WERE the profusely explicit titles of former days still fashionable, this book might have been called “Bach’s Education, Culture, and Philosophy as an Elucidation to his Art and its Problematic Place in the History of Music and of Culture in General”7 But the title I chose alludes to more than this. By “Bach’s World” I mean first of all the metaphysical realm in which the master’s mind chiefly dwelt. The title also suggests his social environment, in which he often found himself—knowingly or unknowingly—going against the currents of popular world views. Naturally Bach’s musical composition occupies the most important place in his world, but all great art is a manifestation of the underlying world view of the artist, and so Bach’s art will reflect and be nourished by his philosophy.
This book was not intended as a biography, but for an orderly and coherent presentation of the various phases of Bach’s art and culture I chose to build the book around a biographical framework. At times, however, I have found it necessary to break the historical sequence to bring in pertinent general topics, as for instance, Bach’s knowledge of history and the influence of Pietism.
The first endeavor of this book is to portray the mind of the master, his peculiarly anachronistic culture in an epoch moving rapidly from the Age of Faith to an era of science. The second, but not the least important aim has been to trace Bach’s application of ancient philosophies-musical and theological—to musical equipment technically so much in advance of his time.
For many years scholars have been at variance about such “Bach problems” as his attitude toward instruments, his ornamentation, his symbolism, his use of secular music in church, and his borrowing of ecclesiastical music for secular purposes. I have tried to elucidate these various aspects of his art through examinations of ideologies implanted in Bach’s mind during his formal education, of the theology that influenced every aspect of his life, of his general erudition, and of his philosophy of music.
I extend my expressions of gratitude to the University of Kansas, which has supported my endeavors in so many ways, with its skillful librarians, and its kind administrators, who have made it possible for me to spend much time at other great libraries in the United States. Among various scholars I feel indebted to are Mr. Austin Ledwith of the University of Kansas, who was the first to read and criticize my work helpfully. Mr. Paul Henry Lang read part of my manuscript and published my chapter on Bach’s knowledge of history in Musical Quarterly. My friend, the naturalist Donald Culross Peattie, gave me his profound insight as a modern scientist into the historical significance of my subject. He also gave me valuable advice in choosing the proper person as an editor—of which almost any author today is in need. To Mr. Ross Robertson of Indiana University I owe the discovery of that rare person, Mrs. Eleanor McConnell. I also wish to thank Mrs. Lou Ann Brower, an editor at Indiana University Press, for her work.