My single song choice… (A SteemitBloggers Contest)


This is my entry for the @steemitbloggers contest, “Tell Us About Your Favourite Song!” run by @zord189. As per the rules, the link to the song is at the bottom of the post, so I can blather on beforehand!

There are so many songs (and pieces) in our life that form special bonds at various points in our lives. A snippet of a hazily remembered theme can instantly surface strong memories and emotions that are associated with with that particular fragment. Things that we thought were long forgotten or that had lost their original colour and vividness, all brought rushing back by a collection of ordered sounds!


Choosing just one?


Great… so if I had to choose just one song, what would be the criteria that I would use to choose it? Well, first it has to be a song! As a musician, I’m slightly miffed if people describe “pieces” (with no singing) as “songs” (with singing)… It’s plain weird, but it doesn’t seem to bother anyone other than musicians!

Would it be the song that I would love so much that I would take it to a desert island with me to listen endlessly to, ad nauseum? Sigh, that would be like killing the thing that you love!

Is it the thing that I listen to daily? Nope, that would be K3 girls band and Disney Classics….

What mood or emotion would it convey? Well, there are many heart racing moments that can be conveyed by music, but I find them to be a bit less interesting than those that bring you to tears. The ones that express something more than an adrenaline rush, something quiet and reflective, a distant cherished memory…

What genre? Well, as a Violinist specialising in Baroque music on period instruments, I am interested and listen to lots of music. Most often, if I’m not working I will listen to Ska or Punk music… however, if I had to choose just a single thing, it would probably be from the era of music that speaks and touches me the most, whose musical language, idioms and rhetoric is second nature to me. So, it would definitely be from the Baroque (despite it having such a wide variety of styles scattered through time and location).

So, I finally settled on an appropriate criterion for my SINGLE song selection. The criterion would be: What is the song that I would like to hear as the last thing in my life. If I had a chance to hear one last thing, before going deaf or dying.


My Choice


So, despite there still being quite a few pieces (sorry, songs) that fit the single criterion. I did end up settling one particular aria from the Baroque era by JS Bach. It is the Soprano aria “Welt und Himmel” from the closing parts of the unfinished Markus Passion by JS Bach (completion by Jorn Boysen). Let me start by saying that I’m not religious, so this piece touches me in a completely different (but similar) way to those who approach it with a religious setting in mind.

The Markus Passion is one of the settings by JS Bach of the Passion story (Christ’s Easter story). This one is based upon the Gospel of Mark, and there are two much better known pieces that are based upon the Gospel’s of John and Matthew. From the two better known Passions, I always find the way that Bach has treated the moment after the death of Jesus to be one of the most beautiful moments of reflection and catharsis. It is always such a powerful moment in the performance of these pieces, when all the violence and storm and agony is past, and there is only peace and calm, the beauty and enormity of the sacrifice.

I find that this setting of the Markus Passion is no different. This aria appears immediately after the Crucifixion and death of Jesus, and it is such a cleansing moment of simplicity. The most absolute depths of despair have been reached, and there is a ray of hope… a light, a reason for the loss, and a realisation that a great sacrifice has been made for life to begin anew.

Originally appearing as part of a wedding cantata (BWV 120a) and also as an alternate movement for the 6th Sonata for Violin and obligato Harpsichord, this piece has been parodied (a common technique for that time) for use in the Markus Passion. Just a quick explainer, a parody is when the music is re-cast with different words to fit the situation or the new setting. It might seem initially easy, but it is actually quite a difficult task, as the words and the music need to fit in the correct stress order for the language and make coherent rhetorical sense. If done badly, it would sound like A sen-TENCE with ter-RI-ble accenTS n the wrong Pl-AC-es! Except that it would be more like a whole short story or a novel written or spoken like that!

I think I would like this to be one of the last pieces that I ever hear… there is such a sense of calm acceptance of the past and such a hope for the future. Each time I hear it, it does touch me and make me stop to listen… each time I play it, time stands still.


Text and Translation

>Welt und Himmel nehmt zu Ohren
Jesus schreiet überlaut.
Allen Sündern sagt er an,
Dass ihm nun genug getan,
Dass das Eden aufgebaut,
Welches wir zuvor verloren.

>Earth and heaven holds their ears
As Jesus cries out deafeningly.
He undertook all sins,
Now enough has been done to him,
For Eden to be built again,
Which we had lost before.

Here is the complete aria, performed by Musica Poetica (@musicapoetica) and Cantus Thuringia under the direction of Jorn Boysen. The concert was recorded live and unedited in Den Haag in 2016, on period instruments at 415Hz.

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