his parents would see this date on the calendar, but the astute astronomer would see the position of the sun as if it were the first day of spring, the vernal equinox. Now, as long as the OS would still be in effect, the astronomer, knowing that this birth took place right after the vernal equinox, would nevertheless inform Bach's parents to continue celebrating J.S. Bach's celestial birthday on April 3. But the moment the NS calendar would take effect and 13 days simply vanished, then this responsible astronomer would tell Bach to celebrate his birthday on March 21 because that is when the sun would assume the same position in the sky that it had when Bach was actually born. Each year after that, according to the NS calendar, Bach's birthday would return on March 21 because then the relative earth-sun position re-occurs only once each year.

Summary:

On March 21, 1685 OS, the sun was already at 11 degrees Aries and not at circa 0 to 1 degree Aries (the latter being the vernal equinox which had taken place 10 days earlier according to the OS calendar.

In order to point correctly at the relative positions of earth and sun as they actually occurred in the sky and not according to a misbegotten calendar on the day of Bach's birth, it is necessary to make the one-time adjustment that took place during Bach's lifetime. Bach forgot to make this adjustment to his birthday, hence, he would continue to celebrate his birthday for most of his life on a day of the year which did not correspond celestially to represent the same position of the sun in the sky as seen against the backdrop of the Zodiac. Had Bach done this correctly back then, he too would have celebrated his birthday on March 31 just as we today should celebrate it on March 31 and not April 3, if we are tryito attune ourselves the movement of the sun as seen from the earth.

Fumitaka Sato wrote (March 23, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< An astronomer in Eisenach, Germany looking at the local calendar would have seen the date: March 21, 1685 and locating on that same day the position of the sun in degrees of longitude from the zero point Aries (beginning of Spring in the northern latitudes) would have found the sun at + 11 degrees from the Aries point (or simply 11 degrees Aries). .. >
My calculation based on the book

"Calendrical Calculations The Millennium Edition" by Edward M. Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, Cambridge U.P.; 2 edition (2001),

shows that Vernal Equinox in the year 1685 was on the day March 19 (Gregorian Calendar), which is March 9 (Julian Calendar), 12 days before the day of the birth of J.S.Bach.

Well, make it simple like this:

i) The day of birth of J.S.Bach is March 21 on Julian Calendar, which was adopted in Eisenach those days,

ii) but that date was March 31 on Gregorian Calendar, which had been adopted in the Roman Catholic Church in 1582, and

iii) this year, March 21 on Julian calendar corresponds to April 3 on Gregorian Calendar.

There can be three ways to celebrate Bach's birthday on Gregorian Calendar.

a) March 21 (on Gregorian Calendar);
b) March 31 (on Gregorian Calendar);
c) April 3 (on Gregorian Calendar).

I do not know which is the most appropriate date. I can only offer material of the fact of the calendars.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 23, 2006):
Fumitaka Sato wrote:
>>My calculation based on the book "Calendrical Calculations The Millennium Edition" by Edward M. Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, Cambridge U.P.; 2 edition (2001), shows that Vernal Equinox in the year 1685 was on the day March 19 (Gregorian Calendar), which is March 9 (Julian Calendar), 12 days before the day of the birth of J.S.Bach.<<
Now you first have to choose between the calendars to determine the actual date of the Vernal Equinox:

1. on March 9, 1685 NS the Sun left Pisces and was at 0 degrees Aries (NS), but this did not correspond with the celestial reality that the Sun according to the adjustment necessary for NS was still at circa 20 degrees of Pisces under the OS at that time (using the calendar in effect on Bach's birth date)

2. during the night from March 19 to 20, 1685 NS the Sun reached, as one would now normally expect, 0 degrees Aries thus indicating the official beginning of Spring NS (but not according to the calendar used by the Bach family who still believed that the beginning of Spring was still theoretically 10 days away in the future). When Bach's birth took place a day or two later, after the Vernal Equinox OS, the Sun, they thought, would be at about 1 degree of Aries; however, a reliable astronomer would have informed them that it (the Sun) had already reached a position of 11 degrees Aries. The latter position is based upon the fact that March 21, 1685 OS = March 31, 1685 NS.

3. in order to celebrate his birthday properly (the way that a majority of human beings use to ascertain their birthday) according to the yearly realignment of Sun-Earth position against the backdrop of the Zodiac (astronomers here prefer to speak only of calculations made from the 0 Aries point), Bach would have needed to realize that in order to be in harmony with the Sun's position at 11 degrees in Aries once each year for his birthday, he (and all others who would wish to celebrate his birthday properly in the future) would need to wait each year until March 31. Just as the exact time of the arrival of Spring varies from year to year by a matter of hours due to leap-year calculations, likewise the precise moment when the Sun reaches 11 degrees of Aries does not remain entirely fixed or constant. Generally, however, March 31 will come the closest to providing what we call a birthday: when the Sun returns to the spot where it was when we were born.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 23, 2006):
At the risk of contributing to a protracted controversy, let me make the following observations. (This is particularly interesting to me this semester, since one of my students if preparing a presentation about the mathematics of leap years, and both of us know only a little, but we will shortly know a lot more--at least we continue to hope so.) At the very worst, we can simply look up the facts, without trying to understand any of it.

(1) the reason the Julian Calendar, and all earlier calendars, were abandoned is that they do not keep synchronized with the seasons. Satofumi4's comment below is particularly apropos, since the whole idea --at least to me-- is to celebrate Bach's birthday at the time of year when he was born; 12 days before the equinox tells us almost all we want to know, since we can now formulate a calendar-independent date for Bach's birthday:

Fumitaka Sato wrote:
<<< My calculation based on the book "Calendrical Calculations The Millennium Edition" by Edward M. Reingold and Nachum Dershowitz, Cambridge U.P.; 2 edition (2001), shows that Vernal Equinox in the year 1685 was on the day March 19 (Gregorian Calendar), which is March 9 (Julian Calendar), 12 days before the day of the birth of J.S.Bach. >>>

(2) For the reasons given above, using the Julian calendar today, and using the Gregorian date for March 21, 2006[Julian] makes absolutely no sense; the two calendars continue to diverge, worse every year. It is a charming thought that if Bach's family had continued to remain ignorant of the new calendric thinking, they would celebrate Great-Uncle Sebastian's birthday in April, or whatever, but it does not make much sense. {A few millennia from now, March 21, xxxx [Julian] will be in the middle of winter, not anywhere near the time of year --Spring-- when the gentleman was actually born.} So:

< iii) this year, March 21 on Julian calendar corresponds to April 3 on Gregorian Calendar. [One possible day to celebrate is:] c) April 3 (on Gregorian Calendar). >
makes no sense. Not a lot, anyway :)

A good choice is:

< i) The day of birth of J.S.Bach is March 21 on Julian Calendar, which was adopted in Eisenach those days, ii) but that date was March 31 on Gregorian Calendar, which had been adopted in the Roman Catholic Church in 1582, [Therefore, celebrate the birthday on:] b) March 31 (on Gregorian Calendar). >
which is okay.

(3) But the best choice is given by:

< Vernal Equinox in the year 1685 was on the day March 19 (Gregorian Calendar), which is [was?] March 9 (Julian Calendar), 12 days before the day of the birth of J.S.Bach. >
So, celebrate the birthday of J.S.Bach 12 days after the Vernal Equinox each year, which will be a better choice than to select a particular date, since the Gregorian calendar may be proved to be 'defective' some day. (It has; this year there was a leap second, as everyone knows, to compensate. Still, we have every expectation that the Gregorian Calendar will be maintained in synchronization with the seasons with appropriate corrections.) This is provided Fumitak Sato's information and calculations were accurate and reliable, which is a fact that is easy to establish one way or the other. My thanks to this list member for helping to settle the issue at least to my satisfaction!

P.S. I have asked a colleague in the Astronomy/Physics department at the school in which I teach to look up the Julian date of the vernal equinox in the year 1685. His sources are at his home, and he well tell me the date tomorrow. [I have every confidence that Satofumi's date will be corroborated.] As Tom Braatz points out, this date may or may not be the actual date of JSB's birth, but will certainly be close, and perhaps we can agree to celebrate this date.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 23, 2006):
< At the risk of contributing to a protracted controversy, let me make the following observations. (This is particularly interesting to me this semester, since one of my students if preparing a presentation about the mathematics of leap years, and both of us know only a little, but we will shortly know a lot more--at leawe continue to hope so.) At the very worst, we can simply look up the facts, without trying to understand any of it. >
Here are several books that I especially like, on such issues as the calendar:

"Calendar" by Duncan: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0380793245

"Time: The Ultimate Energy" by Hope: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1852302372

"A Sideways Look at Time" by Griffiths: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/1585423068

"Faster" by Gleick: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/067977548X

And a musical one, on issues especially important to harpsichordists (since timing is a primary means of expression, and of musical clarity). "Stolen Time: The History of Tempo Rubato" by Hudson: http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/0198161697

Now, those who automatically gainsay everything that I post here will surely find some way to contradict my opinion. Or, to point out in public how I should have written it better. Or, to castigate me for not going ahead and typing whole chapters from the aforementioned books, instead of recommending the books.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 23, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
>>...the whole idea --at least to me-- is to celebrate Bach's birthday at the time of year when he was born.<<
March 21, 1685 OS = March 31, 1685 NS (an established fact, once the conversion is accurately made) with the Sun on Bach's birthday located at approximately 11 degrees into Aries past the Vernal Equinox at 0 degrees Aries which had taken place between 11:50 pm LMT Eisenach on March 19, 1685 NS and 12:05 am LMT Eisenach on March 20, 1685 (NS) when the OS calendar was still displaying March 10,1685 OS on the wall in Eisenach, but the Sun was actually located at 20 degrees of Pisces with ten days to go before the actual Vernal Equinox.

Pretend that you are looking at the calendar on the wall in the house where Bach was born the same day in Eisenach, Germany. The following facts pertain:

1. The calendar shows March 21, 1685. This calendar is off by 10 days. The position of the Sun and Earth relative to each other would show that on this date the Vernal Equinox had not yet taken place for this particular year. The calendar on the wall was 'ahead of itself' by 10 days. The mistakes in calculating the beginning of Spring had accrued over many centuries until reaching this degree of divergence from the reality that the Vernal Equinox should occur around March 20/21 of each year. The divergence/discrepancy now amounted to 10 days with the proof being given in the sky by locating the Sun against the backdrop of the band of stars known as the Zodiac. An astronomer in Eisenach on March 20/21 of 1685 would have looked up into the sky and discovered that the Sun's location was at 20 degrees of Pisces rather than 0 degrees of Aries, which would have been expected by a more accurate calendar.

2. Had the calendar correction been made on the day of Bach's birth (it took about a decade or two for this to occur officially in the regions where Bach lived and worked), the results would have been the same as they would be even for us today: Ten days had to be subtracted from the calendar (they simply disappeared), in other words, the Bach family had to play 'catch-up' to attune themselves with the reality dictated by the movement of the earth in its orbit around the sun and the measurements of the Sun's position as seen from the earth. Suddenly (or on the specific date that the principalities in which Bach lived imposed the new calendar), March 21, 1685 OS would become March 31, 1685 NS and it has remained this way until today, notwithstanding the tiny adjustments/fluctuations that have to be made by astronomers to fit the 4-year leap-year into our calendar scheme. Now Bach's new, astronomically much more correct, birth date was and continues to remain 'in tune' with the celestial motions that surround us. The position of his Sun, as corrected by the NS calendar, was and remains essentially at 11 degrees of Aries. This is what a birthday entails: the day on which the Sun once again reaches the same position in the sky that it had when the birth occurred. This is what happens every year on March 31 for Bach whose birth occurred when the Sun was at 11 degrees of Aries (not April 3 when the Sun is at 14 degrees Aries and not March 21, a date which does not account for the loss of 10 days due to a significant calendar change and a date on which the Sun was still at 20 degrees of Pisces).

Summary:

March 31 is the only reasonably correct day on which to celebrate Bach's birthday. The Sun's position on Bach's birthday in 1685 (although the local Old Style calendars indicated that the date was March 21) was really at 11 degrees of Aries, the same position which is repeated each year under the New Style calendar on March 31.

Fumitaka Sato wrote (March 24, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
< So, celebrate the birthday of J.S.Bach 12 days after the Vernal Equinox each year, which will be a better choice than to select a particular date, since the Gregorian calendar may be proved to be 'defective' some day. (It has; this year there was a leap second, as everyone knows, to compensate. Still, we have every expectation that the Gregorian Calendar will be maintained in synchronization with the seasons with appropriate corrections.) >
SANTU DESILVA has proposed a good idea: Calculating the difference between the date of the Vernal Equinox and the date of the birth of J.S.Bach in 1685. Then celebrate his birthday by determining the date which has exact difference from the Vernal Equinox every year.

This may be fine, but the difficulty lies in determining the exact hour (minute, second) birth in the day March 21, 1865 (Julian Calendar).

By the way, my calculation of the Vernal equinox in 1685 was based on the selection of the timezone of UTC ("Greenwich Mean Time"), and the hour in the CET must be advanced by 1 hour..

Vernal Equinox: Solar Longitude..0.0
19th 3, 1684 18h (Greenwich Mean Time)

Vernal Equinox: Solar Longitude..0.0
19th 3, 1685 23h (Greenwich Mean Time) .. THIS IS THE YEAR!

Vernal Equinox: Solar Longitude..0.0
20th 3, 1686 05h (Greenwich Mean Time)

These dates are all on Gregorian Calendar and in the UTC timezone.

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< (...) Summary:
March 31 is the only reasonably correct day on which to celebrate Bach's birthday. The Sun's position on Bach's birthday in 1685 (although the local Old Style calendars indicated that the date was March 21) was really at 11 degrees of Aries, the same position which is repeated each year under the New Style calendar on March 31. >

The astounding thing, to me, is that (for once) Mr Braatz has agreed with my analysis of data, on a Bach topic! I wrote: http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/16968
And apparently, I've presented information that, to him, is agreed as the "only reasonably correct" conclusion. That concurrence is surely as rare as any astronomical phenomenon: that not a single nit has been picked against my posting, but rather four resounding several affirmations!
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/16972
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/16975
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/16982
http://launch.groups.yahoo.com/group/BachRecordings/message/16987

I see that the next "blue moon" will not occur until June 30, 2007.
http://www.infoplease.com/spot/bluemoon1.html
http://www.obliquity.com/astro/bluemoon.html
But, since the assignment of month names and lengths is basically an arbitrary human thing (due to a bunch of cultural traditions and political battles and whatnot), I don't see that such an event has any cosmic significance. The moon and planets don't care what a "month" is.

Put the years 1650 and 1700 into the calculator at: http://www.obliquity.com/cgi-bin/bluemoon.cgi
See, if Bach would have been born exactly one year earlier than he was (i.e. 1684 instead of 1685) but on the same day (March 31 on our current calendar, and in this calculator), that night had a blue moon. But Bach missed that one; he had to wait until he was 19 months old until one occurred. Oh well, it was fun to look it up, on the hunch that maybe Bach was born under a blue moon. Guess not.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2006):
Fumitaka Sato wrote:
>>This may be fine, but the difficulty lies in determining the exact hour (minute, second) birth in the day March 21, 1685 (Julian Calendar).<<
As pointed out previously, there is no hope that such information will ever be recovered. All that remains is reasonable speculation using rectification methods already alluded to and these can never be entirely definitive.

>>By the way, my calculation of the Vernal equinox in 1685 was based on the selection of the timezone of UTC ("Greenwich Mean Time"), and the hour in the CET must be advanced by 1 hour... Vernal Equinox: Solar Longitude..0.0 19th 3, 1685 23h (Greenwich Mean Time) .. THIS IS THE YEAR!<<
Your calculations agree with mine except that 23 h should be much closer to midnight between March 19/20. Here is what I stated previously:

>the Vernal Equinox at 0 degrees Aries which had taken place between 11:50 pm LMT Eisenach on March 19, 1685 NS and 12:05 am LMT Eisenach on March 20, 1685 (NS) when the OS calendar was still displaying March 10, 1685 OS on the wall in Eisenach, but the Sun was actually located at 20 degrees of Pisces with ten days to go before the actual Vernal Equinox.<
Very important in this consideration is that this Vernal Equinox date is NS and not OS. Consider that the Sun is at 0 degrees Aries point (the precise beginning of Spring in the Northern Hemisphere), but that a day later a son born in the Bach family when the Sun had advanced one degree to 1st degree of Aries. This one degree Aries position is only possible under NS calendar reckoning which has been used up to this point. Now it is absolutely necessary under NS to drop or strike completely from the record 10 days in order to make the correct adjustment to (and away from) the calendar date which the Bachs observed on that famous birth date. Now we are back to the 10th or 11th of March NS when the Vernal Equinox (improperly calculated under OS) and Bach's birth had not yet taken place. In order to make the OS calendar date agree with the NS date, we need to add 10 days to the now fictitious OS calendar date on the wall in Eisenach in 1685 in order to make it agree with the astronomical method of reckoning the correct date and time for the beginning of Spring. Adding these 10 days to March 21,1685 OS, we now obtain the correct date for Bach's birthday: March 31, 1685 and March 31 every year thereafter. Yes, there are minor fluctuations that occur every year due to the attempt to incorporate the problems caused by leap-year. This means that Spring may arrive at different times (hours & minutes) and even extending into an earlier or later day/date than the usual one, but generally it has to be assumed that the variation would not amount to more than part of a day earlier or later than March 31 for Bach's birth or for anyone's birthday an any given date.

April 3 or March 21 as choices for celebrating Bach's birthday are unreasonable as long as we abide by the standard definition of a birthday: A birthday occurs when the Sun comes back to the same position it had when the individual was born. This is usually on the same date of a specific month, but strictly speaking it might sometimes be a day earlier or later. This is comparable to the earth celebrating its birthday at the Vernal Equinox which tends to occur each year within a limited time span surrounding the 20th (sometimes 19th, sometimes 21st) of March each year.

Since the time of day of Bach's birth is unknown, it matters even less just how precisely Bach's birth date
can be defined. But within a fair degree of certainty, Bach's birth took place when the Sun was at 11 to 12
degrees of Aries (measured from the O Aries point defined by the entrance of Spring in March of 1685 in
Eisenach, Germany.)

Fumitaka Sato wrote (March 24, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
< As pointed out previously, there is no hope that such information will ever be recovered. All that remains is reasonable speculation using rectification methods already alluded to and these can never be entirely definitive. >
According a calculation based on the book which I referred to earlier in my post, the Vernal Equinox (Solar Longitude being 0.0) is shown to have taken place on

19th March, 1685 at 23h 15m in UTC (Greenwich Mean Time),

and hence

20th March, 1685 at 00h 15m in CET,

on Gregorian Calendar ("NS").

This shows that the Vernal Equinox in the year 1685 was around midnight, and the date changes depending on the timezones (GMT/CET). And it also shows that the difference between the date-time of the birth of J.S.Bach and that of the Vernal Equinox cannot determine the Bach's birthday in the later years unless the exact time of the birth of J.S.Bach was determined.

Calendrical caluculations cannot be determined by simple addition-subtraction-multiplication-divisions.

The case is very similar as with that of musical tuning!

Dave Harman wrote (March 24, 2006):
Thomas Braatz wrote:
<< Bach's birthday was yesterday. But, according to position in orbit around the sun, the correct date will be next Friday, March 31st. There was the adjustment of 10 days during Bach's youth, switching from Julian to Gregorian.<<
Thanks to Thomas Braatz for the Astrological rundown on Bach.

As someone who used to work in this field, I would like to add these comments:

As Mr Braatz writes, there is no way to know the time of day Bach was born. Therefore there is a degree is slack in planetary placement and in the angles the planets in the chart bear to each other (knows as aspects).

There are other features of the birth chart that Astrologers look at :

Planetary pattern - there are 7 planetary patterns - each gives a coloration to the reading of the chart

The faster moving planets - Sun, Moon, Mars, Mercury - cannot be precisely placed without a reliable birth time - hence some aspects could be missed

Finally, without a reliable birth time, there is no Ascendant - one of the most important features of a chart - and one which most personalizes a chart. Further, the distribution of the planetary pattern referred to above will not be precise because we don't know how the houses should be placed on the wheel.

It is OK to print paragraphs of the qualities of planets in signs - but we are missing the qualities of planets in houses - (one of the twelve "slices") - another important feature.

Anyway, thanks again for the rundown.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 24, 2006):
I think I'm converging towards an acceptable compromise for a day on which we can celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach. As has been mentioned numerous times, because of the unreliable way in which birth records were entered and maintained in the 17th century, there is almost a week's uncertainty of the date, March 21, 1685, recorded in the outdated ('old style') calendar. [Not because of the cale, please note.] Still, there's nothing to prevent us from taking this date --recognizing that it was according to the Julian calendar-- at face value, simply for our frivolous and sentimental purposes of celebration.

As Tom Braatz and Fumitaka Sato have informed us with absolutely no room for confusion, the Spring Equinox occured around midnight at Greenwich between the 19th and the 20th in that year, according to our present Gregorian Calendar. The Julian Calendar--again as both list members Braatz and Sato point out--was out of phase 10 days, and so, working backwards, the (true) Spring Equinox would have been at midnight between March 9th and 10th, 1685 [Julian, or Old Style].

Suppose, just for convenience, we assume that Bach was born at noon on March 21, 1685 GMT [Julian/old style]. That would put his birthday 12.5 days behind the Spring Equinox every year. It remains to settle on a single day for the Spring Equinox. Why? Again, as explained, the Equinox creeps around anywhere from a little after noon on the 19th in some years to a little after noon on the 21st in other years. Why talk about his birth time in Greenwhich Mean Time? Because we'd like to pick a central, neutral time zone relative to which to compute his birthday, otherwise we'd have to make the 1-hour (or 2-hour) adjustment all the time. The Germans, of course, have it easy; they can use their local time. The rest of us have to worry that if Bach happened to have been born early on March 21, whatever calendar, it would have still been March 20th where we residents of the USA live, even if no one was around to care back in 1685 (except for a few harassed native Americans and even fewer distracted colonials).

Fumitaka Sato forwarded to me the dates/times of the equinoxes for the years 1685 to the present. These give us a rough means for settling on an "average" Spring Equinox Day. To cut a long story short, the day/time of choice is: (Ahem. The envelope, please...) a little before 7 p.m. on the 20th of March [Ordinary, Modern calendar]. JSBach was born 12 days and 6 hours (by hypothesis) afterwards, which would bring us to 20.7856 + 12.5 = March 33.23; i.e. in the wee hours of April 2 each year. NOt a bad birthday at all.

[To clarify, 20.7856 is the date and time combined into a single number, which is how the average comes out. It is 78.56% of the way through March 20th. Do NOT try this on your own, without the supervision of an experienced professional.]

Similarly, assuming that JSBAch was born early in the morning, we would celebrate his birthday at/on 20.7856 + 12.0, which is March 32 + .78 of a day; i.e. Around 6:30 p.m. on April 1st each year.

If The time had been REALLY early, it could have been late on March 20th, EST(USA), i.e. about 18:01 on 1685/3/20[Julian], which translates to 20.7856 + 11.75 = 32.5356, i.e. around noon on April 1st. Take your pick.

I hope everybody joins me in celebrating this birthday on April 1 or 2; I just think it would be a lot of fun to actually have a birthday for this wonderful and inspired musician and composer to be celibrated on, no matter how arbitrarily decided. April 1st seems a likely day.

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2006):
Santu de Silva wrote:
>>I think I'm converging towards an acceptable compromise for a day on which we can celebrate the birthday of Johann Sebastian Bach.<<
There is no compromise needed if you do the calculations correctly so that the Sun will return to essentially the same spot (within a degree of solar longitude) each year when the birthday is observed.

>>As has been mentioned numerous times, because of the unreliable way in which birth records were entered and maintained in the 17th century, there is almost a week's uncertainty of the date, March 21, 1685, recorded in the outdated ('old style') calendar.<<
I do not understand 'almost a week's uncertainty of the date, March 21, 1685, recorded in the outdated ('old style') calendar'. Where do these imaginary 7 days come from? The formula that must be used here is: March 21, 1685 OS = March 31, 1685 NS. That is not 7 days, but 10 days difference.

>>As Tom Braatz and Fumitaka Sato have informed us with absolutely no room for confusion, the Spring Equinox occured around midnight at Greenwich between the 19th and the 20th in that year, according to our present Gregorian Calendar. The Julian Calendar--again as both list members Braatz and Sato point out--was out of phase 10 days, and so, working backwards, the (true) Spring Equinox would have been at midnight between March 9th and 10th, 1685 [Julian, or Old Style].<<
So far, so good.

>>I hope everybody joins me in celebrating this birthday on April 1 or 2; I just think it would be a lot of fun to actually have a birthday for this wonderful and inspired musician and composer to be celibrated on, no matter how arbitrarily decided. April 1st seems a likely day.<<
"how arbitrarily decided"???

I certainly hope that everybody will avoid celebrating Bach's birthday on April 2 or 3rd and rather base his birthday on the return of the Sun to the same position that it had on the day of his birth.

To celebrate Bach's birthday properly this year and assuming a birth at sunrise on March 21,1685 OS, the candles should be lit at 1:16:22 AM Eisenach, Germany time (subtract 6 - 10 hours from this for the major time zones in the US which would put us back to March 31, unless you want to assume a birth in the PM rather than the AM hours. Then it would be early in the day on April 1. Last year Bach's birthday (again assuming a sunrise birth) should have been celebrated on March 31, 2005 at 7:33:56 pm Eisenach time.

Here is the schedule for other years based upon the same assumptions as above:

April 1, 2007 at 7:02:02 am

March 31, 2008 at 12:46:35 pm

March 31, 2009 at 6:33:21 pm

Fumitaka Sato wrote (March 24, 2006):
I am not by any means in a position to be able to propose the date of the birthday of J.S.Bach, but I, personally, am inclined to favor celebrating the birthday determined acording to the interval between the date of Vernal Equinox and the presumed date of his birth. For, it is one of the most reasonable ways to feel the natural circumstances of his birth, as the Sun shines almost exactly the same way as in the day when J.S.Bach came to the Earth (except for climate/weather fluctuations). (April 1 can be my personal date of the celebration this year.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2006):
Fumitaka Sato wrote:
< (April 1 can be my personal date of the celebration this year.) >
Yeah, but that encroaches upon the alleged April 1st birthdate of Rachmaninoff...assuming we don't need to make calendar adjustments for him, too. Was Russia still on the Julian calendar when he was born there? Apparently so: they changed from Julian to Gregorian in 1918, and had to drop 13 days to do so. So, assuming the "April 1" of Rachmaninoff was Julian, we should be celebrating his birthday around the 14th.

To lurch this back onto the topic of music: Rachmaninoff's 1925 recording of the sarabande from Bach's D major partita is one of my favorites. His expression was so direct with the melodic line, and the tempos so free-flowing. Any other fans of that recording, here?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2006):
I had previously written to the effect that:

To celebrate Bach's birthday properly this year and assuming a birth at sunrise on March 21,1685 OS, the candles should be lit on April 1 at 1:16:22 AM Eisenach,Germany time (subtract 6 - 10 hours from this for the major time zones in the US which would put us back to March 31 (in the US).

Here then is an extended overview of the dates and times in question as related to the above:

March 31, 2005 7:33:56 pm Eisenach Time
April 1, 2006 1:16:22 am
April 1, 2007 7:02:02 am
March 31, 2008 12:46:35 pm
March 31, 2009 6:33:21 pm
April 1, 2010 12:28:52 am
April 1, 2011 6:13:53 am
March 31, 2012 12:04:05 pm
March 31, 2013 6:01:36 pm
March 31, 2014 11:48:08 pm
April 1, 2015 5:36:52 am
March 31, 2016 11:28:07 am
March 31, 20175:17:47 pm
March 31, 2018 11:10:34 pm
April 1, 2019 4:53:05 am
March 31, 2020 10:37:37 am
March 31, 2021 4:34:09 pm
March 31, 2022 10:22:46 pm
April 1, 2023 4:11:56 am
March 31, 2024 10:02:53 am
March 31, 2025 3:50:01 pm

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 24, 2006):
< assuming a birth at sunrise on March 21,1685 OS, >
Why? The time of birth isn't known, so this becomes arbitrary (i.e. not reliably meaningful). And, why should it matter that much to calculate things down to the second? How could it possibly affect the sound of Bach's music, or any performance practices, or any recordings thereof?

My own interest--personally--is just to pick a reasonably accurate date to celebrate the guy's birthday, playing through some of his music in his honor, within a generous 24 hour span being close enough.

< The Sun would not shine almost the same way on April 2 or April 3 in any year in the near future. >
All such temporal calculations aside, as they serve as their own reward (of diminishing returns): how could it possibly matter to the sound of the music/recordings/perfpraxis in what "way" the sun was allegedly shining, 321 years ago? What if it was a cloudy day? What if Bach was born at night? What if the levels of pollution or ozone have changed so much since then that it's all moot? How does it matter, one whit, the type of sunlight that fell upon him through a window or the first time he was carried outdoors? What if he was a preemie, or was born a couple of days later than his parents expected? How could that possibly affect his music, where any practical musicianship is involved? Should we make some specific semiquavers some discernable fraction of a second longer within their musical context, or shorter, or what?

I guess I'm stubbornly concerned with music, and my efforts as a musician/producer to generate convincing performances, and to appreciate other people's musical efforts as well.

Santu de Silva wrote (March 24, 2006):
All right, you have persuaded me. Let it be March 31!

Can we all agree, at least on this list, that we will simply celebrate the birthday of J. S. Bach on March 31st every year, as being the best compromise choice? (Celebrating it on different days in different years is a lot less useful.) I was particularly convinced by the argument that even a celebration that would be (as late as) early in the day on April 1, Eisenach time, would likely be still on March 31, for those of us in climes West of Greenwich.

(The averaging I did was for all the Spring Equinoxes sent to me by Fumitaka Sato, namely 1685 - 2006, which perhaps does not give an unbiased spread of days and times; 1685-2085 would perhaps be better... but it was a lot of work to put it into a spreadsheet, and I'm sure the result will still be around March 20th Eisenach time, around 6 p.m.)

Thomas Braatz wrote:
< I had previously written to the effect that: To celebrate Bach's birthday properly this year and assuming a birth at sunrise on March 21,1685 OS, the candles should be lit on April 1 at 1:16:22 AM Eisenach,Germany time (subtract 6 * 10 hours from this for the major time zones in the US which would put us back to March 31 (in the US). >

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 24, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>> [extracted from my comment} assuming a birth at sunrise on March 21,1685 OS,...<<
BL continued: >>Why? The time of birth isn't known, so this becomes arbitrary (i.e. not reliably meaningful).<<
Just as there is a limited degree of variability in these calculations, a variability which has been explained and accounted for, likewise there are certain limits that prevail in performances of Bach's music if any attempt at all is made to recreate what Bach may have heard in his mind and in his performances of his own music. Some performers tend to stretch these limits beyond what many listeners would deem acceptable without losing some of the beauty of Bach's music. Some performers are intent on exaggeration and distortion and regard Bach's scores as simply arbitrarily placed notes and indications on a page. Such performers, similar to stating that April 3 could also arbitrarily be Bach's birthday, engage in what Johann Gottfried Walther terms "Barbarismus" which describes when a composers/performers allow themselves too much freedom (too much arbitrariness).

BL: >>My own interest--personally--is just to pick a reasonably accurate date to celebrate the guy's birthday, playing through some of his music in his honor, within a generous 24 hour span being close enough.<<
What kind of honor is displayed by referring to Bach's birthday as this 'guy's' birthday? Are you going to perform a gig of this guy's music on April 1 this year?

[What follows is a list of silly rhetorical questions, which, if these questions were put seriously, would reveal much about ability of a performing musician to discern the finer spiritual nuances present in Bach's music.]

BL: >>I guess I'm stubbornly concerned with music, and my efforts as a musician/producer to generate
convincing performances, and to appreciate other people's musical efforts as well.<<

The potential problem with such a stubborn, rather one-sided, concern with music is that there can be too much effort expended in providing or lauding 'crowd-pleasing', 'let's-hear-a-really-different-way-of-performing' renditions of Bach's music rather than emphasizing performances which are sensitively attuned spiritually to the finer nuances which can be revealed in Bach's music. For the latter, Bach has given us many cues, cues which are often disregarded by performers. In the past few decades the tendency among Bach performers has become "let arbitrariness rule" and/or "let's get on this bandwagon before it becomes passé." Crucial evidence from Bach's scores and historical evidence from first half of the 18th century have been overlooked or distorted. These things need to be remedied.

Donald Satz wrote (March 24, 2006):
[To Thomas Braatz] I've kept quiet about the issue of Bach's birthday, but I think that things are getting way out of hand here - taking a most trivial subject and analyzing the hell out of it.

I don't really care about the exact moment or even day of Bach's birth; it is entirely meaningless. Thomas talks about honoring the man's day. Well, I honor Bach every day through the playing of his music and my high opinion of his genius - <> the birthday.

Julian Mincham wrote (March 24, 2006):
Donald Satz writes:
< Well, I honor Bach every day through the playing of his music and my high opinion of his genius - <> the birthday. >
Yep couldn't agree more. Let's talk about the music and the performances of it---if the present conjunction of the stars allow it!!

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2006):
< [What follows is a list of silly rhetorical questions, which, if these questions were put seriously, would reveal much about ability of a performing musician to discern the finer spiritual nuances present in Bach's music.] >
Adherence to astrology is somehow required to discern the "finer spiritual nuances" present in Bach's music?! How/why/what?!

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>Adherence to astrology is somehow required to discern the "finer spiritual nuances" present in Bach's music?! How/why/what?!<<
[The following quotations are from the Grove Music Online, Oxford University Press, 2006, acc. 3/24/06]

>>Both Walther and Mattheson bemoaned the fact that Buxtehude had never published any of his keyboard music. Mattheson (1739, p.130) specifically mentioned seven keyboard suites depicting the nature of the planets. These have never come to light.<< (Kerala J. Snyder)

Here the Mattheson quotation in the original:

>>Buxtehude (Dietrich) der gleichfalls hochgeschätzte, ehmaliger Lübeckischer Organist, hat dergleichen auch mit gutem Beifall seiner Zeit zu Papier gebracht, und unter andern, die Natur oder Eigenschafft der Planeten, in sieben Clavier-Suiten, artig abgebildet. Es ist Schade, daß vondieses braven Künstlers gründlichen Clavier-Sachen, darin seine meiste Krafft steckte, wenig oder nichts gedruckt ist.<<

Now imagine Bach asking Buxtehude about his keyboard suites and hearing them played by Buxtehude or Bach himself playing them and thus becoming intimately acquainted with Buxtehude's musical world. Bach, upon seeing and hearing these 7 suites, would not even dare to ask "How/why/what?" because this would reveal his own ignorance about such matters. We can even assume that Bach knew quite a bit about philosophical matters, particular those that pertain to music. If Bach could understand a late text by Werckmeister (we have to assume that Bach had at least read some of his texts), he certainly would have understood a philosophical tradition pertaining to the nature of the planets (Holst, centuries later, also attempted to present musically the characteristics of the planets).

An interesting point of contact which a number of important composers/musicians had with these ideas seems to flow from the German philosopher Leibniz, whose interest in musical matters was great indeed. Here is a short excerpt from another article from the Grove Music Online by Rudolf Haase:

>>Kepler alone pursued the idea scientifically and produced as evidence in his Harmonices mundi libri V (1619) intervallic proportions deriving from the orbit of the planets. Leibniz knew this tradition, revered Kepler above all such thinkers and often expressed markedly similar ideas.<<

Here are some of Kepler's ideas on music as related by Susi Jeans/H.F.Cohen:

>>In the fourth, astrological book Kepler began finding out in what empirical features of the created world God had expressed the ratios of the consonances. He found them in the planetary aspects, which he believed broadly govern human fate, and in the ultimate Harmony of the World, which he triumphantly analysed in the fifth, astronomical book. His harmony of the spheres is based on the relative maximum and minimum angular velocities of the planets measured from the sun. As the planets move in their orbits their speed is lowest when farthest from the sun and highest when nearest to it. The increase and decrease of speed correspond to the rise and fall of sound (theoretical, not actual) that the planets can emit within the musical intervals Kepler allotted to them. The range the earth can produce is very small - mi-fa (16:15; the diatonic half-tone) - while Venus's interval consists of the still smaller chromatic half-tone (25:24). Kepler believed that the planets could produce six-part harmony, but this may have happened only once, perhaps at the time of creation. The final chapter contains what Kepler saw as the crowning achievement of his life: an argument meant to show that God, given the geometric and musical constraints inherent in the whole setup, could not have spaced the planets other than, at the creation, he actually had.<<

The question is: "Why wouldn't a self-respecting musician who purports to study and play Bach's music intensively, not want to know about all the possible ideas that may have influenced Bach, even if no direct evidence about his thinking on these matters is uncovered?"

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2006):
No; I was hoping for a perfectly straightforward answer that does not mock or belittle musicianship (or serious academic study).

How should any knowledge of astrology directly affect the way one should perform, say, a courante by Bach? Specifically? How/why/what?

Thomas Braatz wrote (March 25, 2006):
Bradley Lehman wrote:
>>How should any knowledge of astrology directly affect the way one should perform, say, a courante by Bach? Specifically? How/why/what?<<
Having Buxtehude's 7 suites describing the nature and/or characteristics of the planets in hand would certainly have allowed us to look at the mvts. in Bach's keyboard suites in a different light and determine quite specifically how they might be performed differently. As it is now, it happens to be a great loss to musicologists and musical interpreters to be unable to connect all the dots of the influence that these keyboard suites by Buxtehude must undoubtedly have had on Bach. Some reasonable cconjectures would be that the choice of keys/tonalities would play an important part in this. Also, a courante in one of Buxtehude's suites depicting, let's say Mars or Jupiter would be played differently for each planet representing the main characteristics of these planets (again, think of Holst's 'Planets' composed about two centuries later). The expression of such planetary characteristics would be, of course, much more subtle in keyboard music involving the dances contained in a suite than in the fully orchestrated compositions by Holst, but the listener would nevertheless notice the difference in performance style through the varied means of expression that a harpsichordist would have at his/her disposal. These differences include varying the tempi, touch (heavy or light), registration, etc.).

To close, here is another item from the same article by Jörg Jewanski quoted in my last message:

>>André Félibien, in 1666, was the first to establish yellow, red and blue as the basis of a new colour system. At the same time Newton was making his first prismatic experiments, and in 1672 he associated tonal intervals with the color bands of the spectrum, 'for the Analogy of Nature is to be observed' (An Hypothesis Explaining the Properties of Light, 1675). There are lingering remnants of cosmological thinking in Newton too when he traces connections between colours, notes and planets. A relationship between colour and musical intervals now seemed to have a physical foundation, and the idea had Newton's authority to support it. Reaction to his Opticks (1704), in which he returned to the analogy, can be observed in England, France, Germany and Russia. Under the influence of Newton, ideas of the relationship between color and music developed in all these countries.<<

In the last sentence, Jewanski forgets to mention planets because he may be unaware that in Germany, Dresden, to be specific, there were musical spectacles composed and performed under the theme, "The Planets".

In an article by Irmgard Becker-Glauch (MGG1, Bärenreiter, 1986), there are descriptions of courtly festivals on a grand scale in the 17th and 18th centuries, festivals which unified the performances of ballet, opera, masques, theater, etc. under the overall theme dictated by the characteristics of the 7 planets. One such festival which is described in great detail took place in 1678. One of the ballets attributed to Christoph Bernhard (the composer) is entitled: "Ballett von Zusammenkunft und Wirkung derer VII Planeten" ["The ballet of the conjunction (coming together) and effect of such a conjunction of the 7 planets"]. The festivities surrounding an important marriage of nobility in Dresden in 1719 were on a truly grand scale and once again the main theme around which everything was organized was the 7 planets. The number of musicians performing in 1719 was greater than that of the festival in 1678 where already 180 had been employed.

With the overwhelming importance of this festival in 1719 and with so many important composers and musicians involved in its presentation over a number of weeks from the 10th to the 26th of September, it would be amazing indeed if Bach had not obtained information about the manner in which characteristics of specific planets were translated into the compositions and performances by musicians who had participated in this great event. Supplying operas and orchestral music, Lotti and Heinichen were among the main cominvolved in the activities in which the performance of music played the greatest role.

Question: Is it possible that Bach knew about music which tried to express the differing natures/characteristics of the planets (including Sun and Moon):

Answer: Yes, it is highly likely that Bach would have become acquainted with Buxtehude's 7 keyboard suites expressing the nature of the 7 planets. Likewise, Bach could not easily have missed hearing about the grandest of courtly spectacles that took place in Dresden from musicians who had experienced it directly. He may also have been informed as an avid reader about Kepler's and Newton's theories which touch upon these subjects. (Johann Gottfried Walther mentions Kepler's 5 books on 'Harmonicen Mundi'.)

Bradley Lehman wrote (March 25, 2006):
<> I believe one can learn more useful information about Bach's musicianship and thoughts by playing through a well-crafted piece of his (for example, the Prelude/Fugue/Allegro BWV 998) oneself <>

BWV 998, a beautiful piece that works so well on so many different instruments! Anybody have any favorite recordings? I've been enjoying Manuel Barrueco's, on guitar, quite a bit lately.

Neil Mason wrote (March 26, 2006):
Well, here in Brisbane we celebrated JSB's birthday on the nearest Sunday to March 21st, which was the 19th.

The celebration took the form of a Bach-beque.

 

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